Let’s just put it out there; first dates are stressful. We’re constantly second-guessing ourselves, as well as the other person’s intentions. Are they interested in me? Am I even interested in them? All the while, we hide these thoughts behind nervous laughter. When the moment to part ways comes, we’re not even sure if we should go with an awkward handshake, a friendly hug, or a passionate kiss. While it may be difficult to navigate ourselves around these issues, there’s something that can help a little bit — body language.

How we carry ourselves while in the presence of another person can speak volumes about how we feel, and research has shown 93 percent of communication is nonverbal — think smiling to show contentment, or a firm handshake to express confidence. In dating, using subtle cues like these are “the easiest way to flirt,” Bobbi Palmer, a dating and relationship coach told the Huffington Post.

Nonverbal communication is complex as well as subtle. It’s based in our psychology, and often elicits unconscious responses that many people are unaware of. Understanding it, therefore, can give you an edge when it comes to dating. Here are some nonverbal cues to show your date you’re not only interested, but looking forward to a second meeting.

Eye Contact

Maintaining the right balance of eye contact is vital. Not only does it suggest you’re a good listener, but it also makes you appear more confident while making your date feel as if he or she is the only other person in the room. Gaze into their eyes too long, however, and you’ll come off as controlling or domineering — it’s all about timing.

It’s best to hold eye contact for 7 to 10 seconds, Kelly Decker, executive vice president of Decker Communications, a business-communication training company, told The Wall Street Journal. This helps to avoid making “your conversation partner feel as if you are staring her down.”

Achieve the perfect amount of eye contact and you can even raise the potential for loving feelings to develop. In one study, participants were split into man-woman pairs, and asked to look into each other's’ eyes and synchronize blinking for two minutes, or, for control purposes, look at other body parts for the same amount of time. Only those who exchanged stares reported increased feelings of passionate love and affection toward the other person.

It’s likely this happened because eye contact makes the body produce the chemical phenethylamine, which accelerates attraction, especially in women.

 

Mimicry

Imitation is the best form of flattery, they say — dates are no exception.

After spending so much time with someone, it’s not uncommon for us to pick up on their mannerisms, expressions, and gestures. It turns out we’re predisposed to this type of unconscious mimicry, or, as children say, “copycat” behavior. As adults, doing this communicates the pleasure, or “social high,” we get from talking to this person. If your date is going well, chances are when you cross your legs or hold your hand near your face, the other person will too.  

Proof of this is in the science. A 2009 study carried out in two bars involved young women confederates who volunteered to speed date men for five minutes each. Some mimicked the verbal expressions and nonverbal behaviors of the men, while others didn’t. At the end, men who were copied were more likely to say their date went well, and that they found the woman more sexually attractive.  

Lean In, and Head Tilt

Sure, eye contact and mimicry will show you’re interested in a person, but according to anthropologist Helen Fisher, the most effective, nonverbal way to show someone you’re engaged is to lean in and tilt your head.

It’s simple. Leaning away from a person during a conversation signals disinterest. Leaning in, on the other hand, shows you’re interested in them, and what they have to say. Add a head tilt (perhaps a 10-second stare), and you’ll exude interest while also appearing more attractive.

A 2010 study found the secret to attractiveness is in the head tilt; women were perceived as more alluring when they angled their heads forward, so they had to look slightly upward. Conversely, men were seen as more masculine when they tilted their head backward, and looked slightly down their nose. It’s believed this difference stems from the usual height difference between men and women.

Whether it's our first date or our third date, this Valentine's Day, show how attracted you are to someone with these 3 easy-to-read cues. Just make sure that when you do, you’re not obvious or awkward about it.