Getting completely sloshed nearly always tops the list for Oh-my-God-I-can’t-believe-I-did-that disaster dates.
But there are plenty of other ways to unwittingly put someone off without even being aware you’re doing anything untoward.
Our bodies send a constant stream of subliminal messages to the person we’re with.
If your dates don’t go well or they seem surprised that you’d like to see them again, it could be you’re guilty of these common flirting faux pas.
Tracey Cox reveals the surprising body language that will put your date off, including looking down as it gives off the idea that you’re not interested
The message they send: I’m agitated and uncomfortable
Some of our less lovable habits are called displacement activities: small, trivial, repetitive, fidgety things we do when under stress.
I’m talking drumming fingers, tapping feet, jiggling legs, clicking pens, shredding napkins, doodling, checking and rechecking our phones, and the dozens of other movements people make when under stress that annoy the hell out of everyone else.
If you’re finding it hard to stop fiddling, hold onto your own hand. This is a self-comforting gesture that will calm you down.
The message it sends: I’m nervous and insecure
Wringing your hands, sitting on your hands, balling your hands into tight fists, clutching onto a drink/bag/menu so tightly your fingers go white – all these signs signal nerves and anxiety.
Putting your fingers in your mouth (but not in a good, sexy way) or biting your nails says, ‘I’m insecure and need reassurance’.
Tracey (pictured) says that we are constantly giving off subliminal messages without even realising it
Psychologists say it’s an unconscious attempt to revert back to the security of breast-feeding: sucking our fingers is the equivalent of sucking on our mother’s breast.
A bit Freudian I know – but this one actually does make sense.
As kids, we replace Mum’s breast by sucking on our thumb and adults often break that habit by biting their nails.
Even if you’re not buying the theory, don’t do it. All of the above looks unattractive.
HANDS THAT DON’T MOVE
The message it sends: I’m frightened of you
‘But what do I do with my hands?’ is one of the questions I’m asked the most often.
The answer to that is move them! Any position will look awkward if you hold it for too long.
Practise two or three different hand positions in front of a mirror and switch between them.
A really good trick if you’re feeling really nervous on a date is to ‘steeple’. Rest your wrists on the table palms facing each other, then spread your hands out, splay your fingers slightly, and press your fingertips together.
Touching fingertips has a calming effect and it also makes you appear more confident because steepling is a gesture adopted by dominant people.
We steeple our hands when we’re certain of what we’re saying or about to say and have no doubt it will be believed: we’re in control of a situation.
We tend to steeple with fingers pointing upward while we’re talking and fingers pointing downward while we’re listening.
Women tend to favour low, unobtrusive steeples, usually pointing down, men tend to steeple higher with fingertips pointing up.
In general, the higher the steeple, the more confident you are.
HIDING YOUR HANDS UNDER THE TABLE
The message it sends: I’m lying or hiding something
It’s really important to keep your hands in view – don’t sit on them, shove them between your knees or in your pockets.
You do it because you don’t want people to see that your hands are shaking but people also sit on their hands when they’re lying and hiding something, so it also looks decidedly shifty.
Covering your mouth while talking gives off the impression that you’re secretive as we subconsciously do it to stop us saying things we shouldn’t
Get them up and on the table.
Good hand positions are those where your hands and arms are open and relaxed and the front (palms) rather than the back of your hands are facing the person you want to impress.
It’s better to avoid crossing your arms, though you can probably get away with crossing them, relaxed and loose, if you’re leaning forward with your elbows resting on the table (just make sure you don’t stay in this position or clutch your arms tightly).
Use your hands to illustrate your words – wave them about if you feel passionately about something, lean forward to touch the person you’re talking to, preen a little (smooth your clothes, brush your hair back).
PROPPING UP YOUR HEAD WITH YOUR HAND
The message it sends: I don’t think I’m attractive and/or I’m bored
People who aren’t completely confident of their looks have a tendency to sit resting their chins in their hands, obscuring part of their face.
MOVE THE SALT OR PEPPER TO FIND OUT IF THEY’RE INTERESTED
Humans are fiercely territorial.
We mentally divide the space around us into ‘our’ side and ‘their’ side, guarding what’s ‘ours’ ferociously.
Except, of course, then the person who’s invading our space is someone we want to come much closer.
If you want to secretly find out if someone’s attracted to you, try this game.
