Do You Speak Body Language?

blog post body language

Why can’t people come with subtitles that decipher their body language?

These translations could be on an LED light display fixed to a hat or headband. It would be so nice to have a shortcut to the meaning of subtle and not so subtle cues that people exhibit.

But, there’s still a lot we can figure out on our own without a magic chyron. Help yourself to some Japanese vegetable pancakes while we talk about this issue.

I’ve contemplated the importance of body language many times over the years and it’s a useful tool for the dating life. To help my own natural powers of observation, I took a couple of online courses and did some reading on this topic.

There’s a lot of research on body language and what it means. From my reading and online classes, I’ve learned not only about various forms of eye contact such as “deep gazing” but also about the importance of such body language behaviors as smiling (a no-brainer for me), microexpressions – brief facial expressions that reveal emotions, leaning toward someone you like, and mirroring where you imitate someone as a means of communication and approval.

I have added to this knowledge base with real life experiences of body language fails.

Body Language Fails from my Dating Files 

Not Seeing Eye to Eye

One of my more frustrating encounters involved a date with a man who wouldn’t look me in the eye. It was an early fall afternoon — warm enough to sit on an outside lounge sofa (think poolside couch in Miami). Feeling bold, I sat on the couch next to Mr. A and we began to chat. However, instead of turning toward me and holding my gaze, he looked straight ahead while talking. I was having none of that. Eye contact is critical for me. “I need to see your eyes when we talk,” I said and orchestrated our positions so we were opposite each other. I made some clichéd comment about the eyes being the window to your soul but that didn’t help very much.

We continued what turned into an interesting and far ranging conversation. However, although most people hold eye contact between 60 and 70 percent of the time, Mr. A was more in the 10 to 15 percent range. I couldn’t figure out his behavior. He was U.S. born so I didn’t think it was culturally based. He seemed to like me and went in for the goodbye kiss.

After the date, I reviewed our interaction. I did a little Googling and asked some friends and came up with lots of theories explaining Mr. A’s lack of eye contact – everything from being shy, to lying about his marital status to having Asperger’s syndrome. I’ll never know the reason. There was no second date (though he tried at one point to schedule one). But Mr. A’s failed gazing behavior was too big of a deal breaker for me.

An Imperfect Kiss 

Beyond the issue of whether someone is a good kisser, is the message via body language that the kiss sends to you. For example, I went out a couple of times with a man who kissed with his lips only. Okay, you’re thinking well, of course he kissed with his lips. But when a man kisses you and doesn’t put his whole body into it, he’s holding back on emotion for whatever reason. Even when those lips know what to do, if they are isolated from his body, there’s a weird disconnect that says, “I’m not really that into you.”

What you want is a whole body kisser! (Unintentional pun.)

Too Many to Count

And then there was the man who placed his cell phone next to his happy hour glass, crossed his arms, and proceeded to go into overdrive about his incredibly boring job and medical/surgical history. I kid you not. The sad part is he was a good looking, tall, and well-built man. But that couldn’t compensate for his poor body language and pathetic conversation style. My body language said escape with my feet pointing toward the door and escape I did after about 35 minutes.

Self-Awareness

One side benefit of being aware of someone else’s body language is the increased awareness of the signals you are sending out. Pay attention to your body and what it’s doing. It can sometimes provide clues about what you’re feeling before you’re fully aware of the emotion.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

Resources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sideways-view/201412/the-secrets-eye-contact-revealed

http://www.scienceofpeople.com/2015/02/science-love-2/

Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/spycatcher/201112/body-language-vs-micro-expressions

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/learning-the-look-of-love-that-sly-come-hither-stare/

https://www.bustle.com/articles/150983-6-ways-to-tell-if-someone-is-into-you-according-to-science

http://www.signature-reads.com/2017/05/vanessa-van-edwards-how-to-interpret-micro-expressions/

http://www.improveyoursocialskills.com/body-language/comfort-field-guide

http://psychologia.co/mirroring-body-language/

Fairytale Lessons for the Dating Life

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Hopeful romantics often daydream about a fairytale ending to their dating story: marrying that prince who finally found you – the woman who lost one Ugg boot in the mall or being awakened with a great kiss from that other prince whose lip mastery breaks the unfortunate spell of the bad kissers.

