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A man who makes eye contact often comes off as honest and interested. Are you looking at the guy you're chatting up?

Eye contact is important, especially in dating and gauging people’s attraction to you. Everyone should have a basic understanding of what each person is eye-coding to them in any given situation, and it doesn’t take a cryptographer to figure it out. What's a cryptographer? You should probably know for Monday night's trivia rounds. :-)

Here is an entirely overly-analytical, and mostly-satirical-but-kinda-true-too guide to the levels of eye contact and what they mean.

Level (-1): No Eye Contact (Intentional)

Beyond the lowest level of eye contact, this is when a man is not only not making eye contact with you, but he's consciously making an effort to NOT look at you. In the heights of sexual intimacy, Level (-1) is subterranean. It’s a guy’s way of saying, “Get away from me, creep,” without, you know, actually saying it. This eye contact (or lack thereof) is typically reserved for the horny mouth-breathers who stare at a guy's crotch, obnoxious drunk guys in full-on bro-mode, the crazed ex-boyfriend stalker, or any other potential rapist in one’s vicinity. Level (-1) eye contact can also occur within a conversation. So just because he is responding to you verbally doesn’t mean you’re out of the gates yet. Put simply, if someone is intentionally making an effort to NOT look at you, they’re not interested. It’s the anti-intimacy. The non-verbal cue for “Give it up…”

That or you have some mustard on your face.

Level 0: No Eye Contact (Unintentional)

An unintentional absence of eye contact signals a lack of knowledge you exist. It means nothing other than they haven’t noticed you. Either he's busy and focusing on something else, or you’re about as intriguing to look at as grandma’s new wallpaper.

Level 1: Glance (Unconscious)

An unconscious glance is that moment when he looks up at you and then immediately looks away, although he's not aware of what they’re looking at. It’s basically when his eyes are wandering around and coincidentally meet yours for a moment and then continue wandering. The key here is that he is not aware of them meeting and therefore nothing is registering to them as particularly interesting or enticing in that moment. Just like Level 0, this level of eye contact is neutral and there’s not much to take away from it. Most guys aren’t paying attention to what they’re looking at most of the time.

Level 2: Glance (Conscious)

The second level of eye contact is the first type of eye contact where you’ve possibly made a positive impression on a person. This is when your eyes and his happen to meet and then he looks away immediately, except he looks away consciously, whether it be shyness, awkwardness, or disinterest. Body language studies claim that a person who breaks eye contact with you by looking down is intimidated (i.e., attracted) and a person who breaks eye contact by looking to the side is indifferent (i.e., not attracted). Bacchus has no idea if this is true or not. But if a guy breaks eye contact with you quickly and intentionally, it’s usually a polarized response: he's either attracted and momentarily self-conscious by your presence, or he's uninterested and avoiding making contact altogether. Most men are not comfortable holding eye contact with strangers, what would signal the interest here is that his eyes were drawn to you in the first place. So it’s not the breaking it so much that is important, what’s important is that he consciously looked at you.

Differentiating between Level 2 eye contact and Level 1 eye contact is subtle and hard to do consistently with any sort of accuracy. Although you do pick up some acuity over time. It’s impossible to ever be 100% certain what someone else’s intentions are, so why not just assume everyone who makes strong eye contact with you is attracted until proven otherwise?

A good exercise for someone who is new or shy is to practice never breaking eye contact with people before they break it with you. Walk around all day and make eye contact with a man you find interesting or attractive. You’ll feel uncomfortable making eye contact with strangers, but that’s the idea. Keep doing it until it feels natural. It will help your confidence.

Level 3: Glance and a Half

Level 3 is the first level where interest is conveyed, ever so slightly. Like the other lower levels of eye contact, the glance and a half is subtle and difficult to notice without a lot of practice. It’s when a man looks at you and breaks eye contact as he normally does, but he holds the eye contact for a split second longer than is normal. I’m talking maybe 1/4 of a second longer. Whereas Level 2 eye contact may last half a second, Level 3 will last 3/4 of a second. It’s subtle, it’s short, and it’s unconscious. Humans are wired to spend more time looking at things they find attractive on an unconscious level. So in his mind, he's still breaking eye contact with you, but in practice, he's actually looking at you 50% longer than he would normally.

Level 3 happens most often when a guy is consciously focused on something else, such as his smart phone or talking to somebody he's with. He doesn’t realize that he's looking at you as long as he is. Any eye contact from Level 3 should be a strong incentive for the two of you to at least have a conversation.

Level 4: Double Glance

Here’s a good habit to get yourself into once you’re able to maintain eye contact with people walking around. Any time you make eye contact with an attractive man and he looks away, keep looking at him for another few seconds. A percentage of men will look at you a second time. This is probably a clear sign of physical interest, and 95+% of the subsequent interactions you initiate with this guy will be received warmly.

What’s funny is that even on Level 4 eye contact, most people are not conscious that they’re doing it. Beware that most people are off in their own little world not thinking about other stuff. Regardless, the unconscious mind is always seeking out things it finds interesting or intriguing, so if their eyes keep falling on you, it’s a sign.

Level 5: The Gaze

The gaze is the last level that can occur unconsciously although it’s usually conscious. This is when a guy looks at you and just keeps looking at you past the normal “look away” moment. This is a solid 2-3 seconds of eye contact without him breaking it. When undesired, this becomes the infamous “creep stare.” But in the cases of desirable men looking at you, this is why it’s so important to get in the habit of being able to hold eye contact because otherwise, you’ll miss out on all of the men giving you Level 3-5 eye contact. The gaze is a clear and large sign of interest. You’d be pretty dumb to pass up this signal.

If you do get the signal, go over and say hello. The best line is always, "hi, my name is ___"

If you need a little assistance, a shot of tequila will probably help. Get one for $5 today at Bacchus.

Tomorrow: Eye Contact Levels 6 through 9.

the content of today's blog was written by mark manson and published on his blog on september 5, 2011.