dating, and the look of interest

Look details:  Banana Republic dress (similar styles here and here)   |   Sam Edelman heels (similar styles here and here)   |   Michael Kors clutch (similar styles here and here)   |   Kate Spade necklace (similar style here, here, and here)

Photo Credit @ Lauren Denise Photography

Let’s talk about ‘the look.’ You know the one, the casual look or glance you give someone to let them know you are interested in them. Behavior speaks volumes louder than words ever could. And this is one behavior that may sound seemingly simple on the surface but has a depth to it in reality. Over the course of my single “dating” years, I have not only utilized the illustrious ‘look’ myself, but I have watched countless friends and females attempt it. Some individuals are masters at this subtle, yet effective, form of body language communication. Others could use some drastic improvement.

I think it’s a common misconception amongst females if you glance at a guy for a second–and he glances at you at the same time–that, that’s it. Your work is done. The guy has seen you so he must know you are interested in him, right? And, if this guy is interested in you back he will make take the initiative to make the first move, right? Wrong. I am not a gambling person, but I am willing to bet a significant amount of money that guy that supposedly saw your ‘look’ of interest is completely oblivious you are interested in him at all. I know when a guy glances at me for a split second I don’t automatically think he is interested in me. Quite the contrary, I don’t think much of it at all. So why should I, as a female, assume a male would comprehend a split second glance is supposed to convey “interest?” The short answer is, I shouldn’t. And other females shouldn’t either.

I mean no offense to the male gender in this post, there are so many areas of strength the male gender possesses. But, males are quite simply not good at paying attention. This is a scientific fact backed by loads of supporting evidence. Robert Rosenthal, a Harvard psychologist, cited this inattentiveness amongst the male gender through some of his research.

Rosenthal’s findings revealed the majority of men are “inferior to women at both reading (decoding) and sending (encoding) nonverbal cues.”

Men are superior to women in terms of nonverbal credibility and power in virtually every way, but they are substandard readers and senders of nonverbal cues. Why is this? Why does this nonverbal communication gap exist? Dr. Audrey Nelson is an internationally recognized specialist in the area of gender communication and communication skills. She suggests this gender communication gap exists because male’s “skill pattern derives from the fact their attention is not directed preferentially to any one channel but instead is spread diffusely.” Translation, men complete a general scan of a situation, environment, or setting, but they probably don’t focus on one particular thing. Nelson further suggests, men “may not recognize something is to be gained or lost by attending more to some cues than to others, and they have no particular need or motive to read leaky cues.” She clearly explains why men lack reading and sending nonverbal cues in the following statement:

“Men pay attention differently. It’s as if they’re distracted by extraneous cues. They don’t know how to make sense of them or integrate them so they don’t serve them well. Men can wind up at a relative disadvantage only because women are attending actively to leaky cues and other micro-behaviors. Women focus where they should–on the face.  They take the whole message in context. Because they can show empathy, they get people to open up more. In short, women walk away from an interaction with more information. Information is power, and this is one area where women have power and men don’t.”

So what does this mean in terms of ‘the look?’ How does this scientific knowledge of differences between genders translate into communicating interest to the opposite sex? Simple, ladies lay on your interest thick. I am talking a neon sign with flashing lights thick. Aside from blatantly yelling at a guy from across the bar you are interested in him, be that obvious. Because, more often than not, men are oblivious and clueless in this area. Furthermore, it’s worth noting, not every guy is James Bond. We don’t live in a cinematic reality. We live in actual reality. And in actual reality, most guys aren’t so confident they will just come right up to you and start talking. Most guys are just trying to get through a social experience without looking like a dumbo to the women around them.

Okay, I get it, ladies, this is not enough information to go on. So, let me give you a real-life example of myself being the guinea pig. A week or two ago my sister asked me to go out with her. My daughter was visiting her dad this night, so it was a rare opportunity for me to go out. I will preface, though I have been “dating” for years, I am very out of practice since having my daughter. Because of this, I was admittedly anxious and nervous about going out on the town for the evening. We get to our destination and it is quite busy. The male to female ratio is definitely in my favor. Upon walking in, a very attractive guy looks my way and I glance back at him for a split second. My sister and I make our way over to the bar to order a drink. Since it is busy, it takes a minute to get our order in. During this time, this guy passes back by us and looks right at me and gives me a slight smile. I am playing it down at this point. It has been A LONG TIME since I have been out, let alone had an interaction like this with the opposite sex. We get our drinks, make a quick stop at the bathroom, and find a table. We take a large table at the front of the bar temporarily because it is the only one available. This guy is at the other end of the bar. He starts walking our way. I look at him and keep looking at him. After a few seconds he locks in on my ‘look’ and we hold our ‘look’ as he walks nearly the entire length of the bar. Right before he reaches us (he was starting to slightly turn directions), I give him a small smile. He stops turning, and comes right up to my sister and myself and asks if he can buy us a drink. I honestly believe a small smile is huge. It’s an inviting gesture than softens a female so she isn’t so intimidating to a male. 

Now, I am by no means a dating connoisseur. I am just a regular girl. I’m not saying being this direct will work for every single girl and every single guy. But I am saying science and evidence don’t lie. Guy’s need more than an eight-second glance to read a female’s interest. So instead of an eight-second glance, give a longer second look, maybe even a third look. And, to really convey interest to the opposite sex, give them a smile. It doesn’t have to be a huge, over the top smile. A simple and gentle smile that is inviting, and lets the other person know “it’s okay to come talk to me.” Yes, it’s nice when men have the confidence to approach women and make the first move. But maybe we, as women, also need to have the confidence to let men know we want them to make that first move.

Happy ‘looking’ ladies 😉

xoxo, Alli

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