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Expressional Love Behaviors – The First 6 of 12

Mini-Love-Lesson #291


Synopsis: Doing love is as important, or more important, than feeling love; doing love well and doing it expressionally well can be crucial to the success of every relationship; here are 6 of the 12 things we all need to know about to achieve expressional love success.

The expressional choreography, going back and forth between people who love each other, can be like a beautiful, artful dance.  At times this dance can be fun and joyful, or intimate and romantic, or spirited and daring, or sensual and sexy or precious and tender if carried out skillfully and loaded with love.  To become good at this art form, takes feeling-filled practice and plenty of playful teamwork.  I’ve seen couples of all ages, families, parents with their kids and diverse others learn the dance of expressional love.  Therefore, I bet you can too!  (See “Love Expressiveness”)

Doing Expressional Love and Doing It Well!

Let us remember that love must be done, not just felt.  Let us also remember that the better we do love the more our love is likely to be effective, helpful, healthful, successful and wonder-full.  Remember too, expressional love may send as much as 93% of the actual communication in a face-to-face, personal, love interaction.  

To accomplish expressional love’s best actions, there are a dozen, lesser known, love sending behaviors.  We will cover the first 6 here and the last 6 later.  They may seem rather technical but they contain some really useful, concrete information.  Being genuine is always a best practice for relationship success.

1. Body Language Attentiveness

Attentiveness is a very important part of doing love well; it works with loved ones of all ages.  But the question is how do you show attentiveness?  Our body language can do that for us without saying a word.  When we show attentiveness, it conveys that we value a loved one and we are focused on their concerns, interests and ways of thinking, feeling and doing.  When our attention is desired and there is a lack of attentiveness, that might be interpreted as being uncaring and not valuing them.  Speaking via your body language, showing loving attentiveness, allows us to stay verbally quiet and listen while our loved one conveys what they want to get across.  At times, that can be a considerable communication advantage.  Here are some ways to show loving attentiveness.

When a loved one starts talking to you, stop what you are doing, turn toward them and move at least a little closer.  If you are standing, square your body with theirs while looking interested.  If seated, lean toward them.  As they speak, notice their emotions.  You can bob your head or lean toward them when they show stronger feelings.  Keep your heart area (chest) open and not covered by crossed arms or with things you might be holding.  Leave your arms and hands free for gesturing.  Shift positions mostly only with small, posture changes made slowly unless exuberance is called for.  Be sure to avoid turning your back on your loved one or giving them a cold shoulder posture.

By doing these body language actions, you send a message of attentiveness which likely will convey, consciously and subconsciously, that your loved one has a love importance to you and you are with them and for them.

2. Loving Eye Contact and Looking Movements

People who love each other frequently look into each other's eyes, often in close proximity.  They regularly make and hold eye contact longer than they spend time looking away.  When a loved one is expressing strong emotions or something of importance, loving eye contact can be imperative.  For your own better understanding, brief glances to the right or left assist the brain with processing memory, future focus thinking and figuring out what to do or say next.  A caveat here is, a brief glance away is OK if not done too frequently.  Be careful not to stare past a loved one or do much prolonged looking off into space or looking down, those actions could be interpreted as uncaring disinterest.  

Clues to a person’s feelings often are conveyed by eye movements like wide eye looks, squinting, eyebrow movements, winking, blinking, eye rolling and glancing away.  Sometimes the eyes contradict the words being spoken which sends a confusing message.  That can undermine a verbal love message.  You probably don’t want to do that.

A hard-eyes-look (intense or strained) with a frown sometimes can be interpreted as indicating uncaring, undervaluing, disapproving and that unloving reactions are going on.  When focusing on the love you feel for someone, best is to have a soft-eyes (relaxed) countenance.  

3. Positive Proxemics

Are you aware that how you place, move and position your body in proximity to another person’s body may be a communication in itself?  Love, friendship, rejection, your own approachability and quite a few other relational elements can be influenced by proximity.  We humans and quite a few other species often communicate with proxemics.  Proxemics is the science of communicating messages by positioning and altering one’s body in proximity to another’s body.  This has a lot to do with emotional closeness and distance, inclusion and exclusion, belonging and isolation, and love network dynamics.

One can stand protectively or invasively near another.  Intimate closeness can be considerably enhanced by close body positioning.  Holding oneself at a greater than usual distance may indicate a negative feeling toward someone.  Therefore, having awareness of your own body proxemics can be important to all relationships, especially love relationships.  

Consider elevation positioning.  This has to do with above, below and equal proxemic positioning and how it might affect the emotions in a love relationship.  For instance, when soothing a hurt or fearful loved one, it generally is best to appear like a strong and comforting parent who usually is positioned slightly higher.  When listening to an angry catharsis, a thrashing about rage or an anguished, anxiety-ridden loved one, usually it is more accepting and non-confrontational to be a bit below them, looking up from the seated position while leaning forward.  However, when seeking egalitarian and harmonious communication, usually it is best to be about on the same level.

