Am I reading the signals wrong?

Dear Toni-

I'm a 34 year old single, professional female who lives in a close suburb of Washington, D.C. It's a widely held belief here that women are at a disadvantage in dating because we outnumber men, there's a large population of gay men in the area- and everyone is apparently into their careers and not really interested in pursuing serious dating. Therefore, I have tried to think outside the box when trying to meet compatible men who are seriously looking for a relationship- and I spend much of my leisure time volunteering, participating in local sports leagues and pursuing my love for the arts. I am not really into the bar scene anyway, so this works for me and I enjoy my life for the most part.

Now for my problem. I am meeting the occasional single, attractive guy who I do get the opportunity to actually have a conversation with. Sometimes we are working on a project together and other times, playing on the same team or even opposite teams in a league. However, even though I often sense an interest from one of these guys, it usually doesn't go any further; like him asking for my number and/or suggesting we go for coffee or on a first date. Honestly, I think the signals are there and that I am not imagining it- as we talk about our work, other interests we have, where we live, etc. He might even suggest that I would enjoy checking out something he is into or mentioning a concert or other activity that he is planning on going to. Then, it sort of fizzles into an, I enjoyed talking with you, see you later ending.

I would really appreciate knowing what signs and signals to look for the next time I have one of these encounters. What a guy says doesn't really tell me what I need to know and can be confusing. So specifically what signs should I look for that say he is indeed interested or just not that into me? - Hopeful Single in Suburbia

Dear Hopeful Single in Suburbia-

There's no question that dating is a challenge- and this is especially true for young, professional women in cities like Washington, D.C. The numbers don't work in your favor, folks there are known to be into their careers- and one you didn't mention is that it's a very transient place where many young people are from somewhere else and a number of them hope to return home once that have gotten the necessary career experience and/or connections.

All that being said, every day young women like you meet men with whom they develop serious relationships that end in commitment/ marriage. This is because the kind of guy you seek does exist and you are right that it helps to think outside the box when looking for him. Your ideas for how to meet men are great as they allow you to participate in activities that meet your needs and offer you real satisfaction while also giving you a greater opportunity to meet your kind of guy.

But how do you recognize him when you meet him? More importantly is your question of how do you know that he has an interest in exploring the possibility of a relationship with you. In order to correctly assess this you will need to be able to read signs and signals he uses that say:

* He has a romantic interest in/physical attraction to you
* He likes what he hears when you talk
* He wants to see you again

I will go through each one and use examples of what he might say, do, not say and/or not do that should give you some basic tools to get you started.

* If he has a physical/romantic interest, he will try to make eye contact or offer a smile or a head nod. He might try several glances, hoping to make that eye contact with you. His posture will say I am interested when he faces you, even if you are not standing and talking to him at the time or even if he is talking to someone else. He may put his hands on his hips with his fingers pointed down- this indicates sexual attraction. You might notice that he has moved closer to where you are. He may do this by going to speak to someone closer to your position or find another reason to shorten the distance between you. He might be looking for a sign from you, so he may or may not try to start up a conversation, he may instead wait to see if you do this which would indicate your interest.

If you see any of these signs, you can indicate an interest back by mirroring his actions- point your body in his direction, find a way to shorten the distance between you, offer a glance and a smile and/or nod- and make it a lingering one- which would invite him to come over and start a conversation.

If he responds well to your overtures and offers more of these interest signals but hesitates in approaching you, you can try starting a conversation with him. Keep it low-key and simple such as asking a question, making an observation or anything that would fit into the context of the setting you are in. If he responds with good eye contact, an animated facial expression and/or contributes to the conversation to keep it going, he is most likely interested. If he gets quiet, excuses himself, looks around as though he is looking for or hoping to connect with someone else- he was likely being friendly, but is not romantically interested.

* If he likes what he hears when you talk, he may tilt his head sideways to indicate he is really listening or lean in towards you which demonstrates he wants to hear every word. He will ask questions or pick up on something you said and offer something of his own.

If he doesn't click with you in conversation he may try to end the conversation, make an excuse that he is in a hurry, look around and not really focus on what you are saying or just remain quiet, then nodding and perhaps saying something like; "it was nice meeting you/talking to you," then excusing himself. He definitely won't suggest you continue talking, do an activity together, offer to get you a drink or something to eat or ask you any questions that show real interest in you and show he would like to know more about you.

* He will indicate interest in seeing you again by the above signs and by suggesting you do something together in the future, asking for your number, finding way to keep the conversation going, working to continue the present interaction, keeping his attention on you and not letting it wander to something around you, keeping his body pointed to you, remaining in close proximity rather than backing away slowly, leaning towards you- and trying to share information about himself, especially anything that he think you might like/be impressed with.

If your feelings are mutual, you should again mirror his body language, ask questions, keep good eye contact, keep your body focused towards him, lightly touch your face, hair or neck (shows sexual attraction)- and maintain an upbeat and positive attitude throughout the conversation.

These are all basic and universal signs and gestures, and if you see him using them together, there is a high probability he is interested and attracted and just may need you to take a lead a bit. If you see only one or two and if they are not repeated, it can indicate he felt
initial interest, but quickly lost it or that he just decided he wasn't as interested as he believed he was at first glance.

Now all you need to do is give these some careful thought and the next time you encounter that attractive new guy- pull them out and use them to help you assess for any possible relationship potential. You should experience less frustration and self doubt and drastically cut your rate of missed connections and those nagging afterthoughts of what might have been.

Want to read other articles on this subject?

"Four signs that he is pulling away"
List of more "Nonverbal Communication" articles

"The "why hasn't he called" problem"


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.

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