"When a guy is looking at you, how do you act?" The question may sound simple enough, but it took me by surprise when posed by a body language expert. When was the last time I thought about my body language? If I’m out at a bar, I’m not usually paying attention to how I’m holding my drink or whether or not I’m fiddling with my jewelry. But, as it turns out, these seemingly minor behaviors can have a considerable impact on how others perceive their interactions with you. There are a number of fascinating body language tips for finding love, but I was totally clueless about where to begin this journey. So, I enlisted the help of body language expert Blanca Cobb, who generously offered to teach me a few tricks of the trade.
Cobb asked me this question because while she would prefer to have a baseline reading of my body language in order to provide personalized suggestions and helpful feedback, we were meeting for the first time over Skype. Because this isn’t as ideal as an in-person coaching session, she was understandably curious about how I usually interact with other people, particularly when it comes to romantic interests. "I’m pretty shy," I told her. "I would usually wait for someone to come up to me. I might start a conversation casually, but probably not if I was alone. If I was with friends, maybe."
My goal for this experiment was to use specific body language techniques in an effort to make meaningful connections. Confident body language doesn’t come easily to everyone (myself included), but there are strategies you can put into practice in everyday social situations. It might feel forced at first, but the goal is that these actions begin to feel more natural and eventually become habit.
Cobb explained that people have three "protection zones" that should ideally be kept open when meeting someone new. The first is what she calls the "peak zone," which is from your shoulders to the top of your head. "Then you have your power zone, from your shoulders to your hips," she says. "That’s where your core is. And then you have your pleasure zone — from your hips all the way down to your feet."
Open body language involves engaging all three of these zones. You don’t want to have anything blocking your body, be it your drink, crossed arms, or a barstool. You can raise your eyebrows to convey interest or surprise at what the person is saying, angle your shoulders and hips toward them, and point your feet in their direction.
"[When] you’re torso to torso, you’re pleasure zone to pleasure zone, this sends a message of real strong familiarity," says Cobb. "But if you do it at an angle, particularly with someone who you’re just meeting, that’s still welcoming, but it’s not a full-on ‘I’m totally into you right now.’ Because as with anybody that you meet, you want to be able to warm up and decide whether you like this person."
She gave me a huge amount of helpful and interesting advice, and I could definitely write more than one essay about everything I learned. I’m a millennial, though, so in true listicle style, here are Blanca Cobb’s top 10 tips for using your body language to find love, followed by a relatable anecdote and a few Sex and the City GIFs.
1. Don’t underestimate the power of a genuine smile and inviting eye contact.
2. When it comes to eye contact, be careful that it doesn’t comes off as creepy.
3. Think of the person’s face as an inverted triangle, from the corner of the outside of one eyebrow, straight across to the corner of the other eyebrow, to the tip of the nose, and back. Keep your focus in that area.
"If you look anywhere in that inverted triangle, that’s great, because it still gives the impression that you’re giving them eye contact," says Cobb. "And it will make you more comfortable."
4. If you’re feeling flirty, you can look at their mouth. "It sends the message of sensuality," says Cobb.
5. Keep your protection zones open, and be aware of body blocks like your drink, a chair, table, or anything else coming between you and the person you’re talking to — it breaks the connection.
6. Angle your body in a way that is welcoming, but not overly familiar. If you find yourself turning toward the person more and more, that’s a sign you’re into them (and vice versa).
7. If it feels right, lightly touch their arm and see how they respond. "When you make a physical connection, you’re also making a psychological connection and an emotional one," says Cobb.
8. Pay attention to your feet (and theirs). Because people tend to forget about them, they are actually the most honest part of the body. If they’re pointing in your direction, that’s a good sign.
9. Consider going to a coffee shop instead of a bar to try and meet someone. If a person is holding a warm drink like coffee, they’ll see you more warmly than if they have a cold beer in their hand. "Based on temperature, our perception of someone can change," says Cobb.
10. Wear something that makes you feel both comfortable and beautiful. "Whatever you choose to wear, make sure you feel good in it, because when you feel good, your body language is going to show that you feel good," says Cobb.
Cobb and I also discussed how when you’re feeling vulnerable, closed off, or like you don’t want attention, the impulse is to "either play, soothe, or cover." So if you’re not interested in someone or you’re uncomfortable somehow, you might play with your necklace, touch or cover your neck, or start slightly turning away, and give them absolutely no eye contact, Cobb explains. You make sure that your back is to them, and that your whole body is disengaged — even down to your feet.
"You will subconsciously make sure that your feet are not pointing in their direction," says Cobb. "Because your feet take you where you want to go. So if your feet are pointing at this person, your subtle message is ‘I want to talk to you, I’m interested in you, I want my feet to take me to where you are.’"
While working on this essay, I went to Union Pool, the Brooklyn bar apparently notorious for hookups, with my friends. Had I known this spot was on a list of "The Best Bathrooms in NYC to Have Sex In," I might have had a better idea of what I was getting myself into (also, I probably wouldn’t have gone).
Alas, armed with Cobb’s advice and a naïve sense of hope, I entered the bar ready to smile, make carefully measured eye contact, laugh, flirt, and maybe even employ some gentle arm touching. I remembered her telling me that if I really hit it off with someone, I should consider walking with them to another nearby spot, like a restaurant or shop. "When you change locations, it makes them feel like they’ve known you longer, and you share more experiences that way," she says.
As it turned out, I didn’t need to worry about where to go next. Within moments of getting inside, a number of guys came up to my friends and I. They had no shame, leering at us, saying, "Come here," and getting upset when we didn’t. After my friend Emma casually brushed aside one guy’s advances and kept walking, he actually said, "Your loss." There were also plenty of people grabbing our waists as they "tried to get past us." Yes, the bar was crowded, but it wasn’t that packed. I felt almost immediately violated by this blatant, aggressive body language. I know now that the place has a reputation, but was it such a ludicrous idea to want to order a drink at the bar without being harassed?
Over the next hour, I thought a lot about body language. As the men and women in the bar scanned the crowd like starving vultures searching for a scrap of meat, I considered what Cobb said about those three zones. While it’s true that understanding the differences between open and closed body language can help you use non-verbal clues to better assess a person’s interest, not everyone pays attention to these signals.
Before the evening started, I was planning subtle ways to use body language clues to my advantage, like positioning myself in a prominent spot in the center of the bar, or being more aware of my own facial expressions. Little did I know that it would end with a guy "accidentally" falling into my lap as I sat by the exit ordering my Uber home. I hadn’t even noticed him until he was on top of me, so I definitely wasn’t sending him any "come hither" signals with my body language. He may have thought it was funny, but it was the dirty cherry on top of this trash pile of a night.
I know that it’s unrealistic to unlearn the body language you’ve used all your life, and I wasn’t expecting to raise my eyebrows just so and have someone get down on one knee and pop the question right then and there. But I also wasn’t expecting a complete stranger to sit on me. And there is no type of body language that makes it OK for someone to violate your personal space.
I’ll tell you one thing: I definitely didn’t find romance in Union Pool. But as my friend Carley postured her small frame like she was ready to fight the guy, his friend, and the bouncer who took their side (yes, really), I vowed to better appreciate the love I already have in my life. So, the next time Carley and I get together, whether we’re drinking hot chocolate or chilled wine, I know exactly where my feet will be pointing.
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