Some things in life never change.
Unfortunately, one of them is the eternal question of “How to do I know if she likes me?”
The same question that has plagued geeky boys since junior high has an annoying tendency to follow us all the way through to adulthood, leading to grown-ass men plaguing their friends with an endless repetition of “Do you think she likes me, likes me? Or just likes me?”.
Once again, it’s a classic difference between how men and women are socialized. Men are taught to be straightforward, even blunt, in their dealings with others. Women, on the other hand, are taught to be indirect and non-confrontational, especially when dealing with men. Women will indicate their interest through subtle signs and body language while men look for overt signs that a woman might find them attractive.
Meanwhile women fume that men don’t seem to pick up their signals and the men read the wrong messages into her behavior or, worse, confuse niceness or professional flirtation for actual interest. As a result, everybody is left confused and frustrated with the whole exercise.
If you want to know whether she actually is attracted to you or she just thinks you’re a nice guy who gets a double espresso every morning, you need to learn how to read the signs that she’s interested in you.
1) The Eye Contact Game
Eyes are the window to the soul and they remain one of the most important ways that people communicate with one another. Eye contact is amazingly powerful in it’s potential. It’s staggering just how many messages are conveyed by simple eye contact. Eye contact can signal a threat, force a battle of wills, indicate one’s social superior or social inferior, convey boredom and frustration and, critically, romantic and sexual interest.
The act of locking eyes with someone is an incredibly intimate act, which is why we avoid prolonged eye contact with people we aren’t close with. However, we instinctively recognize the power of eye contact, which is why it is a strong indicator of interest from a woman. A woman who’s interested in a man will often initiate eye contact, deliberately break contact – often by looking down, a submissive gesture – then looking back. The act of breaking contact and looking away is a way of catching his attention; looking back is to check to see whether he’s taken the bait, as it were. When she re-initiates eye contact, it is frequently followed by a slow smile; a subtle way of saying “yes, that was a message for you.”
It’s a simple and non-verbal way for women to indicate that she would be interested in you coming over and introducing yourself.
A woman who’s interested in you may also have a slightly unfocused gaze; the muscles around her eyes will relax and her pupils will be slightly dilated as she tries to take in as much of you as she can. The longer the gaze, the more interested she is. Sexual interest can also be indicated by the “triangle gaze”, where a woman will look from one eye to the other, then down to your lips and back. Some will forgo looking from eye to eye and look from eye to lip and back. This look is a strong indication that she’s interested in a kiss, so make your move, son.
Some women, especially more socially dominant ones, will give what is known as the “elevator gaze”, a brief look up and down another’s body. This is a sizing up gesture, gauging your potential as a threat… or a sex partner. Be aware: this can be both incredibly intimidating and rude if you’re caught giving one to her.
Eye contact is also a way of indicating disinterest as well. A woman who breaks eye contact by looking up and away is telling you that not only is she not interested in you, but she’s actually somewhat insulted by the suggestion in the first place. Looking up and away communicates that not only is she your social superior, but that she’s dismissing you as well. Trying to pursue a woman who’s given you this gesture is a mistake; the situation can be turned around, but you had better be a Jedi Master of flirting before you even attempt to try.
2) The Power of Touch
Touch is incredibly important to humanity as a method of communication and connecting. It is so important that babies can actually die from a lack of touching and physical contact. Like eye contact is a versatile and powerful method of non-verbal communication. Touch can be a method of comfort, a measure of one’s place in the social hierarchy or a threat. Or, like eye-contact, it can be a subtle indicator of interest from a woman.
First of all, let’s dispense with all the jokes: yes yes, if a girl grabs your crotch and isn’t trying to tear your balls off, you can safely assume she’s interested in you.
But for those of us who don’tlive in a porno movie, touch can be an easily mistaken sign of a woman’s interest.
Women as a whole are socialized to be more touchy-feely than men are and tend to speak more with their hands. A woman will often emphasize a point with physical contact; touching someone on the shoulder during an emotional high-point when agreeing with what they say, for example. However, it’s the duration of that touch that conveys the message: a woman making a point will only touch someone for a second or two, while a woman sending a message will let her hand linger. Similarly, the location of the touch makes a difference; touching a hand or face is more intimate than touching an arm or shoulder, and is a stronger indicator.