Start playing with an object on the table
Make sure it’s on ‘your’ side or central – a wine glass, toothpick holder, salt and pepper shaker. Lean forward slightly in your chair and absentmindedly fondle it with both hands.
Surreptitiously push it over their side
Slide it slightly over the invisible line which divides the two of you. Now take your hands away, lean back slightly and continue chatting.
Watch how they react
If they’re not keen, they’ll instinctively push it back over the line to your side – feeling uncomfortable and sensing you’re trying to get close without really knowing why.
If, instead, they leave it there (good) or (there is a God) pick it up, it’s likely they want to rev things up.
Lean forward and put your forearms on the table
Wrap your fingers around your wineglass and start pushing that over the line to their side.
See if they do the same
The person who fancies you will also lean forward, take hold of their glass or another object and push it to your side of the table.
If they lean back and keep their hands in their lap, time to call an Uber….for one.
People who like their faces move them around, letting people admire them from all angles (lots of women hold their hair back off their face, to let prospective partners have a good look).
By looking out from behind your hand, you’re not only hiding most of your face from view, you’re not showing the rest of it off to your advantage.
Even worse, sitting with your face propped up and elbow resting on the table is the classic boredom pose.
Anyone who sits like this is at the point where they simply don’t care about what the person is saying – or about the person themselves.
Not a great look on any level. Don’t do it.
HOLDING YOUR DRINK OR BAG IN FRONT OF YOU
The message it sends: You terrify me and I need protection
As kids, we’d run and hide behind our Mum’s legs of beneath the table when threatened.
As adults, our instincts still tell us to do the same thing, but, sadly, such behaviour is frowned upon.
Instead, we erect more acceptable barriers: we’ll place a chair or table in front of us or hold a purse, handbag, book or drink high up, near to our chest, which gives us the illusion of safety.
The classic I’m-terrified position is someone who stands very still, clutching onto their drink with white knuckles, holding it high in front of them as protection.
So, put that bag down, if possible. If not, hold it low and to the side. Don’t pile your coat or other belongings in front of you – ideally, you want nothing between you and the person you’re with.
Hold your drink low as well, around mid-torso: better still, leave it on the table in between sips.
The message it sends: I’m shy and nervous
People on the move’ is a phrase used to describe interesting, dynamic people. Take it as a literal translation.
Lots of shy, nervous, insecure (and sometimes dull) people all tend to stand very still, looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an incoming car.
Research shows enthusiastic, intelligent, passionate people do the opposite – they move around a lot.
Again, practise some poses in front of a mirror and shift between them.
Stand with your weight on one hip, hands loosely linked in front of you and held low or try one hand placed sexily on your hip, hips cocked.
The worst way to stand is with closed body language: crossed arms and crossed ankles: cross anything tightly and you’ll come across as unapproachable.
STANDING WITH SLUMPED OR RAISED SHOULDERS
The message it sends: I’m not confident and have low expectations or I’m hostile
The way we hold ourselves reflects our past, our personality and our attitude to life.
People form 90 per cent of their opinion about you in the first 90 seconds and your posture is a crucial giveaway.
The higher you hold yourself, the higher your self-esteem: you can transform from timid to take-me-seriously, simply by standing tall and making direct eye contact.
Shoulders that are permanently rounded or slouched are a sign of constant disappointment and/or shouldering a heavy burden.
Shoulders raised high and forward mean you’re anxious, hostile or protective.
NOT LOOKING SOMEONE IN THE EYE
The message it sends: You can’t trust me or I don’t fancy you
Our eyes reveal all our emotions. The more you look someone in the eye, letting them see all your secrets, the more confident, attractive and truthful you seem.
Direct, steady eye contact is one of the easiest ways to make yourself appear trustworthy and confident.
Spend the date looking away and down and you’re effectively saying you find the floor more interesting than what’s in front of you.
If you like the look of someone, you look at them – your eyes linger longer than necessary: you find it hard not to look at them.
The message your date gets if you don’t look them in the eye: I don’t find you attractive.
PUTTING A HAND IN FRONT OF OUR MOUTH
The message it sends: I’m secretive
We put our hands in front of our mouths for two reasons.
We do it if we don’t like our teeth (either get them fixed or learn to love them) and we do it to subliminally stop words we shouldn’t say from coming out.
We also do it when we whisper something that we don’t want others to lip-read.
People, therefore, associate it with being rude and secretive.
Not a good look at any time, but least of all on a date.
Visit Tracey’s website traceycox.com for more advice about sex and love and to find her product range.