Romantic Influence

"We accept the love we think we deserve” [i] said Stephen Chbosky. When I was in high school, I had two friends. One, Sarah was absolutely gorgeous, the kind of girl that makes us all jealous. My other friend, Amanda, was not as attractive, although she was the life of the party. I noticed how she got all the attention from the boys. The gorgeous knock-out girl was often overlooked. Hmmm… what was it? Fast forward, many years, and now that I teach body language, I've confirmed… there is science behind this high school head-scratcher.

Photo by    Christin Hume    on    Unsplash

 Ever sit at an airport and people watch? This is one of my favorite past times. I can tell who is flirting and who may be about to make a connection - not for a connecting flight, a love connection!


What is it? Scientifically speaking researchers have uncovered some secrets. I saw a similar situation play out once at a local bar.  A woman was clearly into a guy at the end of the bar. Both were with other friends. She looked at him once, twice, and he looked back. He flashed a smile, which she completely missed. I watched, trying not to spy from my dinner table. She wouldn't look his way, although he looked two more times at her.  Her friends seemed ready to leave, she looked one more time at him… ugh… he didn't even realize it. So, she left.


My husband sitting across from me knew I was watching something, and I quietly told him. I said, "don't look." As a body language trainer, the last thing I ever want to do is make anyone feel uncomfortable. And honestly, on a Friday night, I'm "off-duty." Ironically when he got up, he saw the guy I was talking about, and sure enough, he knew him. And while his friend never offered that he was checking out that woman, we knew that he was recently single and probably looking around. You see there is this thing researchers call the signal amplification bias[ii]. Simply put, fears of rejection prompt individuals to exhibit a signal amplification bias, whereby they perceive overtures to communicate more romantic interest to potential partners than is actually the case. In other words, you are not being as overt with your flirting cues as you think.


Dr. Monika Moore is a researcher from Webster University in St. Louis, and she has studied flirting techniques[iii]. What she discovered is that it is not the most attractive people that get approached. However, the most approached individuals are the ones who signal availability and confidence through eye contact, and other non-verbal cues. Want to attract a Valentine? Be more overt with your body language – make eye contact, smile, position yourself in line of sight from that beautiful person at the end of the bar.  You are a firefly, but without turning on your light bright enough a mate won’t be attracted to you. We all fear rejection and it keeps us from turning on our light. Be a firefly!!!

[i] Goodreads.

[ii] J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 Apr;84(4):793-812.

[iii]   Moore, M. M. (2002). Courtship Communication and Perception. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 94(1), 97–105.

Shelly O'Donovan