Ever been on a first date and been increasingly interested in your new love interest?
But somehow you didn’t communicate it through your body language and they ended up thinking you were less than enthused about them? Date number two never materialised, to your utter disappointment.
It is a common problem, says renowned body language expert Judi James.
“You can get people who are really attracted to others, but their attraction embarrasses them slightly so they use less eye contact — they almost can’t look at the person,” she says.
“And I think it’s very common — and this doesn’t change with age — where you meet somebody that you like and you almost ignore them because you’re so shy and you get embarrassed. A lot of people that I’ve spoken to almost need a broker to bring them together because they’re both signalling a complete lack of interest and attraction.
“But they really like that person — they’re just embarrassed about the whole thing.”
Judi says that being too aware of body language, though, can cause problems too. The last few years have seen a glut of dating master classes, where participants are taught how to hold themselves and signal interest to the opposite sex. Are they helpful or can they make people paranoid about their body language?
“They can make people worse in how they communicate through body language. As body language has become more interesting and popular as a subject, people have become more aware of it.
“And what that means is that 20 years ago, if I was doing a job interview or going on a date and I’d had a little practice on my body language, it would probably have made a massive difference.
“People probably wouldn’t have known what I was doing, but now you’ve got an audience of people that have probably read the same books and probably thought what you’re doing is chapter one or chapter two. So the worrying thing is that you can just look like a phoney.”
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t make an effort and present yourself in a good light.
“I’m allergic to the phrase, ‘Just Be Yourself’. In training classes, I call it the JBY Syndrome and it’s where people go too far the other way and they think, ‘Oh, I’m just going to do what I do’ and they mightn’t dress smartly or watch their table manners.
“For me, I find it very important that we haven’t got one self — we’ve got lots of different facets of ourselves. It’s not being dishonest to show a different facet of yourself — it’s just responding differently to people.
“I mean at least 80% of our smiles are false smiles but that doesn’t make us false. It means we’re smiling when we don’t really feel like it, but we’re doing it for social reasons, to make other people feel comfortable and because we know it’s the right thing to do. It doesn’t make us false, it just makes life easier to socialise with other people.”
Judi was a model, a catwalk trainer (she had a hand in Naomi Campbell’s career) and novelist before turning her attentions to body language. She’s well known for her spot-on commentaries of celebrities’ body language in photos and was the resident body language expert on Channel 4’s Big Brother.
She’s now working on a book that will explain women to men, including their body language.
“It’s going to be funny but honest. I’m not a fan of the Women Are From Venus and Men Are From Mars thing, and I’ve spent most of my career trying to explain that there’s not that many differences between men and women. But I think women can be slightly more like the Da Vinci Code, we can talk in riddles sometimes and, because we understand the riddles, we think that men should as well.
“When men don’t understand and play the riddles we think that they’re being unfeeling brutes whereas they either tend to end up saying what they think, which can be the worst thing in the world, or what they think we want to hear, which is also often not right. It’s just really about better understanding the more subtle differences between the sexes.”
Judi recently visited Dublin to launch Colgate’s Keeping Ireland Smiling campaign and smiling is something that she believes is vital in the sexual attraction stakes.
“When it comes to romantic relationships, smiling makes a person’s features look better and makes them more attractive to the other person,” she says.
“It moves the accent to the higher cheekbone and it makes the cheeks look slightly rounded and pinkens them slightly so they give a nice healthy look. When we fall in love, our eyes naturally take on a very soft expression and smiling can replicate that as well.
“A lot of people when they go on dates think that looking attractive is about looking deadpan because that’s what models do in photographs. And when we do it, it just tends to look really miserable. Then the guy or the woman will feed off that and think, ‘Oh they don’t like me’ so it creates a chain reaction.”
But if we let our natural feelings come through and smile a lot things may fall into place much easier.
“We do this look of love — literally — when we start to fall for somebody. Nature makes their faces more attractive and that’s because the features soften. I don’t know if you’ve ever met a friend where they’ve fallen in love with somebody and talk about how good looking they are.
“And you wonder, ‘In what universe are they good looking?!’ But when you look at your friend as they watch their partner, their whole face will change and they’re seeing this much more beautiful person.
“I mean the Beckhams are both beautiful people. You watch David’s face when he looks at his wife and there’s this absolutely amazingly wonderful version of his face — it looks so soft when he looks at her.”