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As the age-old saying goes, action speaks louder than words. We all use words, but our body language and facial expressions often tell a different story.
Body language conveys a wealth of information, yet many people fail to consider it when trying to maintain relationships. In this article, we’ll explore why paying attention to nonverbal cues is essential to build successful romantic, business-related, or even platonic relationships.
Are communication problems getting in the way of your relationship? Learn how effective communication can help create and maintain a strong bond with your partner.
What is body language?
Body language can be a powerful form of nonverbal communication. It’s completely different from sign language — which follows an entire system of established syntax and grammar — and it’s much more nuanced than just the movements of your body. 1
Discover the hidden messages of body language in relationships. Learn how to interpret nonverbal cues and understand what your partner's body language reveals about your relationship dynamics.
Definition of body language
Body language is a form of nonverbal communication consisting of body posture, gestures, facial expressions, eye movements, tone of voice, and the like. It is also known as kinesics, and the study area dedicated to interpreting human body language is called kinesiology. 2
Psychologist Albert Mehrabian first expressed the “7/38/55” rule in the 1970s. The rule states that when communicating a message, only 7 percent of the meaning is conveyed through words, 38 percent through tone of voice, and 55 percent through body language. 3
In everyday life, we pick up information from other people’s body language without being conscious. It’s like a sixth sense that allows us to assess the feelings and intentions of others in a split second. 4
Understanding body language can help us better connect with people because it allows us to see beyond their words and glimpse what’s going on in their heads. It can also help us be more mindful of our behavior, allowing us to use it to express our thoughts and emotions effectively.
Decode the non-verbal signs of attraction through body language. Explore the subtle cues and gestures that reveal genuine interest and attraction in this informative article.
Why is it important to understand body language?
When it comes to building relationships, understanding body language can be invaluable. Because it’s a nonverbal form of communication, body language can sometimes provide even better content and message than spoken words. 5
For instance, if you’re talking to someone and they tell you they’re ‘fine’, they might be saying the words, but their body language may tell a different story. Maybe they’re avoiding eye contact or crossing their arms — these are signs that they might not be as ‘fine’ as they say.
Similarly, if you’re on a phone call, while you might not be able to see the person you’re talking to, their tone of voice can tell a lot about how they feel. A flat or monotone voice can indicate boredom or disinterest, whereas an upbeat and energetic tone could mean the person is excited or happy. 5
Body language can be a powerful form of communication, and understanding it can help us build stronger relationships. By paying attention to what people are saying with their body language, we can better understand how they’re feeling — and, in turn, use this insight to adjust our behavior to create more positive and harmonious connections.
Enhance your relationship by mastering reading your partner’s body language. Discover the subtle cues and signals that can help you understand their unspoken thoughts and create a stronger emotional connection.
How to understand your partner’s body language
Understanding your body language is important, but interpreting your partner’s body language is even more crucial. It can help you build a deeper level of trust and connection with your partner, which is key to any successful relationship. 6
Unlock the secrets of nonverbal communication with your partner. Learn how to read their body language and gain deeper insights into their emotions, desires, and intentions in your relationship.
1. Facial expressions
One of the first things to look out for is facial expressions. The eyes, eyebrows, and mouth can all indicate how a person feels. Look out for changes in their expressions, and if you notice something that seems off, ask about it. 7
There are seven universal facial expressions that indicate a range of emotions. These emotions are used across different cultures and can be helpful when trying to understand what someone is feeling. 8
When humans feel anger, the most visible signs are tightened lips, furrowed eyebrows, and narrowed eyes. You may also observe a decrease in blinking and facial flushing or blanching.
Other non-obvious signs of anger you may spot include increased hand movements, changes in posture, or agitated pacing. A person may also clench their jaw or fists when angry.
Fear is another emotion that can be easily spotted by looking at someone’s facial expressions. The eyes may be wide open, and the eyebrows raised in surprise. You may also observe increased blinking, pale skin, and a tense facial expression.
A raised upper lip, wrinkled nose, and narrowed eyes indicate disgust. Your partner may also look away or grimace when they feel disgusted. This emotion is often accompanied by a decrease in hand movements and an overall stillness of the body.
Another emotion that you can spot by looking at your partner’s face is sadness. Drooping eyebrows, a downturned mouth, and watery eyes can all signal that your partner is feeling down.
This is the emotion that people often hide, so you should be observant to spot all the subtle signs when your partner needs support. Other non-obvious signs of sadness include a slumped posture, hanging head, and avoiding eye contact.
