You’ve probably heard that people make split-second decisions when they meet others — especially potential romantic partners. People are indeed very skilled at judging some traits quickly. Sam Gosling, Ph.D., from the University of Texas at Austin recently coauthored a study that revealed, “people get pretty good reads on others for the traits of extraversion, openness to new experiences, likability, and self-esteem” based on their photos alone. But what about when you’re meeting with someone in person for the first time? According to Joe Navarro, nonverbal communication expert and coauthor of What Every BODY is Saying, “You have four opportunities to impress others — at a distance, when you shake hands, as you converse, and as you leave.”
Armed with this knowledge, why not use the first minute or two with your (potential) Mr. Right doing everything, well, right? Here are some great tips for catching his eye — and maybe even his heart — in those crucial early moments.
1. Wear something red
You can do something to command attention before you even leave the house by putting on a fetching red sweater or dress. A study published in British Psychological Society Research Digest shows that humans are attracted to the color red. Researchers found that when a woman wears the ever-popular crimson hue, men sit closer to her and ask more intimate questions. Lead researcher, Daniela Niesta Kayser, Ph.D., says: “I wanted to demonstrate that despite social psychological factors that are known to impede acting on one’s attraction to someone (e.g., shyness, lack of self-esteem, performance situation), the color red had such a powerful effect that it would overcome those barriers to real behavior.” The positive effect can also carry over into online dating, so you might want to consider posting a picture of yourself wearing red to amp up your profile’s visual appeal!
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2. Work those pretty peepers
Eye contact is important, even before you introduce yourself the person you’d like to get to know better. In fact, if it’s done right, your eyes can literally bring him to you. Navarro suggests softening your features before scoping out someone cute: “Always look with a relaxed face. A smile is fine, but it’s not needed as long as the look says, ‘When I look at you I relax psychologically.’” He also advises repeating the eye-contact routine more than six times in a three-minute period to send a clear message about your intentions.
3. Speak at a natural volume
If you feel tempted to lower your voice an octave or two when you meet a good-looking man, you’re not alone. American psychologists at Pennsylvania’s Albright College and the University of Baltimore found that both men and women lower the tone of their speaking voices when they find the person they’re chatting up to be attractive. The catch is men tend to prefer feminine, melodious voices, so making any extra effort isn’t necessarily worth it. Nicholas Boothman, author of How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less, weighs in: “Always be yourself and don’t try too hard — it’s the number one turn-off.”
4. Relax and use humor to break the ice
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that flirting isn’t rocket science. Chances are that guy wants to meet you, too. Brian Hayford, 29, an artist in Wisconsin, says that all you need to do in order to draw him in is “smile and make a witty comment that’s funny, but not overly mean.” Steer clear of touchy subjects, like politics, when you first meet new people. Instead, joke about your surroundings or popular culture. When you’re tempted to say something ribald or outrageous to get attention, Sam Gosling suggests that you proceed with caution: “With the right cheeky glint in her eye, a woman could probably pull it off — but it would be harder [than for a man] because expectations for what counts as acceptable behavior are quite different for men and women.” Boothman agrees: “Everyone likes witty and funny/smart people, but the tone should stay lighthearted — no one likes people who are too aggressive in their opinions or use vulgar language, gestures or anecdotes.” In other words, it’s OK to let your inner Lisa Lampanelli out…but wait until after you’ve gotten to know someone first.
5. Keep your body language open
If you tend to be a bit shy, it might feel natural to cross your arms or turn slightly away from others, but people are more sensitive to these cues than you think. If you want to strike up a conversation with an attractive stranger, pay attention to the signals your body language is sending. Don’t fidget, look down, or slouch. Instead, sit or stand in a relaxed and confident manner. Kira Sabin, a professional dating coach in Wisconsin, says it’s particularly important to think about your body language when you’re talking to a friend in a crowded place. “If you are only turned toward your friend, then your body is saying, ‘we are in a closed conversation.’ With both of you facing toward the room, it says, ‘we are nice and friendly — come talk to us.’”