When men think about going on a date, they think about things like, “Will she think I’m funny? Will she be as cute in person as she is in her dating profile? Will she like the place I picked out?” Women think about a lot of those similar things and they wonder, “Will he try to harm me?” Yup. That’s one pretty major issue that men don’t need to worry about quite as much. Can you imagine, on top of all the other things you’re concerned about on a first date, worrying about your physical safety? Well, women do. All of the time. Which is why men should add, “How do I make her feel safe?” to their list of pre-date concerns. If your date doesn’t feel at ease, she won’t laugh at your joke, no matter how funny it is. If she’s worried about her safety, she won’t appreciate the cute date spot. Here are body language tips to make your date feel safe.
Only lean in as far as she does
If you’re sitting across from your date, only lean across the table as far as she does. If she is sitting back against her chair and you’re leaning halfway across the table, she can feel like you instantly want way more from this interaction than she does. You almost make her feel like you’re lunging towards her. Lean in as far as she does, so she feels that you’re just as engaged as she is: not more, and not less.
Make the right amount of eye contact
Eye contact is important, but I fear this point has been pushed so much that now men just stare at their dates the entire night, even when their dates aren’t looking back at them. Think about how creepy it feels for a woman when she looks to the side, or down at her lap, and senses the guy is just looking at her head, waiting to make eye contact again. Look her in the eyes when she is speaking to you. Other than that, feel free to look at the menu, the décor or whatever (just not your phone, or another woman).
Keep your hands where she can see them
Doesn’t it make you uncomfortable when you can’t see someone’s hands? Whether this is in a professional setting, on a date, or just out in the world, it’s unnerving when someone conceals their hands. Keep yours on the table during your date.
Nod when she speaks (not too much)
Listening doesn’t only involve remaining quiet and looking at the person. If you do this, it can make your date feel like you’re sizing her up while she speaks, looking for subtext in her story, or just thinking about the next interesting thing you can say. Active listening involves nodding (slowly, naturally) while your partner speaks so she knows you’re emotionally following the beats of her story.
Smile when she speaks (not too much)
Smiling is wonderfully disarming. Think about it: don’t you feel far more at ease walking into any scenario, from a job interview to a first date, if the other person is smiling? Smiling denotes liking the other person, and wanting them to feel comfortable. Having a simple, closed-mouth smile when your date speaks shows her you aren’t judging her, you aren’t annoyed or impatient—you’re just happy to be there and hope she is too.
Don’t lean back
Leaning back in your chair, especially with your elbows up on the back of your chair, is a power move. It looks like you’re trying to assert dominance, or are judging the other person. Do not lean back when you’re on a date. You make your date feel like prey in a lion’s den.
Don’t cross your arms
Crossed arms are a sign of insecurity, anger or a closed-off nature. Do any of those sound like things that make a woman feel comfortable? If a woman feels like you are open about who you are, flaws, history and all, she’ll feel safe. And having open body language, including arms to the side and shoulders pulled back, makes her feel like you have an open personality.
Give her a good handshake
If you shake your date’s hand when you meet her instead of giving her a hug, don’t give her a limp handshake. This can be interpreted as a sign of disrespect (you don’t think women are strong enough to handle firm hand shakes) or a sign of insecurity (how much you assert yourself in a handshake says a lot about how much you assert yourself in life). Give her a firm handshake. And don’t cusp her hand with both of your hands—it’s condescending.
Fidgeting makes you look nervous. And hey, maybe you are nervous. But your date cannot know this. Let her know you’re in control of this ship. Your nerves may just have to do with you wondering if she likes you, but she could interpret them as you having something to hide.
Think before you speak
You may be wondering what this has to do with body language, but if you watch someone actually think before they respond, you’ll notice changes in their face and posture. They may look to the side, or look up for a moment. They’ll inadvertently nod while configuring their answer. Taking a moment to think before you respond makes your body more naturally relax, simply because you’re in your head, working something out. If you, however, respond the instant your date is done speaking, you look eager and anxious.
Let her initiate touching
As far as things like touching her lower back, grabbing her hand to lead her through a crowd or touching her hands across the table go, let your date initiate these things. If you initiate them before she has, you have no way of knowing whether or not she’s comfortable with physical touch yet. And maybe she is! But she’ll make a note of the fact that you went for it, before knowing if she was comfortable with it.
Don’t cross your legs
Crossing your legs does the same thing that crossing your arms does: it makes you look emotionally closed off. It’s also a rather formal position—one you see in business meetings or interviews with political figures. It has no place in a date setting.
Speak with your hands
If you are animated when you speak then you’ll look more genuine. People naturally use their hands to emphasize their points. While you may want to keep them still so you aren’t fidgeting, feel free to use your hands to express yourself when you talk. It shows that your story is so genuine and your emotions so pure that they’re coming out through your entire body.
As a general rule, mirror your date’s body language. If she scoots closer to you, you can scoot a little closer, too. If she starts reaching across the table in conversation, you can do this, too. When you mirror someone’s body language, you make them subconsciously feel you are on the same page about a lot of things.
Have a relaxed posture
Try to avoid sitting up perfectly straight like you’re having dinner with the queen of England. This makes you look like you aspire to appear perfect. Nobody is perfect, so it makes you look like a liar. Be comfortable with your flaws, including your imperfect posture.