Aside from the happy endings, are there lessons from fairytales and fables that apply to the beginning, middle, and endings (not always happy) of dating and relationship stories?

Let’s ponder this while enjoying a light arugula salad in expectation of overindulging at Thanksgiving.

Little Red Riding Hood: You might think the dating moral of this story is – don’t ever talk to or interact with strangers. Not a realistic goal for someone trying to meet their “one.”

Consider this updated moral for dating purposes: be smart when encountering strangers: pay attention to visual or other signs that you might be interacting with a scammer. Rely liberally on Google image search or veracity, an image search app for your cell phone. Use all available security tactics.

The Fisher and the Little Fish: A small gain is more valuable than a large promise. Another way to say this: be satisfied with what you have.

This is a perfect tale for the online dater who meets someone he or she really likes but can’t stop window-shopping for a possibly hotter/better/thinner, etc. match. I’m not talking about early in a relationship when it’s prudent to keep your options open. The moral applies when someone in an exclusive relationship that is working goes online to see if there’s someone “better” out there. 

The Two Goats: It is better to compromise than to come to misfortune through stubbornness. This is a perfect fable for relationships and no updating of the moral is needed

The Little Mermaid: Try new things and activities outside of your comfort zone. Getting outside of your comfort zone may be needed when you are creating a new life after a divorce or the death of a spouse. You’ll find yourself in new social situations and trying new activities or hobbies. Regardless of whether your goal is to meet people or to enhance your creative life and sense of accomplishment, sometimes you may need to take a leap even if it’s scary.

Brave: Be brave. See The Little Mermaid. Bravery, of course, is a close cousin of stepping outside of your comfort zone. 

The Salt Peddler and the Donkey: Two can play the same game.

Let’s say you like a guy but he’s an erratic communicator with long gaps between texts or calls, invitations on short notice, and an occasional date cancellation. You could certainly ghost him – and be justified – but sometimes, guys need a dose of their own medicine.

This “revenge” scenario calls for you to be strong and have a few other male possibilities keeping you busy.  If Mr. Poor Communicator texts you after a week’s silence, don’t reply for a week. If he cancels on you, reschedule and cancel on him. You get my drift. This may seem petty, not worth your time, etc. True. And, although, you’d rather Mr. PC be a better communicator and boyfriend, this tactic may be surprisingly satisfying.

The Mice in Council: Many things are easier said than done. Finding the one – or one of the ones – certainly seems to fall into this category. 

The Three Wishes: Think carefully about what you really want in life and plan ahead. Make a list of must have qualities in a partner and check your profile to make sure you reflect (or have) those qualities. Evaluate each new man you go out with and ask whether he possesses those qualities. If not, move on.

The Hare and the Tortoise: Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t give up! It may take awhile but keep on working the dating life. Take breaks as needed, try new sites, discontinue sites that aren’t working, and try new activities to meet men in real life.

Oh, and you don’t have to be a princess to have a happy ending.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating. And Happy Thanksgiving!

XXXOOO

Nadia

Selective Hearing, Avoidance, and Fear

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What scares you?

It’s almost Halloween…a good time to think about what scares you in life and in relationships.

And you thought I was going to talk about ghosting. Been there, done that. Tired of that topic. Let’s ghost ghosting.

We’ve talked about fear before but I’d like to probe how fear changes behavior. And while we’re talking, let’s eat some aubergine (eggplant) lasagna – much better for you than candy.

Have you ever been talking to your significant other/partner and heard or observed something unsettling but didn’t want to address it directly because you were afraid of the resulting discussion? Perhaps the topic raised a question and you were afraid of the answer. Instead of communicating, you entered into a fear-based behavior: avoidance. It’s related to selective hearing.

Just like a child can selectively NOT hear a parent telling her to stop watching TV and do homework, I know there have been times when I did not “hear” what a man said because I knew it would make me angry and I didn’t want to be angry at that moment or I suspected it would force me to deal with an issue I did not want to deal with.

