Like women, men don’t always say exactly what they’re feeling precisely when they feel it. But guys don’t have to say much to show you what they’re thinking. That’s because unconscious body language signals can be extremely telling, says Patti Wood, a body language expert with more than 30 years of experience and author of Success Signals, A Guide to Reading Body Language.
So, in the early stages of a new relationship (like when you first meet an online date), look out for the following signs to get a sense of what he’s thinking.
1. His pupils are huge. Either you’re in a super-dark place, or this subtle signal means he’s into you. “Dilation is a brain response that occurs when you like and are attracted to something,” Wood says.
2. His eyebrows are raised. People tend to use this subconscious expression to help open their eyes when they like what they see. If he raises his brows ever so slightly while you’re talking, it means he’s interested in whatever you’re saying.
3. He shows you his front teeth. “Guys stop smiling like this around the age of 5 — unless they’re really happy,” Wood says. He might not show off a toothy grin while casually flirting, but on a really awesome date when he’s having loads of fun? Look for teeth: “When he feels really happy, he’s not covering that up,” Wood says.
4. He smiles above the mouth. Real smiles extend well beyond the mouth: They lift the forehead and give you slightly squinty eyes. If his smile involves his whole face, it means you’re genuinely affecting him in a good way.
5. He licks his lips in a cute (not creepy) way. When you’re attracted to someone, your mouth produces extra saliva, Wood says. In response, he might quickly lick his lips or press them together. (Slower = creepster.)
6. He locks eyes with your face — not your eyes. You might think that a guy who is totally enamored by you will find it hard to peel his eyes away. But now that everyone is used to being glued to their phones, nonstop eye contact can make people feel uncomfortable. So, new rule: If he spends about 80 percent of your interaction looking from your eyes to your nose and lips, he’s into you, Wood says.
7. He takes a deep breath when he sees you. Yes, men do require oxygen. But when he subconsciously takes a deep breath — he’ll pull in his stomach and puff out his chest — it’s a subconscious way to make his upper body look broader and his waist look smaller, two qualities that make him look more fit and (from an evolutionary perspective) more desirable, Wood says. In other words, he’s into you and he’s trying to attract you.
8. He leans toward you when you talk. In a noisy bar, this sign might not hold much weight. But when he can physically hear you perfectly well and leans in anyway, it means he’s interested in what you have to say — and you, in general.
9. He puts his hands on his hips with his elbows out to the sides. Because this stance takes up more space than standing with your arms against your sides, Wood says this is a male power signal that guys use to show physical superiority over other guys. It means he’s seeking attention. And if he does it while he’s angled toward you? He’s seeking it from you.
10. He touches your knee (“Soft pants!”) or tucks your hair behind your ear. When he initiates physical contact under the guise of another reason, it’s a test to see how you respond to his touch, Wood says. Because touch is a tool he uses to test your limits, it could mean he’s only interested in sex, Wood says. If he really likes you, though, he might pull back extra-slowly and smile sweetly as he does it, which means he wants to take the time to get closer to you.
11. He sits with his legs spread. Because this position exposes his man parts, which are full of sensitive nerve endings, it’s a vulnerable position that could mean he’s willing to put himself out there (literally and emotionally) to get to know you.
12. He angles his pelvis toward you. Because the pelvis is overtly sexual, Wood says, it often signals sexual interest — or lack thereof. If he angles his hips away from you, it’s probably the latter.
13. He points his toes toward you. Because the feet are involved in the fight-or-flight response that kicks in when you’re in danger, they’re largely controlled by the unconscious mind — and can be very telling in social interactions. “The feet tend to point where the heart wants to go,” Wood says. Of course, timing is super important in interpreting the feet: If you’re talking to a guy who seems interested, you touch his arm, and then see his feet angle away from you, the context says he’s no longer interested.
14. He crosses his legs. If he crosses them in a way that turns his torso and upper body away from you, he might be disinterested. But if he crosses his legs away and turns the rest of his body toward you, it could just mean that he’s shy, depending on the guy.
15. He sort of shuffles toward you while you’re talking. He obviously wants to get closer to you.
16. He talks to you without facing you. Wood says this could be a sign he’s keeping his options open. But don’t rush to judge a great conversationalist just because he chats you up while he faces forward. If he makes an effort to find a common thread or asks you lots of questions, his body language may reflect his personality (shy), and he could actually be totally enthralled by you.
17. He touches his throat. The throat represents communication and vulnerability, Wood says. If he reaches up to touch it during your interaction, he’s interested in you and worried about coming across well. But again, context can play a role here. If you’re talking to Mr. Slick, a throat touch could signal dishonesty. So feel him out, and look for other signs on this list before you go reassure him.
18. When he holds your hand, he presses his palm against yours. This kind of full-fledged hand-holding signifies a desire to connect. The same goes for interlocking fingers, while an arched palm means he’s scared or may be holding something back (literally).
19. He grazes your forearm while he’s talking. The message is loud and clear: He wants your attention, be it to impress you or to make sure you’re listening — because he wants to be heard.
20. He walks beside you. If he’s constantly two steps ahead of you, it means he’s more concerned about himself than you, Wood says. Unless he’s leading you through a scary or crowded space, he should adjust his pace to match yours.