Another strong indicator is what’s known as “reciprocal touching”. I’ve advised before that touch can be a powerful flirting technique, once properly calibrated, and it can be a way of measuring a woman’s level of interest. Reciprocal touching is, simply, the tendency of a woman to reinitiate contact after the man has broken it. A woman who is interested in a man may, for example, react to a side-hug by leaning back in against him, or putting her hand back on his arm. The message is simple: she is enjoying being touched by him and would prefer that it continues.
Finally, one of the simplest and easiest tests is the high-five. At an emotional high-point during a conversation, offer a high five; “Hah, that was hilarious! High-five!” or “OK, you’re awesome. You get a high-five,”. Offer your hand flat, with your fingers slightly spread. A woman who isn’t attracted to a man will respond to a high-five with the traditional flat palm and closed fingers. A woman who is attracted to him, however, will twine her fingers amongst his and grip his hand briefly
This is a simple and subtle way of gauging a woman’s level of interest in you. Please note that you have to be at the energy level where giving spontaneous high-fives might be expected. Someone even-keeled and subdued suddenly offering a high-five will be seen as odd.
PRO TIP: To ensure not missing during a high-five, watch at the other person’s elbow, not their hand. Accidentally palming a woman’s face is a faux pas that’s hard to get past, no matter how interested she is in you.
3) Watch Her Body Language
The body offers many clues to how a person really feels, and women are well-acquainted with the use of sending messages via her body language. Everything from the way she plays with her hair to the way that she angles her body and the tilt of her hips can tell you whether she likes you or if she’s just being polite.
Much of human communication is non-verbal; we communicate far more via body language that most people realize and some of the indicators of interest can be easy to miss.
Many of the classic signs that a woman likes you are what is known as “preening behavior”; gestures that suggest grooming or adjusting her posture and look in order to seem more attractive. This includes the classic “hair toss” or playing with her hair, straightening out her posture to better display her breasts to better advantage. In men, similar behavior would involve smoothing out his clothing, adjusting his tie, standing up straighter and sucking in his gut. She’ll often draw attention to her lips, wetting them or biting them; besides inspiring men to think about kissing, this is a reminder of her femininity. Fuller lips – especially in contrast to male lips – are a secondary sexual characteristic and a visual reminder of femininity.
Another sign of interest is self-touching; a woman slowly touching her own body, especially areas such as the thigh, ankles or neck, inspires men to imagine that they are doing just that, while self-touching at the chest or neck level draws the attention to the neckline and to her breasts. The process sends signals to men basically saying “Hey, you might be able to do this yourself if you’re careful.” It’s worth noting that many women are aware of the effect that it has on men and some will do it quite deliberately.
Watch for mirroring, where a woman will copy your body-language. Part of how humans relate to each other is to copy the other’s body language; it’s a way of ingratiating ourselves to another person, making them feel more at ease. It’s also a way of indicating interest. When you find the woman you are talking to is starting to adopt your posture and gesturing similarly to you, you have a strong signal that she likes you.
More importantly, however, is the act of pointing and body orientation. Humans are driven and goal-focused; as a result, we will unconsciously point ourselves towards the things we want, especially our feet. A woman who is interested in a man will orient her body towards him, effectively pointing at him with her legs and knees (if seated) or her feet. Pointing away from him is a bad sign; it’s an indication that she’s strongly considering getting up and leaving.
Focusing on any one activity – such as playing with her hair – risks missing the forest for the trees, however. A woman playing with her hair may be signaling that she’s interested in you… or she may just have a nervous habit. Don’t put too much importance on a single gesture or activity and look at the full range of body language to help guage her interest.
4) Watch For Proximity
As I have said: women are socialized to believe that being to direct or overt in her interest is being “slutty” and a mark of shame even in our more liberated society. So instead of directly approaching you, a woman who likes you will often hover around, using proximity as a means of letting you know she’s interested.
This behavior is incredibly easy to miss, because guys aren’t used to looking for it. A woman who likes you will often find excuses to be in your immediate proximity. She will make several trips past you for apparently no reason. She will squeeze past you, even when there is plenty of room to move freely. You may look around and notice her hanging in your peripheral vision. She may find reasons to invade your personal space briefly before sliding away again. Unless you’re aware of this phenomena, it’s easy to mistake it for simple coincidence and assume that it means nothing.