Love relationships are enhanced by knowing about and using proxemics.  With whom, when and where might you use this information?  One general rule is to be close, get close.

4. Positive Posturing

Postures are different than proxemics.  Postures are about how you hold your body when sitting, standing or even laying down.  These postures tend to be subconsciously interpreted as positive, negative or rather neutral especially by those in close relationships.  To get any encounter with a loved one off to a good start, choose a positive posture.  Usually that means standing tall or sitting upright, shoulders back, head up, arms open and other gestures that communicate friendliness.  More concretely, when in family or group situations, social scientists have found that standing approximately at a 45° angle to a loved one often achieves higher levels of cooperation.  In private, facing a loved one directly usually achieves the best results.  

Asymmetrical postures tend to be seen as more friendly than symmetrical ones. An asymmetrical posture is one in which the right and left sides of the body do not mirror each other.  For example, a stance with one hand on a hip and the other hand gesturing often is seen as confident and open to happy interaction.  A symmetrical posture is when the right side and left side of the body look alike.  For example, when a person stands with their fists on their hips, with their elbows out and their feet spread apart that can be interpreted as confrontational and threatening.  In love relating, relaxed, asymmetrical postures tend to work better for everybody. 

Consciousness raising about all this can enhance your love relationships considerably.  Some people accidentally or habitually take on postures that can be interpreted as negative.  If you stand with your arms crossed, tense, and scowling you may be seen as judgmental, dismissive and uncaring, bored or boring or emotionally distant -- all these tend to be counter-indicated for goo, love relating.  If you feel positive and want to be seen as loving use postures with open arms, with palms up, head up and maybe slightly tilted, and with your body inclining forward to some degree.  

Being consciously mindful of your posture messaging to loved ones may help you get more accurately interpreted and understood.  Being aware of the possible posture messages from your loved ones usually can help you understand and more effectively relate to them.  

5. Connection Kinetics

Motions can indicate emotions.  Especially with loved ones, our motions almost continuously are being subconsciously monitored by them.  Notably, our facial, expressional motions are tracked.  Smiles, frowns, happy and unhappy looks, signs of irritation, aggravation, joy, serenity, elation, sadness, anxiety and the many other emotions a face can project are monitored.  This monitoring offers guidance to our loved ones for how to recognize our feelings and connect with us.  Likewise, we can be more aware of our loved one’s emotion indicators.  That can help us love them better. 

It is not only our facial kinetics but also all our other body movements that enable us to be psychologically and emotionally read and related to.  One of the very best practices of healthy, real love is demeanor presentation.  Creating and practicing a happy, loving countenance is a love gift you can give every day.  

This was dramatically brought home to me when learning to do family psychotherapy at a cancer treatment center.  Stage 3 and 4 cancer patients and their families did much of the training.  In spite of the pain and dire diagnosis, the patients kept choosing demeanors of genuine happiness.  This proved to me it was a choice rather than something governed by chance.  I saw happy, loving expressions, gestures and postures have wonderfully therapeutic effects on the patients and their families.  These kinetic expressions were crucial in keeping the family connections healthy and functioning.  I’ve worked to carry this lesson about choosing a happy, loving demeanor into my professional, relational and personal life.  I’ll bet you can too.

Facial, gestural, postural and other expressions can provide highly significant love connecting experiences.  When families were divided by the Berlin Wall, back when Germany was a divided nation, families on both sides could be seen still communicating.  For years, split families could not visit, hug or hold, or talk unmonitored to each other because of that barrier.  However, with exaggerated motions, they expressionally catapulted their love over that wall.  This is a potent example of how behavioral expressions of love can be instrumental in keeping our bonds with loved ones alive and well.

6. Head Movement Messaging

Nodding your head up and down to express approval, tilting your head right or left to express curiosity and interest, tilting your head forward to demonstrate keep going, I want to hear more and rocking your head backward in astonishment or surprise -- all can be used to convey loving listening.  Sometimes head movements can be tiny and still communicate support, agreement and connectedness in a love relationship.  Laughter-filled head bobbing and weaving often are a part of sharing fun.  Nodding or a slight jerk of the head in a particular direction can silently and unobtrusively point to something for another to notice or attend to.  Turning your head away can tell someone you are not willing to deal with something or with them.  Head movement messaging sometimes is developed almost into an art form within love relationships.  The intimate and elaborate variations can be infinite. 

Note: It is important not to fake but rather to more accurately convey your emotions as you interact with loved ones using the above suggestions.  Remember, it is not likely to be real love if you have to fake it.


Benefits of the first 6 of 12

Marvelous benefits can accrue to those who becoming mindful and active with these lesser known expressional behaviors.  Relationally, love connecting, bonding, nurturing, communicating, teamwork and emotional understanding improve.  Individually, these valuable and skillful ways to convey love can enhance everyone’s love-ability.

One More Thing

How about telling someone about this mini-love-lesson and this website about love?  Spreading the positives about love really might make your world more love enriched. 

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

♥ Love Success Question: Is one of your goals to keep doing love better and better?

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