by Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT
Let’s talk about body language!
Therapists talk A LOT about communication and its impact on relationships. We spend time talking about the best way to speak your truth. I think we often forget to talk about the ways in which we use our bodies to communicate (myself included!).
I’ve worked with many couples that can say “the right words” and yet things still feel “off” in terms of their connection. Sometimes, this is related to non verbal signals that are being given off. You can say “I love you so much and I want this to work” but if you’re arms are crossed and your legs are facing away from your partner these words will feel empty You can say “I am so incredibly sorry I’ve hurt you” but if you’re mouth is grimacing and your body is stiff then there is no sense of atonement in your words. You can say “I really want to listen to you” but if you’re looking at everything in the room but your partner then you’re not truly listening.
Without even knowing it we take in so much information from the body language of whomever we are engaging with. Sometimes we read it accurately and sometimes we don’t, but it greatly impacts the interaction. Learning to signal with your body is almost more important than learning the perfect words to say.
Nonverbal cues that you’re listening:
1. Make appropriate eye contact. You can break eye contact, of course, but looking into someone else’s eyes let’s them know you’re listening. Rather than continuing to look at your phone, book, computer, etc.
2. Pay attention to your posture. Are you twisted up into a pretzel? This can indicate being closed off. Are your legs turned away from the person? This could indicate not wanting to be close. If you do not mean to indicate those things try facing the speaker with an open posture.
3. Is your body language saying “we are equals” or are you doing something that might make the other person feel “smaller”? Sitting beside someone feels collaborative, while standing above might feel authoritative.
4. When appropriate, use your hands. Give your partner a pat on the back, rub the top of their hand, place your hand gently on their leg to say “I’m here and I want to comfort you”. .
These are just a few tips for indicating to your partner “I am here and ready to listen”.
If you think you and your partner need help with communicating nonverbally, call for a free 15 minute consultation or schedule an appointment online!
Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT is a marriage therapist practicing in Center City, Philadelphia. Elizabeth works with couples of varying ages and levels of commitment to help them understand their relationship better.