Dating can be a very anxious experience. We have found a person we are interested in, we have gotten up the courage to express our interest and now we are exploring the relationship by getting to know each other.
So many thoughts are going through our heads while on a date.
"How do I look?"
"Am I eating too loud?"
"Did I really just bring up something embarrassing from high school?"
There often many uncertainties with dating, but there is one lesson we have been taught that is supposed to make dating easier: "You can tell if a person likes you by their body language."
Sadly, the advice is often given based on gender (and often assumes a heterosexual relationship).
If a guy touches your knee, he is interested in you.
If a girl plays with her hair, she is interested in you.
This advice is as old as dating itself. Online, you can find lists describing various body language signals for knowing whether a person is into you - in addition to an unlimited number of books promising you the secrets to deciphering body language.
Too bad this advice is wrong.
While many people are taught to rely on body language as a sure fire way of knowing exactly what the other person wants, body language is notoriously unreliable.
For example, one of the signs that a person is into you is if their arms are open and not crossed in front of their body. Say you are on a date, and you notice your partner has his/her arms crossed. You immediately think they are not having fun on the date and are not interested in you. Meanwhile, you partner is freezing and wishes they had brought a jacket. Maybe crossing their arms is what they do when they are nervous (which actually could mean they are into you). They are still having a great time and they may really like you, but their body language is different than what is typically expected.
Another example is smiling to show interest. Your partner on the date is telling you some really awful, crude jokes. You are shocked because you can't believe someone is actually saying that sort of thing. You are smiling because you are uncomfortable and that is your response in awkward moments - to smile. Your partner then takes your smiling as a sign that they are really funny and you are having a great time listening to their jokes.
See how easy miscommunication with body language can be?
So why has the body language myth persisted? It is because our society has never given people the skills to use their words to discover exactly what someone is thinking and/or wanting.
You might be thinking, "No. Wrong, Mike. People don't ask because they are afraid of rejection or of being awkward and ruining the moment." If you don't ask and just go for it based on body language, can you be rejected? YES! Can you create an awkward situation ruining the entire date? YES!
Making sexual advances purely based on interpreting body language is MORE likely to lead to rejection and awkwardness. You are acting based on assumptions and often arrogance of thinking you know what another person wants.
The thought process of "I'm not going to ask first. I'll just read their body language, assume what the person wants, and go for it instead. After all, they can always stop me", sounds like a person who doesn't care what a partner truly wants and/or is feeling. That person is saying, "I'm not going to give my partner a choice because the person might actually say, 'No' - so instead I'm just going to do it" (whether "it" is a kiss or more advanced sexual activity). Such a belief system is cold and callous.
Sadly, many of us have grown up in a culture that teaches that very behavior that lead to many of us making those exact mistakes.
Today, we know better and we need to have open conversation as a culture about the simple and respectful concept of:
Humans developed vocalization to help them communicate thoughts, ideas and wants. We no longer have to rely solely on body language. By asking, we can find out immediately what our partner is feeling. They can let us know if they are having fun or not. They can let us know if they like us or not. You can also let your partner know if you are having a good time or not.
What is the worst thing that could happen? Your partner says "no." While this may seem like the absolute worst, it really isn't. Think about it, if your partner says they are not having a good time, you can end the date right there if you've discovered this is just isn't a good match. After all, a date is an audition. If you are not a good fit for each other, no need to continue the experience feeling stuck.
Asking your partner if he/she is having a good time can also show your partner that you care about how he/she feels. By asking, you are taking the partner's feelings into consideration. This shows your partner you care.
Stop guessing. Ask first. Give your partner a choice.