Understanding Body Language
I'll never forget a scene from my sophomore year. A group of friends and I were part of a peer counseling group led by the school social worker. Two girls out of the five of us had serious problems--family issues, divorce, abuse, etc.--the remaining three (myself included) served as a support system during their once-a-week therapy talks. Anyway, one day out of nowhere the focus of the group turned towards me. Apparently, one of the girls thought I was spending too much time with her current boyfriend. In all honesty, nothing was going on (he and I were strictly friends.) But because I wasn't expecting this sudden detour in conversation, I closed up internally. My paranoid friend accused and berated me for several minutes before the counselor urged her to relent, pointing out, "Look at how Jaclyn's sitting. She's settled into a defensive stance. She's not going to let you through." She was absolutely right, but it wasn't until she said something that I realized I had closed up externally as well. I was sitting huddled in the corner of a large couch, my knees drawn up around my chest, hands balled into small fists. Every part of my body was angled away from the group and pointing towards the door.
Body language makes up 55% of our communication with others. The movements our bodies unknowingly and subconsciously create speak volumes about the way we're feeling mentally and emotionally. When a couple is in the midst of a heated argument and the woman folds her arms across her chest, she is sending a message that cannot be verbalized. Sentences are a logical construction, and sometimes they can only say so much. Where our words fall short, our natural reactions take over in the form of body language.
Just like it happens in the wild animal kingdom, humans give off subtle (and not-so-subtle) vibes to let a potential mate know they are interested in getting jiggy with it. The eyes are an important factor to look for when signaling from afar. The most common way of initially expressing interest is to catch the other person's eye for longer than a beat, look away, and then look back up. Once contact has been initiated, someone who is into you will do a lot of self-grooming: tossing her hair, smoothing her hair down with her hand, fixing her makeup, preening her clothing, smoothing out wrinkles in the fabric. If for some reason you are not close enough to communicate with words, the person may express her desire by stroking her arms or face. This motion is trying to tell you that either she wants you to mimic this motion on her skin once you are in close proximity, or that she wants to be doing this to you. She will lean in to you when you are standing together, letting you know she wants to be closer but always to see if you will return her gesture by leaning in closer yourself. Her feet, knees, arms and/or head will point directly at you, letting you know that she is interested, and that she wants to travel in your direction.
The 'attraction-rejection game' is a classic game of romantic pursuit played by humans and animals alike. You may know it as simply The Chase: we are attracted to that which we believe we cannot have. Sam is attracted to Julia so he moves towards her. She isn't interested so she moves away. Taking the hint, Sam backs off and stops pursuing her. As soon as Julia realizes he has stopped chasing her, she becomes suddenly attracted to him and begins her pursuit. If he responds positively and her interest remains, great! If not, the process will continue to repeat itself over and over again. It is a very delicate balance, however. If, for example, Sam didn't get the hint the first time and continued to pursue Julia despite her disinterest, Julia would begin to feel overwhelmed, possibly even threatened. At this point she would either disappear, or send him very blunt, animalistic "back the hell off" signals. You walk a fine line when it comes to courtship and dating. Chase too hard and you'll chase her away. Run too fast and he'll give up on following you.
Aggressive readiness, defiance
Sincerity, frankness, openess
Trying to decide, indecision
Hands on hips
Legs crossed, kicking foot
Arms crossed on chest
Walking with hands in pockets
Slight touching/rubbing of the nose
Pinching bridge of nose
Playing with one's hair
Pulling on ear
Lovers will hold each other's gaze for a much longer time period than they would with friends or strangers; during the "bedroom eyes" gaze, the head will be inclined slightly down. When two people are in love or are very attracted to one another, their pupils dilate (become larger) when they are in each other's presence. If you find him sitting on his hands during a fight, it means he is attempting to control what is coming out of his mouth. This does not necessarily mean he is lying; more likely, he knows he is treading on thin ice, so he's being extra careful not to misstep. If she is maintaining prolonged eye contact but has her arms folded across her chest at the same time, this could mean she wishes to speak to you about a sensitive topic that makes her uncomfortable, but is afraid to bring it up. Check to be sure her facial expressions match up with her verbal statements (she should be smiling when she says "I love you", not frowning.)
When someone is being open and honest with you, their physical characteristics will reflect their emotional traits. He or she will not have any part of the body crossed in any way. The hands will be relaxed, possibly motioning, or "talking with her hands", to underscore her sentiments. The legs are either resting side by side or perhaps even stretched open. Sitting "indian style" is a very open, trusting stance. If the person is interested in you, her feet may be pointed either to the side or directly at you. She will maintain direct eye contact. When someone is relaxed and open, he or she has no problem removing clothing. Now don't get any freaky ideas -- I'm not talking about removing clothes in order to get naked (although come to think of it, I'm not excluding the possibility) -- I mean removing a jacket or loosening a tie are all signs that the person is comfortable with you.
When someone is on their guard and feeling threatened, they jump into "fight or flight" mode. The body will naturally cover vital organs and areas of vulnerability. The chin may be lowered to protect the neck, the genitals are protected by crossed legs, the arms will be crossed across the chest, protecting the heart. Another defense mechanism is to make oneself become small. In this instance, the person may seem to shrink into himself, arms hugging chest, posture curling into a ball. We cannot achieve invisibility, but by making ourselves smaller we are hoping our predator will not notice us, or we will not be big enough for him to swallow during an attack. We will tense up, partially to prepare our muscles for a physical fight, partially to avoid any sudden, jerky movements that will bring attention.
LANGUAGE OF THE BODY
If, during an argument or discussion, she isn't convinced you are telling the truth, she will show signs of disbelief by tugging on her ear, rubbing her eyes, or periodically looking away. If she is lying, on the other hand, she may lick her lips or place her hand over her mouth. The unconscious reasoning behind this reaction is that she is trying to cover her deceit, or stop the truth from leaking out, by phsically disguising the place where her words are coming from. As I mentioned above, when someone is being honest and forthcoming their hands usually reflect this by remaining open and visible; likewise, when people have something to hide they will often hide their hands, either by putting them in their pockets or pulling them up into long sleeves. Her body language will be pointed away from you, or she may place objects between the two of you wherever she can, like a coffee cup, a magazine, even a pet. Most importantly, always pay attention to your lover's eyes. We look down and to the left when we are fabricating, up and to the right when we are remembering.
He enjoys your company, but feels no romantic spark
He likes you, but he is shy or doesn't want to reveal too much too soon
He wants to, um...mate
This unnaturally long stare indicates he's a player
Good communicator, attentive
Craves a close partnership with you
He feels VERY strongly about you
He is pulling away either physically, emotionally, or both
BODY LANGUAGE OF MEN
Smiling with top lip stretched tight, front teeth barely peeking through
Lifts his eyebrows
Closed mouth grin that turns slightly up at the corners
Toes pointed towards each other
Touches his belt
Holds a long gaze for more than five seconds
Talks with his hands
Holds your hand in public
Cups your face when he kisses you
Has a limp, dead fish kind of hand hold
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