Across animal species males typically initiate mating, while women decide to accept or reject those advances.
While we share this prototypical mating arrangement with other mammals, it’s a bit more nuanced with us humans.
Men are expected to make the overt first move like saying hello, striking up a conversation, asking a woman out on a date, etc. But women in fact typically initiate this contact by subtly providing cues that such contact is welcome. In other words, women decide if and when men can initiate romantic advances.
Men who don’t understand this dynamic at best find themselves labeled as an awkward weirdo, and at worst become known as the creep who makes unwanted advances.
Even when a man understands this dynamic, however, there’s a good chance he just doesn’t have a knack for picking up on the subtle social cues that indicate female interest. Rather than initiating unwanted sexual interest, this fella fails to make a move when a lady wants him to! Many a man out there has had the experience of a woman telling him, “I gave you so many signals! How did you not know I liked you?!” Sometimes a guy gets lucky and finally clues into this interest because the gal is patient and persistent. But sometimes, someone who could have been your one and only, ends up being the one who got away.
If you’ve had a hard time sussing out whether or not women are attracted to you and open to your advances, below we provide research-backed signs to look for.
Signs a Girl Is Attracted to You
You’ve probably read articles online where the author gives you a list of body language signals that women give off to let you know they’re attracted to you. While it’s easy to roll your eyes at lists like these, research suggests there’s actually something to them.
Psychologist Monica Moore spent a few months observing over 200 single women at parties, bars, clubs, and restaurants. From her observations, she found over 52 things women do when they’re attracted to a man. They don’t have to do all of them or in any particular order to indicate interest; some women have their go-to flirty moves. Though, the more of these signals you see and the more often you see a woman display them, the more likely it is that she’s attracted to you and would welcome your advances.
Of the 52 signals, Moore saw these 12 the most frequently:
- Smiling at you
- Shooting short glances your way
- Darting her eyes away when you look at her
- Making prolonged eye contact with you
- Running fingers through her hair
- Licking her lips
- Exposing her neck
- Tilting her heads towards you
- Turning in her seat towards you
- Lightly touching you on the arm or shoulder
- Laughing when you talk
- Caressing an object in her hands
Among the dozen above, the most common signals of female interest are smiles, direct eye contact, and/or repeated glances towards and away from you.
Important Caveat: Put These Signals In Context
Now a socially inept boob of a guy will memorize a list like this, and anytime he sees a woman display any of these signals he’ll immediately assume that she’s attracted to him sexually. Indeed, studies have shown that many men have a hard time interpreting social cues, particularly sexual ones.
Such cues are complex and subtle. You have to make sure you interpret them within the context of a given situation. It’s very similar to the way you achieve situational awareness in a tactical situation, which involves establishing baselines of what’s normal and then looking for anomalies. What’s true in war, is true in love as well.
If an attractive lady bank teller looks you in the eye and smiles at you, she’s probably doing that because she’s trying to show good customer service and not because she’s open to you hitting on her. The baseline behavior in this situation is that all bank tellers look people in the eye, smile, and make friendly chitchat. An anomaly would be if the bank teller lady displayed lots of flirty behavior like touching her hair or touching your wrist nonchalantly. That would indicate possible interest.
Likewise, if a woman at work touches your arm, don’t automatically assume she wants to have your babies. She could just be super friendly and touchy-feely. That’s her baseline behavior. But let’s say a woman isn’t super friendly and touchy-feely with people, but she is with you. Well, that’s an anomaly that indicates possible attraction.
Another Important Caveat: A One-Time Signal Isn’t an Indefinite Green Light — Keep Following the Trail
Just as observing an anomaly in a tactical situation doesn’t automatically mean there’s a threat, an anomaly in the world of romantic social cues doesn’t automatically mean a woman wants to sleep with you, marry you, or even go on a date with you. All it means is she has an initial attraction to you and is open to your making a first move. That could be a conversation, a dance, or you asking her out on a date. Nothing more.
