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Reading Body Language: Dating Tips for Adults on the Spectrum

Often times, adults with Asperger’s and High Functioning Autism do not pick up on the body language of others. Identifying non-verbal cues in others is a critical skill when it comes to relationships. 

Here are some pointers:

1. People instinctively raise their eyebrows when they meet other interesting people. Use this “identifier” to measure the interest that another individual has with you. Interested or excited people will also have shiny eyes. The eyes have a tiny gland on the bottom of the eyelid that secretes tears for lubrication. When an individual is interested or excited, the glands tend to secrete tears, thus giving the eyes a shiny appearance.

2. Mirroring is the technique of mimicking the body language of the other individual. If your body language mirrors the body language of the other person in the conversation, then you are implementing an important bonding technique. For example, if you are approaching someone who is seated, you sit too. If the body of the other individual is closed, then you should avoid being open (otherwise it may be perceived as intrusive). Sometimes people check (at an unconscious level) to see if you are mirroring their body language and have an interest in going deeper in the conversation. Conversely, you can check to see if the other person is mirroring you.

3. Some people form a “barrier” (e.g., arms crossed, legs crossed, holding an object in front of them, etc.). In this case, their body is considered to be closed. It’s better to seek people who have arms apart, legs uncrossed, and who are facing in your direction (their body is open).

4. In order to gauge the acceptance level of another individual, use the "personal space" test. This test consists of moving a little bit closer to an individual at a social setting so that you are standing close and reducing the size of the space around the other person. An individual less interested in you will attempt to move away. If he or she looks at you, raises the eyebrows and smiles, then this person is usually open to having a conversation.

5. When sitting at a table, people can either lean forward or away. If you lean forward, then you are more visible to other people at the table (it’s easier to converse with others who lean forward). However, when comfort and trust have not yet been established, leaning forward can be taken (subconsciously) as intrusiveness. On the other hand, leaning backward away from the table may be perceived as a sign of disinterest. But, an individual who leans backward but has the body open (i.e., no crossing of the arms or legs) may simply be relaxing. Try using some jokes or humor to gain the interest of the other individual so that he or she begins leaning forward. If you want to invite someone to your place (e.g., for dinner) or plan another get-together (e.g., for coffee or a beer), suggest making the invitation when the other individual is leaning forward with an open body.

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