On the other hand, happiness can be spotted in a broad smile, sparkling eyes, and raised cheeks. Your partner may also seem more relaxed, with a softer expression and open palms.
When someone is feeling joyous, they might be more talkative and animated, with more hand gestures. They may also be more likely to maintain eye contact during conversations.
Another emotion that can be seen on your partner’s face is contempt. This emotion can be spotted when one side of the mouth is pulled up, and the eyes are narrowed.
The eyebrows may also be slightly raised, making the face look smug. People often express contempt when they feel superior or judge someone.
Surprise is one of the easier emotions to identify and is often expressed with wide eyes, raised eyebrows, and an open mouth. You might also observe an increase in blinking and a slight stiffening of the body.
2. Body movement
Besides facial expressions, body movements can also be a tell-tale sign of your partner’s feelings. Pay attention to their posture, the way they move, and their hand gestures. 9
A person’s posture can tell you much about their feelings. Someone who is confident will often stand tall with their shoulders back, whereas someone who avoids a conversation may slouch or lean away from the other person.
You may also observe changes in the speed at which your partner moves. When someone feels nervous or anxious, they will often move slower, whereas those who feel excited may move faster.
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3. Physical distance
Physical distance is one of the most important non-verbal communication cues to watch for. Notice how close your partner stands or sits and how closed off or open they are around you.
It could be a sign of comfort and interest if your partner moves closer when talking to you. However, if they tend to keep their distance, it may be a sign of discomfort or disinterest. Even small changes in space can be telling, so pay attention to where your partner stands.
4. Eye contact
In addition to verbal cues, eye contact also serves as a vital indicator of whether the lines of communication in your relationship are open or closed. It provides valuable insights into their thoughts, feelings, and level of engagement. For example, their eye contact can convey interest, attentiveness, or discomfort. Here are key cues to look out for: 10
- Prolonged gaze: When your partner maintains eye contact for an extended period, it indicates their interest and a desire to connect deeply.
- Avoidance: If your partner avoids eye contact or looks away frequently, it may suggest discomfort, disengagement, or a closed-off attitude.
- Dilated pupils: Enlarged pupils are often a sign of genuine attraction, excitement, or heightened interest in the conversation or you.
- Narrowed gaze: Squinting or narrowed eyes might indicate skepticism, disagreement, or deep concentration on a specific topic.
- Eye rolls: Rolling the eyes conveys frustration, annoyance, or dismissiveness, signaling closed communication.
- Blinking patterns: Rapid blinking can indicate nervousness or anxiety, while slow blinking often reflects relaxation or contentment.
- Eye direction: Observing where your partner looks can provide insights into their focus, interest, or potential distractions.
- Eyebrow movement: Raised eyebrows can convey surprise, curiosity, or intrigue, while lowered eyebrows may indicate anger, frustration, or confusion.
- Eyelid fluttering: Rapid fluttering of the eyelids may reveal nervousness, uncertainty, or excitement.
- Intensity of gaze: The level of intensity in their eye contact reflects their engagement, passion, or emotional investment in the conversation.
By being aware of and interpreting these eye contact cues, you can enhance your understanding of your partner’s feelings and intentions, leading to more effective communication and a deeper connection.
Enhance intimacy through the power of eye contact. Explore the role of sustained eye contact in fostering connection and learn practical strategies to build a more intimate relationship.
5. Subtle movements
Understanding your partner’s body language goes beyond what is obvious. Paying attention to subtle movements can provide meaningful clues about their emotions and intentions.
Start by observing their posture. A relaxed and open posture often indicates comfort and receptiveness, while closed-off or tense postures may suggest defensiveness or discomfort. Take note of their gestures, such as fidgeting or clenched fists, as they can reveal nervousness, frustration, or agitation.
Keep an eye out for microexpressions — those fleeting facial expressions that betray genuine emotions. A slight smirk, raised eyebrows, or a quick flash of anger can explain your partner’s underlying feelings. Additionally, pay attention to their overall facial expressions, including changes in their eyes, eyebrows, and jaw, as they can indicate their reactions to what is being said or experienced.
6. Touching or physical contact
In romantic relationships, physical touch becomes a powerful mode of expressing intimacy. It serves as a primary means of communication, conveying emotions and intentions without words. 11
Understanding your partner’s approach to physical touch unlocks a deeper connection and allows you to decipher the unspoken language of intimacy. Consider the following aspects to gain a better understanding:
Types of touch: Take note of the physical contact your partner initiates. Is it gentle and affectionate, such as soft caresses or tender hugs? Or is it more assertive and passionate, like firm embraces or playful nudges? Different types of touch can reflect varying levels of intimacy, comfort, and desire.
