Nonverbal Communication in Relationships

Nonverbal communication refers to the unspoken signals we send through body language, facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture, touch, and even silence. Nonverbal cues play an important role in relationships as they can express meanings and emotions that words cannot convey. Understanding nonverbal communication can help strengthen bonds, avoid misunderstandings, and resolve conflicts more effectively in relationships.

Importance of Nonverbal Cues

  • Nonverbal signals make up majority of communication between people. Studies suggest nonverbal cues convey more than 70% of meaning in conversations.
  • Nonverbals reveal true feelings and attitudes. People can hide or fake verbal messages more easily but nonverbal leakage often shows underlying emotions.
  • Nonverbals facilitate better understanding, especially where language barriers exist. Universal nonverbal cues allows people to comprehend messages despite not knowing the language.

Key Aspects of Nonverbal Communication

Facial Expressions

Faces broadcast various emotional states through microscopic muscle movements. Learning to read these universal facial expressions helps understand unsaid thoughts and feelings of partners.

  • Smiles - Genuine smiles involving eye contact signal joy, acceptance and rapport. Fake smiles appear only in mouth area.
  • Eyebrows - Raised eyebrows show surprise while frowned brows indicate anger or confusion.
  • Eye Contact - Gazing into each other's eyes creates sense of connection but avoiding eye contact may mean dislike, hiding truth or boredom.


Hand and body movements support verbal communication. Noticing gestures provides clues to detect lies, discomfort or highlight importance.

  • Illustrators - Hand motions that depict what is being said verbally.
  • Affect displays - Expressive gestures like excited movements or slumped shoulders that show emotions.
  • Adaptors - Fidgeting gestures that signal anxiety or nervousness.


Posture reveals confidence, engagement and overall disposition towards the other person or situation at hand.

  • Closed - Hunched shoulders, crossed arms and legs signal discomfort or lack of interest.
  • Open - Relaxed posture with uncrossed limbs shows comfort and interest.
  • Leaning - Leaning towards the other person depicts attraction and affection.

Intimacy Signals

Subtle intimate gestures determine sexual interest and physical closeness in relationships.

  • Touch - Romantic partners often engage in frequent but socially appropriate touches like hugging, hand holding or legs touching under table.
  • Proxemics - Intimate zone reserved for loved ones is between 1 to 2 feet of personal space. Partners feel discomfort if non-partners enter this zone.
  • Primping behaviors - Lovers subconsciously fix themselves up (grooming, clothes adjustment) to look attractive for each other.


Absence of verbal communication also acts as a nonverbal cue that provides meaning in certain contexts.

  • Comfortable silences - Moments without talking are common between established couples indicating intimacy and security in the relationship.
  • Awkward silences - Lulls in conversation can also suggest tension, boredom or issues between partners.

Improving Nonverbal Communication

Since nonverbal signals happen unconsciously, learning to identify them takes conscious effort and can improve romantic partnerships.

  • Become more observant of own body language and partner's unspoken messages.
  • Ask partners directly about unclear nonverbal cues to avoid assumptions.
  • If gestures don't match words, believe body language over verbal statements.
  • Mirror partner's nonverbals like smile, eye contact and posture to build rapport.
  • Eliminate distracting behaviors like phone usage and fidgeting during conversations.
  • Deal with issues promptly that are causing disconnect in nonverbal understanding.

In conclusion, nonverbal communication greatly impacts quality of intimate relationships. Noticing partners' unspoken signals honed over time can reveal inner world of loved ones leading to stronger, trusting and meaningful relationships. With some knowledge and conscious effort, nonverbal messages that get lost in translation can get found again.

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