What exactly is it that makes one person find another one attractive? How can you tell if someone fancies you? And is there anything you can do to make yourself more fanciable? Susan Aldridge investigates the facts about flirting.
All people, whatever their age, are attracted by good-lookers. That's why celebs are so widely admired. Scientific research shows that women with large eyes and small features - think Kiera Knightley - are most likely to be considered attractive. For men it's being tall and having strong features like a square chin. But people actually disagree in all kinds of ways about what's attractive. Being slim is the thing today, but in history fat people were thought to be healthier and therefore better-looking.
Research has also shown that 'good-lookers' are thought to be more friendly and confident than plain people. That's because they tend to get more attention and better treatment in life.
Body language and eye contact
If you're not stereotypically gorgeous, though, don't despair. People don't always go for the best lookers. Beyond the initial attraction personality is more important. Some people act like a magnet whatever their looks. They've got what's called charisma - a peculiar mixture of charm and personality. Take Sir Bob Geldof - he's no oil painting but he's got charisma, which means that people will always pay him attention. Charismatic people attract others with their enthusiasm and energy, not the size of their eyes or the shape of their chin.
Get someone to video you talking to a group and you'll see what your body language says about your behaviour. Body language is all about the look on your face, the way you speak, and the signals you send by how you stand and move. Take eye contact. If you don't look at someone when you are introduced, it looks as if you are shy, aloof, or have something to hide. But if you stare, that seems threatening and hostile. Most encounters are a mixture of looking at the person and then looking away - as you'll see if you video yourself chatting to a good friend.
"If someone likes you, you will notice an increase in eye contact," says body language and Big Brother expert Judi James. "They will hold your gaze for a second or two longer than usual. Then they will keep glancing back to check your expression to see how you are reacting to them."
Telltale signs that they're interested
Another sign that someone likes you is if they stand a bit closer to you than is normal. When standing, the usual distance between people is between 45cm and 1.2m. Closer is a signal of interest. Try it and see. But if the person moves away, it may mean they are not as interested in you as you are in them.
Another sign that someone likes you is if they face you with an 'open' body. That is, they don't have their arms folded and they don't fiddle with something while they're talking to you. Any action that places the arms across the body means they feel they need to defend themselves against you, unless they're just in deep thought. If you're sitting, they'll cross their legs away from you. Putting a hand up to their face is another way of cutting you off. But, if they have their eyes wide open and their eyebrows high, it probably means they like you.
"When you are talking to someone who likes you, they tend to smile a lot," Judi says. "But check it's a genuine smile where the eyes crinkle up, and not a false one where only the mouth muscles move." The person may also agree with you a lot if they are attracted to you. The agreement may turn out not to be genuine when you get to know them better - they're doing it to try to get on with you.
"If you want someone to know you like them, don't be shy - make eye contact," advises Judi. If you don't, they'll think you are stuck-up or not interested. Stand an inch or two closer to them than you normally would. Get to know the person - find out what they're interested in and chat about it. Have a coffee. Send a few texts. Do them the odd favour, and see how they respond.
Are you flirting with me?
There are loads of body signals people use when they are flirting. Hands on waist or hips is common in both sexes as is fiddling with items such as pens, drinks and bags. Males are said to be more likely to play with circular objects when they are flirting, females with cylindrical objects like glasses. Here are some other signs to look out for:
- Swing or roll their hips, especially when walking past a man or dancing;
- Play with their hair, toss it over their shoulder;
- Fiddle with a necklace, bracelet or earrings;
- Expose a shoulder by letting a sleeve hang down.
- Fiddle with a tie, play with buttons, collars or sleeves;
- Smooth their hair;
- Stick their fingers inside a belt;
- Rub or pull on an earlobe.
How to cope with shyness
"Learning to look at people is the key to overcoming shyness," says body language expert Judi James. "Even if you look away again, do try to make eye contact with people," she says. "Practice in the mirror. Look yourself in the eye."
You should also try to be interested in other people. Don't talk about yourself too much. Ask them questions and make sure you listen to the answers. And don't assume everyone is looking at you. They're not. In any case, try not to get too stressed-out about it; many people think shyness is quite attractive.
Thanks to Flipside magazine for providing this article.
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