Duration and intensity: Notice the duration and intensity of physical touch. Longer and more lingering touches often indicate a desire for closeness and affection. Light and gentle touches can convey tenderness and care, while stronger and more forceful touches might suggest assertiveness or frustration.
Reciprocity: Pay attention to whether physical touch is reciprocated. Does your partner respond with similar gestures of touch or return the same level of intimacy? Reciprocity in physical touch can indicate mutual attraction, comfort, and emotional connection.
Context and appropriateness: Consider the context and appropriateness of physical touch in different situations. Assess whether the touch aligns with the environment, social norms, and your comfort level as a couple. Understanding these contextual factors helps you interpret the meaning behind the touch more accurately.
Understanding your partner’s approach to physical touch is crucial because they touch you more frequently and intimately than others. By paying attention to their touch and its nuances, you can gain deeper insights into their emotions and strengthen the unique bond you share in your relationship. 12
Remember, effective communication goes beyond words, and by paying attention to the subtle cues of body language, you can gain a deeper understanding of your partner’s thoughts, emotions, and desires. Embrace the power of communication and watch as it transforms your relationship for the better.
FAQs about body language
1. What are the 5 types of body language?
Body language is a rich form of nonverbal communication that can reveal much about a person’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions. While body language encompasses various cues and gestures, here are five key types to be aware of: Facial expressions, gestures, posture, eye contact, and proxemics.
By understanding and interpreting these different types of body language, you can gain a deeper understanding of others and enhance your communication skills in various social and personal settings.
Explore the body language signals that convey interest and attraction from women. Enhance your ability to interpret non-verbal signs of attraction with the insights provided in this eye-opening article.
2. How important is body language?
Body language holds immense importance in our daily interactions, as it is a fundamental aspect of nonverbal communication. While verbal communication focuses on words, body language complements and sometimes even overrides the spoken message. It adds depth and nuance to our communication, allowing us to convey emotions, intentions, and attitudes that words alone may fail to express.
Nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, gestures, posture, and even subtle movements, can significantly impact how others receive and interpret our messages. They can convey confidence, interest, sincerity, or the lack thereof.
Body language helps us establish rapport, trust, and meaningful connections with others. It enables us to understand unspoken messages, detect hidden emotions, and respond appropriately to the social cues around us.
Discover the hidden messages in body language that reveal an unhappy relationship, even a marriage. Learn how to interpret the non-verbal signs and behaviors that suggest trouble in your relationship in this insightful article.
3. What is negative body language?
Negative body language refers to nonverbal cues that convey discomfort, displeasure, defensiveness, or disinterest. It is the opposite of positive body language, which signals openness, engagement, and receptiveness.
Negative body language can undermine effective communication and create barriers in social interactions. Here are some common examples of negative body language:
- Crossed arms or legs
- Avoiding eye contact
- Frowning or scowling
- Excessive fidgeting or restlessness
- Standing or sitting with a rigid posture
- Lack of responsiveness
It is important to be mindful of negative body language in ourselves and others, as it can hinder effective communication and strain relationships. By recognizing and addressing negative body language, we can work towards creating a more positive and open communication environment.
Avoid these common body language mistakes that can harm your relationship. Learn how unintentional nonverbal cues can negatively impact communication and connection with your partner.
4. What are signs of poor body language?
Poor body language refers to nonverbal cues that hinder effective communication and can create negative impressions. These signs convey disinterest, discomfort, or a lack of confidence, potentially leading to misunderstandings. Here are some common indicators of poor body language to watch out for:
Limited or lack of eye contact, slumped or hunched posture, and nervous gestures like continuous fidgeting or tapping fingers all suggest a lack of engagement or uneasiness. Crossing arms or legs can create a barrier, indicating defensiveness or disagreement.
Additionally, a lack of facial expressions or inconsistent and excessive body movements can make it difficult for others to understand your emotions or perceive your level of involvement. Inappropriate personal space, whether invading someone’s personal space or standing too far away, can make others feel uncomfortable or disconnected.
Is your relationship in trouble? Decode the body language cues that may indicate underlying problems. This article reveals key nonverbal signals to watch out for and offers guidance on how to navigate challenging times.
