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Reading Basic Body Language for Dating and Persuasion Success

Read how your partner feels to make the right moves.

Welcome back to The Attraction Doctor.

In my posts, I spend a lot of time giving you tips, tricks, and techniques to motivate and persuade your lovers, as well as strategies to attract Mr. or Miss Right, get a date, and make it go well.

To use these tips and tactics, however, requires a bit of interpersonal sensitivity — what dating coaches might call "calibration." To relate effectively to others, you need to read your partner, get feedback about how he/she feels, and adjust your approach as necessary.

Such sensitivity, feedback, and adaptation are essential for any interpersonal influence — even love. After all, the idea is to see whether you've had an emotional effect on a (desired) partner. Do they like you? Do they love you? Are they going to say yes to a date, marriage proposal, or weekend vacation?

One of the best ways of telling how your date, mate, or lover is feeling is to read his/her body language. In general, nonverbal communication is usually an honest display of feelings (much more so than words). So, below I am going to teach you how to read basic body language for dating and persuasion success. Learn to read your partner and make the right moves!

Body Language Basics

One of the most useful books on body language I have found actually comes from my fellow PT blogger Joe Navarro. According to Navarro (2008), body language behaviors are guided by very primitive parts of our brain — called the limbic system. Essentially, this system tells us when we are comfortable or uncomfortable, and readies our bodies to pursue what is attractive and run or fight what is not.

Given that, in a dating and persuasion context, we can use very simple body language cues to decide what our partner is feeling. We can read whether his/her limbic system is saying to stay and snuggle, or cut and run. These limbic system signals are particularly important for romance because that part of our brain is also responsible for our feelings of love (Fisher, Aron, Brown, 2006).

So, how do you know when your partner's brain is happy? You look for clusters of positive or negative body language. Below are some cues to look for:

Positive body language — Your partner might move towards you and decreasing the space between you two if he or she likes what you are doing or asking. In addition, other liking behavior can include: leaning in towards you, feet pointing towards you and wiggling happily, legs uncrossed and comfortable, arms open and palms up, playfully fondling jewelry or hair, smiling, extended eye contact, or looking down shyly.

Negative body language — Your partner might move away from you and create space between you two if he or she dislikes what you are doing or asking. In addition, other behaviors that signal dislike include: leaning away from you, feet pointed away from you, legs crossed and stiff, arms crossed, palms down, closed hands, itching eyes, scratching nose, or rubbing back of neck, frowning, grimacing, and turning the eyes away to the side.

Using Body Language in Dating and Relating

When you are trying to figure out how your partner feels about you or your approach, look for combinations of the behaviors above (called clusters). Generally, when you see a couple of "positive" cues from the list above, you can bet your partner's limbic system is firing in the "good," happy, and loving direction. Generally, they are happy about you and your behavior towards them.

In contrast, when you see a couple of "negative" cues from the list above, you can bet your partner's limbic system is firing in the "bad," uncomfortable, or disturbed direction. Use that information as feedback. It might be a good idea to change your approach or wait for a better mood.

Personally, I have begun to see these general non-verbal behaviors from my partner as "green lights" (positive body language) and "red lights" (negative body language). When I see "green lights" body language from my partner, I keep going with what I am doing or asking. I proceed, knowing they are feeling positive about me and my behavior. However, when I see "red lights," I stop what I'm doing and change my behavior — until I get green lights again.

This red/green light process ensures that you easily pick up on what your partner's body language is telling you. It also makes sure you are responsive to your partner's feelings, even when he or she doesn't communicate them in words. This helps with your sensitivity, awareness, and empathy in each situation. It also helps you be more persuasive — knowing to time your questions, requests, and desires when a partner is happy and agreeable.


Paying attention to clusters of simple body language cues can go a long way in dating. Use them to tell how your partner feels. Pick your actions accordingly for maximum success. In the end, you will be more empathetic, attractive, and persuasive!

Until next time...happy dating and relating!

Dr. Jeremy Nicholson
The Attraction Doctor

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© 2011 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.


Fisher, H. E., Aron, A., & Brown, L. L. (2006). Romantic love: a mammalian brain system for mate choice. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 361, 2173-2186.

Navarro, J. (2008). What every body is saying. New York: Harper.

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