Communication, Body Language, and How to Talk to Your Partner: A Lot of It Is Not Talking At All

Communication is successfully conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings. We’ve all been there. Struggling to cross that first hurdle of what to talk about in the first few moments of meeting someone new. We already know how important it is to make a good first impression. But what are some of the specifics to keep in mind when it comes to actually talking to someone? What if we told you that a lot of it is not talking at all?

Okay keep these in mind: 1) it is not what you say but how, and 2) a massive part of conversational small talk is nonverbal.

1) Focus on the “HOW” (Body Language), and the listener will better receive the “WHAT”.

This phrase is all over T.V. shows and pop culture and for good reason, we interpret much of the meaning from a message from the vocal tones. When you’re speaking with someone new, or even old-time friends, remember to use warm tones and to sound happy. Warmer tones in vocal inflection do a lot to help shape the message itself. These greatly influence how others will receive it. As a result, focusing on talking in a welcoming, fun, and positive tone can even make your original message more agreeable. This is true of people who may not have initially shared your views.

While there are limitations to how you can apply this, it will certainly help with minor over-steps (ex: “ugh I can’t stand IPAs! They all taste sooo bleh!” or “I don’t even see what the fuss is about the new food-truck fad”). The vocal tone is a great way to start thinking about other non-verbal communication and body language!

2) Really though, the way you communicate is a massive part.

Communication is far more than just what you communicate verbally. Just imagine the difference between someone saying ‘good morning’ with a smile on their face and another saying ‘good morning’ while they walk past you, never making eye contact. One feels warm and welcoming while the other is cold is distant. Humans are great at observing minute details in their environment. We use all of this information to discern complex information about our social surroundings.

There is extensive research on the intersection between body language and verbal flirtation. It shows that the adoption of a submissive affiliative social pose enables a person to convey an engaging, nonthreatening image that tends to attract potential mate.[1] These “submissive” poses help show the other person that you don’t mean any harm, that you’re willing to feel vulnerable and let your guard down around them. Signs of trust and honesty such as these invite others to do the same. This fosters greater social (potentially romantic) bonding.

It’s important to note here that physical, sincere, and playful styles correlated with more dating success. Remember to have fun when you meet someone new! If you open yourself up to being playful and polite, they will most certainly match your energy and actions with the same.

In conclusion, while a more comprehensive analysis of small talk, flirtation, and communication in general will easily fill many volumes, these two, and to rephrase, communication and body language are central to getting started on the right foot with someone new. Keep in mind that these don’t just apply for romantic meets either. Making these part of your everyday interactions is a great way to build more healthy friendships, more enjoyable work environments, and even better personal mental health.

[1] Givens, D. B. (1978). The Nonverbal Basis of Attraction: Flirtation, Courtship, and Seduction. Psychiatry,41(4), 346-359. doi:10.1080/00332747.1978.11023994

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