So you ask her for her phone number and ask her out on a date. On the date, you and she will get to know more about each other through conversation. If she likes what she hears and feels a rapport and attraction building, she’ll continue to give you the signals above. She’ll also signal that she’s open to a second date, and she may not even be subtle about it; she’ll more than likely say (or text), “That was fun. I really had a good time tonight.”
So you take her on another date. If that date goes well, she might offer signals that she’s open to a bit of physical intimacy by getting physically close to you as much as possible without actually making physical contact. So you initiate this contact by reaching for her hand and going in for the kiss at the end of the date.
On and on this dance goes with escalating signals from her and overt initiation by you until you’re married with 2.5 kids. Or you break up by the fifth date because she’s cute, but dang, you’ve noticed like 11 of the 14 red flags in a relationship.
How to Tell if She’s Not Interested
Just as important as knowing what signs a woman displays when she’s interested in you is knowing the body language cues that mean she’s not interested in you. You don’t want to be the guy who couldn’t take the hint and is now being tweeted about with #MeToo.
In addition to documenting the signs that a woman was interested in a man, Moore’s study also recorded the signs that she wasn’t. If you approach a woman and she won’t make any eye contact with you while you’re trying to engage in polite small talk, she’s not interested. If she turns away from you, rolls her eyes, yawns, or starts talking to somebody else, not interested.
Don’t assume she’s playing hard to get. She’s just not into you. And don’t think you can sway her by talking yourself up or negging her or doing whatever other dumb PUA technique you read about from some blog post written in 2009. It won’t work, and you’ll just come off as a desperate, creepy dude.
When You’re on the Fence: Revisiting the Brad Pitt Rule
Let’s say you’re on the fence as to whether or not a woman is interested in you. Maybe there’s a woman in one of your classes you’d like to take on a date. She flirts with you . . . you think. And she hasn’t given you any signals she’s not open to you asking her out. But you’re really not sure how she feels.
In that case, just ask her out on a date. Follow these best practices for making the invitation, and make it for something low stakes like a coffee date. If she says “yes,” then she likes you or is at least open to the possibility of a romantic relationship with you.
If she gives an excuse for why she can’t have a latte with you, then use the Brad Pitt rule to determine if she’s interested in you or not.
For those not familiar with the Brad Pitt Rule, here’s a summary:
Imagine that instead of you, Brad Pitt had asked this same woman out. Would she use the same excuse with him? If Brad Pitt asked her on a date, would she still say she had to study or was going to the movies with friends that night? Nope. She would have dropped pretty much anything and everything to be able to accept a date with Brad.
Now you’re not Pitt obviously. But if a woman is interested in you, she will drop her other plans to be available to go out with you.
Of course, there are exceptions; the woman may have a legitimate reason she cannot make the date. Perhaps she has to work or go to a funeral. But, and here is the real clincher, she will suggest a different time for the date. She will say something along the lines of “I can’t do it this Saturday morning, but I could next Saturday.”
If she makes up an excuse and she doesn’t suggest an alternative plan, you have been shut out.
So if you get an excuse from a woman when you ask her on a date, and she doesn’t provide an alternative time for the date, it’s almost certain she’s not interested. If you’re feeling persistent, it’s okay to ask one more time in a couple weeks. But if you still get a no, then definitely move on. There are plenty of other fish in the sea.
Figuring out if a woman likes you is a tricky business. You’ll likely make some faux pas in the process. As long as you act like a gentleman (not the weird, m’lady kind) when making those initial dating moves, you shouldn’t experience too much social awkwardness when you face rejection. Be aware of the social cues women give off if they’re attracted to you, but keep them in context. Finally, don’t assume she’s ready to go back to her place just because she signals attraction. Assume that her initial attraction simply means that she’s open to you asking her out so she can get to know you better. Keep following the trail of signals to determine if/when to make your next move.
Last updated: February 28, 2018