What follows are excerpts of an interview I did for the world’s best known magazine for women. From the forthcoming July issue of Cosmopolitan…
Thanks for meeting with us, Kevin.
At each stage, we’re looking to depict some scenarios of how a man behaves toward a woman, and interpret some common body language. Our readers would love to get your insight on the following three general scenarios.
1) At a first meeting–in a bar, for example:
–is physical touching (measured and respectful touching, of course) generally to be seen as a positive sign? In other words, if a man is asking a woman about her interests or career, and punctuates it with a gentle touch on the arm, this would be something that a woman should take positively, correct?
A touch on the arm might be taken positively if the woman wants the touch, or if she is happy with it once the touch is received. Women often struggle with errant instinct. They thought they wanted a touch and they didn’t. They thought they wanted to have a gentlemanly first connection, but they miscalculated, and so on.
For the aggressor, if it’s the woman, of course she wants the touch on the arm. If she is the aggressor it provides evidence that there is some minimal connection that makes the aggression worthwhile. If the man aggresses, that’s when things are more consistent with our biological selves. And in these situations culture often brushes up against biology in the most unpleasant of ways.
First Contact is crucial. If it doesn’t go well, there will almost certainly be no appreciated second contact and there almost certainly will be no relationship. We are a species of first impressions.
We don’t marry our friends. In fact we virtually must have a chemical explosion with that which is new. It doesn’t happen with old friends. We aren’t wired that way.
–in a situation like this, how important is it for a man to focus his attention on the woman? He should look her in the eyes, correct? Is it a distinctly bad sign if the man’s attention is wandering, or might it merely be a sign that he’s a bit shy?
There is a game, a dance that takes place in the time space of first contact. Ideally the world would be simple and it would be culturally acceptable to simply let your emotions be known by wearing them on the shirt sleeve. However, that takes AWAY from the chemical explosion and reduces the impact of first contact, if at all. Both men and women ultimately fare better if there is a distance created by the non-aggressor. The prey then becomes more desired by the aggressor and the reward feels so much better.
Unfortunately many aggressors have been taught that “no” means “no,” and of course in mating that isn’t true at all….
The interested man should make more than one attempt at connecting. In fact, there is little to be lost by several attempts and a persistent attitude. The paradox is that if the man makes too many attempts or is feeble in them, he will be thought less of. “What he can’t do better than me?”
A man should begin with her eyes. Then look how she’s dressed. That tells you the rest of the story. If the dress is conservative stick with above the neck. If the prey is advertising sensuality then look at the entire picture from top to bottom. Most women desire being attractive to a man. Glances at butts and breasts are appreciated and hoped for….if he is “the right” guy or kind of guy. If he’s not, they probably aren’t.
Too much eye contact can be unsettling and threatening, penetrating, very intimate. If I were advising a man, I’d have him look at her eyes, break down often when he speaks, look at her in her eyes when she speaks and ignore all else when she is present. She will need to “feel something” if the aggressor’s aggression is to be taken in a positive way. If he isn’t aggressive enough he will not create the explosion. Of course if he is threatening and overbearing instead of mysterious and penetrating, she will attempt escape.
–what about facial expressions: is a poker face a good thing? How should a woman generally interpret the expressions and nuanced body language of a man she has never met but might be interested in? Is a man who evinces avid excitement at this early stage doing a good thing, or should he keep his emotions and outward body language a little closer to the vest until future dates?
Poker face is not usually good if it is the norm. Women like to see emotion and they like to see a range of emotion.
The smiling face is perfect in the right context at the right moment. Humans respond very favorably to the non-continuous smile. It means more when it isn’t there all the time. No one wants to be with someone who smiles all the time. Not sexually at least. If the man is the aggressor he should realize that 1) the woman has a standard set of rules about what she will “do” on the first date. 2) that she will have communicated that information to herself tonight before leaving home and 3) the rules become guidelines once in the moment. In reality there are no rules. The same is true for the man in a slightly different way. “I won’t pressure for sex, if she bites.” But of course that will fly out the window when in the moment.
The fact is that there are thin lines that separate two people in the moment that divides being boring, being respectful and building to climax.
If a man is playing for tonight he needs to be a bit more complex and mysterious than if he’s ready for sex on date three or date seven. All of this assumes he is the aggressor of course. The rules always change when the person is the recipient, the prey. The prey has much more power, ultimately, ultimate power in the connection, in civilized society.
A man should move elegantly, not in sharp, confused bursts. Better is controlled. More confident. If the future date is when intimate contact will occur, then you can’t play all of your cards tonight. If you do that, there will be no reason to hear “yes” next time.
–If a woman decides to have a conversation with the man she’s dating about “being exclusive,” what are some signs she should look for in his body language, independent of what he’s actually saying? Are there specific keys to look for in a man’s expressions and body language that are truer indicators of his actual feelings? How best can a woman square this with what he’s actually saying?
What a man says can have some importance, but you wouldn’t want to bank on anything a man says, especially when it’s about “exclusivity.” To begin, realize it is not in human nature to be exclusive. So there has to be an overriding benefit for each person for the relationship to indeed be exclusive. The “upside” has to be big for both sides. Women often want commitment more than men for all of the obvious evolutionary and biological reasons, but men would be wise to realize that this is not the 1930’s. Women have modeled their cultural behavior from men in 2009 and they are almost as untrustworthy as men.
