Comfort is a great signal to receive. When you know that your conversation partner is comfortable, you can relax and enjoy the conversation.
People will signal comfort in a variety of ways, the most important of which I've highlighted below. Your goal is to look for patterns in the signals. If someone is truly comfortable, they will send multiple "Comfort" body language signals.
The list below consists of signals that are both common and easy to spot. It's not an exhaustive list of comfort signals, but it is enough for you to be able to reliably detect if someone is comfortable.
Key Comfort Signals
- Leaning In, Moving Closer, or Turning to Face You
When someone is comfortable with you or interested in what you're saying, they want to remove distance between the two of you. You can think of it as "If someone FEELS close to me, they want to BE close to me".
Removing distance can take different forms. Sometimes your partner will lean towards you---a good sign! Other times, they'll turn to face you, or physically scoot closer. They might also remove an object that is between the two of you (for instance, setting their dinner plate aside when at a restaurant.)
Feet in particular are a reliable (if subtle) indicator of someone turning towards you. Someone might consciously be choosing to face towards you, but most people aren't consciously aware of what their feet are doing. So if someone turns their feet towards you, that's probably a genuine expression of comfort and therefore a very good sign.
- A Tilted Head or a Head Rested on a Hand
A tilted head indicates curiosity, whereas resting their head on their hand implies that they're listening intently. Both indicate comfort. If someone is focused on what you're saying, it's very common to see them leaning forward, resting their elbow on a table and their head in their hand.
- One Leg Tucked Underneath On a Couch (Girls Only)
This is a girl-only signal, but a very powerful one. If a girl is sitting next to someone she feels comfortable with, she will often tuck one leg underneath her and turn towards that person. If you are on the receiving end of this, count yourself lucky. It means the girl really enjoys being with you.
- "I'm Digging This" Smile
Generally, someone will not be grinning madly throughout an encounter---if they are, you are probably talking with The Joker and should be concerned.
But, when people are enjoying themselves, often the corners of their mouth will be turned up slightly. It's subtle, but I call this the "I'm digging this" smile---it shows that people are enjoying whatever's going on. If you're telling a funny story to your friends and you notice this smile, that's a good sign.
- Physical Touch
This is a significant indicator of comfort. If someone is feeling comfortable with you, they're much more likely to touch your shoulder to get your attention, or put their hand on your knee when they ask if you're ok, or give you a hug when they greet you.
Physical touch varies a lot by individuals, so don't worry if someone is not touching you physically---they might just not be touchy. But if someone is touching you, than you can conclude that they're feeling fairly comfortable with you.
Mastering Body Language
Focusing on comfort and discomfort is considerably easier than trying to memorize every single facet of body language, but it's still a fair amount to swallow all at once.
Fortunately, you don't need to memorize these all at once. I have an exercise for you that will help you break the body language pieces into bite sized chunks for easy memorization.
The exercise is simple:
- Choose one or two signals from the list.
- Turn on the TV to your favorite show. Ideally, your favorite show should be live-action and have a lot of social interaction. If it doesn't, consider watching another show. Reality TV is actually a very good choice, since it's mostly talking.
- Enjoy the show, but look for the signals you chose as the characters interact. Don't be afraid to rewind a scene to get a closer look at a signal. Keep practicing until you feel confident that you could notice the signals in a real interaction.
- Once you feel like you could recognize the signals you chose in a real interaction, pick a few more and start looking for them as well. Eventually, you'll find yourself able to look for all of the signals on the list.
With a little practice, awareness of body language starts to become second nature. Once you know what you're looking for, it's easy to spot patterns of signals and decipher what your partner is feeling.
Of course, your partner won't always be feeling comfortable. Fortunately, it's just as easy to spot discomfort signals---and the practice exercise you used for comfort signals work just as well for discomfort signals too. Our next lesson covers everything you need to know to recognize discomfort, so read on!