As with body language, don’t over-invest any particular moment of proximity with meaning. Obviously, if you’re in a crowded party or bar or she has to squeeze past a clump of people in order to get to the bathroom, her proximity has an entirely different meaning than a woman who’s hovering around you for no particular reason.
Just remember: once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is someone sending you a message1.
PRO TIP: Yes, I’ve stated before that guys should beware of hovering around women they like. Men who use proximity come off as creepy. Women, on the other hand, use proximity as a tool. Yes, it’s a societal double standard. Accept it and move on.
5) She’s A Tease
A woman who’s interested in a guy will often give him a little shit. She may make fun of his hair, joke about his girlfriends or tell him that he just made the most awkward pass ever and he should be embarrassed to have done it in the first place… but she’ll do it with a smile.
Some behaviors never change as we get older; teasing the people we like is one of them. Just like guys, women will use teasing as a way to flirt. Teasing is, as I have said, a way of saying something mean while really saying “I like you”. It’s silly and playful and it’s intended in the spirit of fun. Wit and humor are incredibly attractive traits, and women appreciate a man who can banter with them.
Teasing is also a good way to gauge a guy’s social intuition. In many ways, teasing can be a shit test; too many nice guys will take teasing from a woman and become flustered, while guys who are socially uncalibrated will either miss the playful aspect and assume they’re actually being insulted or come back too strongly. Women aren’t attracted to men who will let her walk all over them, nor do they want men who can’t understand the difference between teasing and a genuine insult. A tease can also be a gentle way of letting the air out of someone who’s coming on too strong without rejecting them entirely; by pricking their ego a little, a woman can let a guy know he’s acting ridiculous and that if he doesn’t change his behavior, she’s going to find her attraction draining away.
As with guys, the key factor to flirty teasing as a sign that she likes you is the smile. Teasing is intended to be fun and endearing. If you can’t hear the smile in her voice when she makes fun of your shoes, she’s not indicating that she likes you, she’s telling you to step off.
Understand The Difference Between Niceness and Actual Interest
Sometimes guys, especially under-socialized guys, will mistake niceness for flirting. Women are taught to be polite and to show some polite interest in what others have to say; some guys will misread this as genuine interest. Some women are naturally flirty or have learned that a little flirtatiousness can win them some extra effort or attention from men. This can be especially true when involving women in retail or the service industry; women know that flirty behavior usually leads to larger tips from men, while men assume that the bartender/waitress/barista serving them their morning latte are actually interested in them romantically or sexually. As a result, the women get hit on and asked out repeatedly and the men wind up confused and frustrated.
To save yourself this frustration, examine the situation.
Does She Flirt Professionally?
Certain careers in the service industry encourage flirting with the customers. Call it Flirting For Dollars. It entices men to keep coming back and encourages the stupider ones to think that they can buy her affections by throwing money her way. The odds that she’s fallen for you, after literally hundreds of others have failed to win her heart is spectacularly low. If she’s a stripper, a go-go dancer, a shot girl, a bartender, cocktail waitress or a waitress at certain types of restaurants (Hooters, Twin Peaks, etc) then your default assumption is no, she does not really like you. Enjoy the flirting for flirting’s sake and move on.
Is She Qualifying Herself?
Women will naturally ask you about yourself; it’s part of being polite. A woman who’s into you however, will volunteer more about herself. She will want you to know she’s a cool person as well. She’ll want you to understand how she stands out from other women you know or just why she’s special. She’ll go out of her way to brag about herself a little. If she doesn’t bring up her own life without prompting or isn’t trying to find commonalities (i.e. “You like Amanda Conner’s run on Power Girl too? That’s so cool!”), the odds are good she’s being nice.
Is She Pumping You For Information?
If she really likes you, she’ll want to know if you’re single or not. She’ll work the theoretical existence of your girlfriend/wife into conversation, or make probing jokes about your dating life. If she doesn’t? She probably isn’t too worried about it.
Is She Going Out Of Her Way To Talk To You?
It’s one thing if she’s laughing at your jokes when you’re heading up to the counter to place your order; it’s another entirely if she’s making a point of talking to you. The more that she’s actually making an effort to talk to you, the more likely it is she likes you.
- or enemy action… I forget. [↩]