5. How can I improve my body language?
Improving your body language can significantly impact your communication and how others perceive you. Here are some strategies to enhance your body language:
- Practice good posture: Stand or sit upright with your shoulders relaxed and your back straight. This posture conveys confidence and openness.
- Maintain eye contact: Make consistent, but not overly intense, eye contact during conversations. It shows interest and engagement in the interaction.
- Use gestures purposefully: Employ natural and purposeful gestures to emphasize points or convey enthusiasm. Be mindful of excessive or distracting movements.
- Relax your body: Keep your body relaxed to appear approachable and at ease. Avoid tensing your muscles or displaying signs of nervousness.
- Pay attention to personal space: Respect personal boundaries and maintain an appropriate distance during interactions. Adjust your proximity based on cultural norms and individual comfort levels.
- Observe and mirror: Pay attention to the body language of others, especially those who are effective communicators. Mirror their positive body language subtly, without mimicking or imitating them.
- Practice and role-play: Engage in situations requiring good body language, such as public speaking or networking events. Role-play these scenarios to build confidence and refine your nonverbal skills.
Harness the secret language of mirroring body language for stronger connections. Explore the art of mirroring and its impact on building rapport and creating a sense of harmony in relationships.
Remember, improving body language takes time and practice. Be patient with yourself and focus on making gradual improvements.
The best relationship books to help you survive and thrive
Whether single or in a relationship, it can be tough to navigate the waters of love. These books offer advice and guidance from experts and real-life couples alike, giving you the tools you need to make your relationship work. These books will surely provide some valuable insights if you are looking for a way to spice up your love life or simply learn how to better communicate with your partner.
- Love: The Psychology of Attraction: A Practical Guide to Successful Dating and a Happy Relationship
- Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Navigating Life and Love in the Modern Age
- The Power of Four Bases for Relationships: Can You Hit a Home Run in a Relationship?
- Communication and Relationship: A Guide to Deeper Connection, Trust and Intimacy to Improve Communication and Strengthen Your Bond as a Couple
- Couple's Bucket List: 101 Fun, Engaging Dating Ideas
- ↑ Klima, E. S., & Bellugi, U. (1979). The signs of language. Harvard University Press.
- ↑ Abdulghafor, R., Turaev, S., & Ali, M. A. H. (2022). Body Language Analysis in Healthcare: An Overview. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland), 10(7), 1251. doi.org
- ↑ Mehrabian, A. (1971). Silent Messages. Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.
- ↑ Tipper, C. M., Signorini, G., & Grafton, S. T. (2015). Body language in the brain: constructing meaning from expressive movement. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 9, 450. doi.org
- ↑ Kurien, D. N. (2010). Body Language: Silent Communicator at the Workplace. IUP Journal of Soft Skills, 4.
- ↑ Vacharkulksemsuk, T., Reit, E., Khambatta, P., Eastwick, P. W., Finkel, E. J., & Carney, D. R. (2016). Dominant, open nonverbal displays are attractive at zero-acquaintance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113(15), 4009–4014. doi.org
- ↑ Ekman, P., Dalgleish, T., & Power, M. (1999). Handbook of cognition and emotion. Chihester, UK: Wiley.
- ↑ Biehl, M., Matsumoto, D. A., Ekman, P., Hearn, V., Heider, K. G., Kudoh, T., & Ton, V. (1997). Matsumoto and Ekman’s Japanese and Caucasian Facial Expressions of Emotion (JACFEE): Reliability Data and Cross-National Differences. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 21(1), 3–21. doi.org
- ↑ Chang, A., Kragness, H. E., Tsou, W., Bosnyak, D. J., Thiede, A., & Trainor, L. J. (2021). Body sway predicts romantic interest in speed dating. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 16(1-2), 185–192. doi.org
- ↑ Ho, S., Foulsham, T., & Kingstone, A. (2015). Speaking and listening with the eyes: Gaze signaling during dyadic interactions. PloS one, 10(8), e0136905.
- ↑ Marston, P. J., Hecht, M. L., Manke, M. L., McDaniel, S., & Reeder, H. (1998). The subjective experience of intimacy, passion, and commitment in heterosexual loving relationships. Personal Relationships, 5(1), 15-30.
- ↑ Beßler, R., Bendas, J., Sailer, U., & Croy, I. (2020). The “Longing for Interpersonal Touch Picture Questionnaire”: Development of a new measurement for touch perception. International Journal of Psychology, 55(3), 446-455.