What zone you are headed for--friendship or love?

Perhaps you enjoy sports and decided to join an adult league to pursue your interest and hopefully meet compatible people for dating and more. Or maybe the arts are your thing and you are seeking or have found a singles group that organizes trips to the theater, art galleries, or other local venues featuring the arts. Perhaps you belong to a house of worship that has an active singles group and decided that this might be a good place to meet compatible others. Any of these could give you an edge on meeting someone because they guarantee you have at least one thing in common with the other participants, and provide an easy way to make deeper connections due to the repeated exposure over time.

If you find something you enjoy participating in and meet other members who you feel an attraction to and would like to get to know better--you have two key elements for making a good love connection. However your attraction and interest need to be reciprocated, and in a group of fast growing friendships it can be hard to know if someone is only interested in friendship or interested in exploring something more. Learning to use effective nonverbal communication could make the difference, and the following tips will get you off to a good start.

Learn the signs of romantic attraction

There are many nonverbal signs, gestures, and nuances that can signal attraction. However noting and correctly reading them requires some new learning and a greater in the moment awareness. They include but are not limited to eye contact, facial gestures, hand, arm, leg and foot movements, posture, and their use of proximity. They are felt as much as they are observed, so self-awareness is key.

Some classic examples include making "intense" eye contact coupled with head and facial movements that say they are noticing you, listening carefully, and want to know more. They might tilt their head slightly to the side when you speak, which says they are curious or intrigued. They will use touch (appropriately) by lightly brushing your arm when making a point, or putting their hand under you elbow to guide you in front of them. When standing together, their feet will point towards you, and they may lean slightly towards you, indicating a desire to be closer. Notice if they touch their face or neck, this is a classic sign of sexual interest. Do you notice that they always move next to you when in a group, that they sit near you, or somehow are always facing you? All say that you are of interest to them and they want to get and stay close. How they use their voice will also reveal their interest. Do they speak in a lower tone or different cadence when you two are alone in conversation? Is there a seductive tone to how they say your name or address you?

While these are only some of the classic signs to look out for, they are pretty reliable indicators of romantic interest.

Consider the context your interactions take place in

Context is very important because it influences what someone feels is appropriate to the situation they are in. For instance, if you and your new interest have only interacted as part of a group, it is likely they (and you) have been careful to consider how others would feel if either of you were to send flirtatious signals to the other. It could also be that there are other members of your group who share an attraction to this same person. If so, you are likely to be mindful of that and calibrate your interactions in response to their feelings.

However even with certain limitations, an interested person will send signals. They will look more often at you while addressing the group. They will stand or sit in close proximity to you more often than not. They may even look for opportunities to spend time alone with you outside of the group, even while in a close proximity to other members. All of these say they have a special focus on you and that you stand out from the others who are present and/or may have a romantic interest in them as well.

Look for consistency in the messages they send

Consistency is important because taking one instance and making a determination from it often results in an inaccurate conclusion. Therefore you should read the person's behavior as part of their overall cluster of behaviors towards you. This means looking for patterns. Though their behavior might not have the same level of interest, if they show interest consistently, it's safe to assume they have some. However if during one interaction they come on strong, but you don't experience this again over time, it's safe to assume they had an initial interest that faded quickly for reasons you may never know.

Take note of any mixed or conflicting signals or messages

It is also important to note any mixed messages they might be sending. Do they show strong interest during an initial interaction, little or none the next time, and then some interest the third time you meet? If so, you can't rely on what they are communicating to you nonverbally. The only conclusion to draw from this kind of behavior is that they are unsure, conflicted, have another interest you don't know about or perhaps are just not ready to date anyone right now. In other words, they are just not that into you.

Want to read other articles on this subject?

"The "why hasn't he called" problem"
List of more "Nonverbal Communication" articles

"The six nonverbal signs that say he is interested"


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.

Distribution Rights: The above material is copyrighted, but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site.

Reprint permission will be granted, upon request, to student newspapers, universities, and other nonprofit organizations. Advance written permission must be obtained for any reprinting of this material in altered or modified form.