So, I tuned out and pretended I never heard that, or he didn’t say it.

It’s easy to bury anger or confusion when the real emotion is fear: fear of what might happen if there is a real conversation. You wonder whether you’ll be hurt emotionally or if the relationship will be irreparably damaged. Perhaps you fear an unsettling truth that will be impossible to swallow.

You know the end to this story…eventually you have to address whatever it is. It might be examined in an open discussion or you might address it by leaving the relationship without fully probing the issue(s).

I’d like to make a case for being fully in the moment…ditching that selective hearing and dealing with the issue or comment immediately: head on, feet first (and whatever other clichés apply). I’m not talking about something minor that you can let slide. It’s the bigger issues that need to be addressed in a timely fashion.

Soapbox suggestion: Cultivate awareness. Be present in the moment. That way when you hear something that needs to be dealt with you can immediately tamp down fear and tackle that difficult issue.

So step away from that cell phone, look your man in the eye, and face whatever it is.

Let me know what happens.

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Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

Conquering Fear

blog post swimming

For the past 6 weeks I’ve been working on a long-time fear of deep water by taking swimming lessons. I didn’t always have this fear and swam with ease as a child. I’m not sure why I slowly developed water nervousness – perhaps it is related to infrequent swimming or the vertigo I encountered after being knocked over in the ocean. Or it may have been triggered by the unpleasant experience of shopping for a bathing suit in stores with fun-house type mirrors.

Whatever the reason for this fear, I felt it was finally time to do something about it so I could swim laps when on vacation and in my neighborhood pool.

Let’s talk about fear in swimming and in life – especially romance – while sampling polenta crisps with avocado and yogurt . We talked about fear before but it’s a topic worth revisiting.

To lose the fear of a physical activity, you have to trust your body to know what to do.   When you overcome that fear, you experience a special satisfaction and appreciation of the activity – even if you haven’t totally won the battle yet.

It was a victory when I swam the length of the Olympic size pool without having a mild panic attack. To keep my state of calm, I thought about what my swimming teacher said, “You’re swimming on top of the water…it doesn’t matter how deep it is.”

Gazing down into the deeper part of the pool, I remembered the joy of underwater swimming as a child and relaxed.  I’m not as comfortable as a fish yet but I’m working on it.

Fighting fear is a worthy quest and there are many opportunities for battle. You might not be up for conquering all your fears at the same time and that is okay. Do what you can.

As an observer of marriage, divorce, and the single life, I see many examples of fear: unhappy couples afraid to divorce, divorced individuals afraid to date, people in relationships afraid to ask for what they want.

There is one fear that can help you conquer relationship-related fears. That is fear of missing out. If you fear missing out on happiness more than you fear the breakup of a bad marriage, you might be prompted to make a move. If you fear not being coupled – even if you are happy in the single life – you may work harder to find a mate.

Life is more complicated than a single emotion but I think you can use fear to your advantage.

Try it. What are you afraid of? Can you harness the power of fear to make your life better?

For an interesting read on fear, check out this Psychology Today article.

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Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

Can He Cut it? Test Your Date’s Compatibility

blog road sign re delay

There are happy hour dates, movie dates, and walk in the park dates. What is really needed are dates to quickly find out if a man is the one or “one of the ones.”

Let’s enjoy this dating fantasy while we chow down on some lentil vegetable soup.

What qualities do we need to evaluate in our potential “one?” Here are a few desirable traits and a sample imaginary date you could use to test each one. Let’s call our fictional test dater Max.

The Quality: Good Communicator

The Challenge:

The ability to communicate is critical. If you have done or said something to annoy or anger your guy, he should be able to tell you about it. Otherwise, the issue will simmer and resentment will build.

Your challenge is to create a situation where you do something annoying or obnoxious to find out if Max will give you feedback.

The Date Scenario:

Suggest to Max that you go to a movie he has been interested in seeing. Once the movie starts, whisper a comment in his ear. Comment or ask questions about the plot every 10 minutes until the movie ends. Alternate your comments with an offer to share your popcorn. Even if Max says “no, thanks,” keep offering him tastes throughout the movie.

