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Tips for becoming fluent in the Non-Verbal language of Dating
We are all too familiar with the term "body language". There have been books, workshops and endless discussions spawned by it. But do you really KNOW how to interpret the nonverbal messages that other people broadcast on a continual basis in their interactions with you? There are two levels of communication that occur in any interaction:
Content refers to what we SAY. Process refers to EVERYTHING ELSE that occurs.
Interactions can be wrought with mixed signals- saying one thing and non-verbally communicating another.
No wonder so many singles report confusion regarding what their date was really thinking or feeling. On the surface, understanding this language can seem very difficult, if not impossible. Not so, if you learn to speak the non-verbal language of process.
The following tips will be presented using examples of naturally (and commonly) reported dating scenarios experienced by singles.
1. Good eye contact/ poor eye contact
When you are sitting and talking with your date, do you notice how they look at you, when you or they are speaking? When their eye contact is good, this is a sign that they feel comfortable and interested in you. They are really involved in the interaction and want to be there. It also communicates honesty and sincerity. Conversely, when your date has difficulty making eye contact, this communicates discomfort; lack of interest or it could be extreme shyness. The last would be easy to know if they are a shy person in general.
Have you ever experienced the restless date? You know the one. He moves around in his chair, she looks at her watch, and his mind seems somewhere else. He may or may not offer an explanation. What appears to be going on is that her mind IS somewhere else. This behavior communicates a lack of interest or a preoccupation with someone or somewhere else.
3. Looking around at others a lot and not at you
Have you ever had the unpleasant experience of being out with someone who watches the crowd the whole time? Perhaps, they just glance furtively (and frequently) around the room? This, of course, signals lack of interest, possible discomfort and a desire to avoid interaction with you. It can also be a general sign of someone who is not trustworthy, or at the very least, hasn't been completely honest/ candid with you.
4. Is noticeably quiet
Oh, how deafening is silence. It can speak volumes.
If your date has little to say to you what does this mean?
Maybe they are just not very interested in you.
Perhaps they don't think you would care to hear what they have to say.
Maybe they think you wouldn't appreciate hearing what they are really thinking.
Perhaps they are in an off or sour mood.
Only you can interpret this. Be careful not to quickly write it off to something you want it to be, as opposed to what it really is.
5. Stiffening or closed-in body posture
You know what YOU do in uncomfortable situations.
You fold your arms tightly across your chest.
You stiffen your spine.
You tightly cross your legs.
You turn your body at an angle away from the person you are facing.
You lean away from the person you are with.
Of course, the reverse is true when the interaction feels good.
You lean forward.
Your arms are relaxed or laying open to the person.
You face the other person directly.
Your posture is relaxed and at ease.
It's fairly easy to interpret the closed-in posture.
The other person feels uncomfortable.
They aren't open to the interaction with you.
They would rather not be there.
If this is a first date, it will probably be the last.
6. Physical Contact
Perhaps the easiest communication to read correctly is that of touch. If your date avoids taking your hand or putting his arm around you he may be uncomfortable or unsure. He may also be shy, but you would already know that.
If someone you have been dating for a while begins to exhibit changes in their level of eye contact, body posture, attention to you, availability and/or becomes restless or less communicative, pay attention. Their feelings have shifted. Be careful not to be too quick to explain it away. More than one occurrence should set off your silent alarm. Make sure that what they say matches what they don't say.
Other (non-verbal) expressions that you should listen to that can suddenly occur during the course of a dating relationship are:
Calling less or not calling
Change in voice tone
Becoming busy and not having time to get together
Missing dates without calling or having a plausible excuse
Moodiness- irritation/impatience/anger outbursts
If your date or boyfriend/girlfriend sends you any of the above (negative) signals, the best way to handle it is to comment in a direct (and gentle) way about it. Then watch for what he/she DOES while you listen to their response. This will give you all the information you need.
Toni Coleman, LCSW
© Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.
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