So the woman wants an exclusive relationship.
He says, YES, of course. Now what.
For a few days it will be. Watch his behavior and his nonverbal communication in this period.
If the woman is serious about commitment this is an excellent time to ingratiate the relationship by re-consummating it, over and over. (Rewarding “good behavior” is simply good science and excellent psychology.) If she doesn’t want to commit with sex, he will almost certainly look for someone who will.
Assuming the connection is being made regularly, she can give him enough dopamine rushes to drill in the addiction. The better the addiction the more likely he will go here for his fix. There is little difference between the reward of sex and the reward of a lot of money or a drug. The reward center in the brain gets all “fired up” and it will then seek this specific drug out because it is so good.
So watch for differences in his behavior. Does he touch you less? If the woman has requested commitment and he has stopped grabbing her butt everyday, it’s time to re-ignite the fuse. Women should know that “looking” behavior in men is natural. If he tells you that he doesn’t even see other women, he is lying or he is dirt ugly and what he meant was no one is looking at him.
Looking at other women while you are with him is an issue that you can cement a relationship on. The words, “Oh she’s hot, what do you think?” from the mouth of the WOMAN are a rush all by themselves in the man. No sex required to operate this toy. The domino run of meaning behind that question and observation is dramatic and it’s all good. He becomes un-caged but knows where his master is. He is now in the best world he can be in short and long-term.
On the other hand if a woman is going to judge him guilty of sin and be ready to punish because he was looking, then assume that the punishment will drive him to whatever he was looking at. How this plays out is all up to the woman. For any men reading this…the correct response when she says, “she’s hot…what do you think?” ….the answer is “no doubt but I’ll keep what I have,” or simply shut up, nod my head and thank god that my girl is looking at the same girl I am and engaging me in a one-sided conversation with my mind. Perhaps in the future you can actually talk in detail about that woman that just walked by, but for now, leave it alone.
Finally on asking for commitment the woman needs to see congruent words and body language. She should see a big smile or a penetrating gaze with happiness below it. If she hears and sees other things….that is a warning signal.
3) After a relatively lengthy relationship that might be turning into something much more committed and long-term:
–Are there any indications a man can give off that a woman could detect that might lead her to believe he’s a bit *too* eager to commit, or is this so rare among males as not to be worth considering?
Humans are Option Creatures. We want this option and then we want it exclusively but as soon as we have it exclusively we feel regret for what we have lost. This is human nature. It is to be expected. Both men and women would LIKE to be able to dance quicker because little is gained by waiting. If there is a truly long time between initial commitment and hypothetically permanent commitment, it’s important to not trigger “I’m going to get fat now” signs. This happens when one person is comfortable that the relationship is solidified and forever. The bait like dressing disappears and this could be great or it could be an invitation to other things.
The fact is that a man will know within minutes if he would be WILLING to commit….on the first date. It will take a lot to change his mind. The more evidence he gets he was wrong, the more he will look elsewhere. The fact is, if he’s in bed with you, you know one of two things, either a) he sees you as the best available for the night or b) he is into you enough to consider commitment.
And realize that a man’s idea of commitment and a woman’s aren’t always the same. One or the other might think that commitment means “exclusive” but the odds are pretty good that it won’t for at least one of the two parties.
If a man thinks he can do better, he won’t want to commit. If he thinks he got lucky and landed an 8 while he is a 6, he will. The games that come after that are all predicated on this thought process. And the same is true for most women in 2009.
–Does the interpretation of a man’s body language by a woman necessarily need to change as the relationship progresses–that is, do men and women use different body language (more nuanced, more telling, whatever) as they get to know each other better?
As a relationship grows, all cues become connected to nonconscious receivers in the brain and person A can basically “know” what person B is doing or thinking, assuming that there was no significant deception from the beginning.
Two people in synch in a long-term relationship really are nice to observe. They work like dance partners or pick your metaphor. The nonverbals are very different for each couple. What “means” comfort in one relationship will mean discomfort in another. We are long past the point of putting an impression out to catch…the catch. We are now 24/7 with someone and we know their body. We think we can read their mind. We can’t. This is the great disaster. When someone thinks they know what someone is thinking based upon their body language. You don’t. You can’t. You just know when things are the same….and when they are different, and THAT is powerful and valuable information and the point of the beginning of the conversation.
–Can a man and a woman, no matter how well they know each other, ever be said to truly be able to “read each other like a book”? Is body language ever completely reliable as an indicator into a man’s or woman’s feelings?
You can know their body, their nonconscious responses and reactions which don’t correlate to the person’s thinking self, their conscious mind. From a scientific standpoint, we are really “two people.”
We are our behaviors which emerge about 1/2 second before our thoughts do, and we are our conscious self. That part of us which has morals and thoughts and feelings and ideas and dreams.
The problems in a relationship begin when we try and read a person’s “heart” or their conscious mind, by assessing their body language. You can’t. You can read what they do but not what they think, and you can know when things are “the same” and when they are different.
Predicting behavior is easy. Predicting what a person is thinking is damn difficult.
What’s the best way to detect unconscious body signals?
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BODY LANGUAGE: Decoding, Interpreting & Mastering Non-Verbal Communication
with body language expert Kevin Hogan