Scoring and Outcome:

A: Max quickly asks you to hold your comments

B: Max shares his annoyance after the movie is over

D: Max says nothing. You break up within a week.

F: Max runs screaming from the theater half way through the movie

The Quality: Resilience (Ability to roll with the punches)

The Challenge:

Life doesn’t always run smoothly. In fact, you can count on things going astray almost daily. An important quality is the ability to take these bumps on the road in stride and enjoy the day regardless.

Your challenge is to create a date filled with obstacles to see how well Max can “roll with it.”

The Date Scenario:

It’s a beautiful late spring day and you and darling Max are headed to a winery event in the country. Max’s favorite band is playing for a short set.

To start things off, you take a little longer getting ready to leave so there is no travel time to spare (if you’re to see the band and get the full wine tasting experience).

Under the guise of being the designated driver, you volunteer to drive so you can control the situation. Your car has a slow oil leak and you deliberately fail to replenish the oil prior to the trip. Soon after you start the 2-hour drive, the oil light goes on and you need to pull over to add oil. The clock is ticking.

You apologize to Max for the various delays but tell him that all is not lost since you found a shortcut on Google directions. This “shortcut” is in fact a nightmare scenario of weekend road construction (as predicted by the local traffic blogs you read in preparation for the trip).

You end up arriving at the winery just as the band is finishing their last song. Plus, the winery has run out of its signature pinot noir, Max’s favorite.

blog photo winery

Scoring and Outcome:

A: Throughout the drive, Max refuses to let the delays drag him down. At the winery, Max talks to the band and finds out the details of their next gig. He happily settles for merlot and kisses you passionately behind the winery shop.

B: Max is slightly petulant during the drive.

D: Max starts a nasty fight with you during the “shortcut” leg of the drive.

F: Max “accidentally” spills his glass of wine on your favorite white pants and doesn’t apologize. He drinks excessively and starts a fight with another patron. You break up that evening.

The Quality: Narcissistic or Not

The Challenge: No one loves a narcissist. Sometimes you’re not sure if you’re dealing with an egomaniac. It’s important to find out whether your guy is all about him, not much about you.

The Date Scenario:

You invite Max over to Netflix and Chill. Pizza is delivered and while you’re eating, you share that you’re dealing with a troubling work situation. You tell Max you’re so stressed out about it that you can’t sleep.

After dinner, you start the movie and move to the sofa to commence cuddling. About halfway through the movie, you pretend that you’re not feeling well. You run to the bathroom. Ten minutes later, you return looking exhausted (you have wet your hair a bit and splashed warm water on your face to look flushed).

You tell Max you think you have food poisoning, noting that it may not be the pizza since you had Chinese food from a sketchy carryout the previous night. You act like you’re about to throw up and run back to the bathroom.

Scoring and Outcome:

A: While you are talking about your work problem, Max is fully engaged, compassionate, and offers thoughtful suggestions. When the “food poisoning episode” begins, Max comforts you, brings you a washcloth, rubs your back in between attacks, and offers to call your doctor.

C: Max listens to your work story but checks his phone frequently while you’re talking. When you start to feel ill, he researches food poisoning online but otherwise is not helpful.

F: Max keeps interrupting your tale of work woes with reflections about times he overcame difficult work situations. He doesn’t let you finish sharing your story.

When the food poisoning attack begins, Max expresses concern that he ate the same pizza and starts to develop psychosomatic symptoms. He resumes the movie while holding his belly as if in pain. He doesn’t call the next day to check on you. You break up that week.

If you liked these diabolical “play dates,” you might like to play a break-up game/app called Damn Love. See my description of Damn Love in a recent post on my favorite things.

Soapbox Notes:

In real life, few, if any, women would be this conniving and few guys would score an F.

These exaggerated scenarios are a reminder to all of us to be aware of how a partner behaves during real life challenges – big and small.

Witnessing a partner’s behavior in tough situations presents us with an opportunity to learn about his – or her – true character and whether it is compatible with ours.

My motto: keep your eyes open; be true to yourself.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia