Synopsis: How Karen loves Lester “really good” and how she learned, 10 surprising things to notice and make powerful love improvements with, The dark side of this issue and how to go to the bright side.
It doesn’t matter what we talk about because most of it, maybe all of it, feels like love is happening with every little gesture and sound. Sometimes she briefly glances away when trying to remember or figure out something but then she’s back looking straight at me with a hundred different loving expressions dancing across her face. She’s wonderful that way!”
Lester is lucky. He is with a woman who is really good at expressional love. Karen says she wasn’t always that way. She tells of growing up in a family where everyone was usually reserved, monotone and stone-faced. Never-the less she learned. As a child Karen told of being forced to be part of a school play, and there a teacher who understood the importance of expressional language worked with her. She laughed at herself when she said as a kid she got quite silly and melodramatic, but people paid attention to her and that was better than what happened at home where she felt mostly invisible and lonely. Lester says he sort of copies Karen because she is really effective, not only with him but with everyone else too.
By copying her he’s become more demonstrative to their children, friends and family, and even at work. He also proudly proclaims being more like his wife in these ways is paying off quite nicely in every area of his life. Lester said, “The people who are important to me want to listen to me more, include me more, pay more attention to me, and I’m a lot more effective with everyone than I used to be. It’s all because I’ve become a lot more “love expressive” as my counselor calls it. Now it’s just the way I come across. Karen likes it too and that’s doing our marriage so much good”.
To learn how to talk love without words and do it really well let me suggest this is what you can do.
First, study other people who come across friendly and loving but also effective in their dealings with others. Actors in movies and on TV, some politicians, leaders in any field, loving and lively grandparents, happy and caring friends, strangers you just happened to notice who seem quite positive – they all may help you learn the language of expressional, nonverbal love. To do this studying please pay attention to the following:
1. Notice Faces, especially smiles, looks of empathy, eye contact, looks that seem to express positive regard, support, concerned interest, pride in others, joy, sweet intimacy and everything you can figure out to notice about facial expressions showing positive feelings.
2. Notice Voices, especially the tones of lovingness, friendliness happy assertiveness, kindness, care, intimacy revealed, connectedness, pride in loved ones, acceptance, the intonations of non-judgmentalism, tenderness, boisterous support, happy self-disclosure with a touch of embarrassment, empathy, unbridled shared ecstasy, serene quietness, and up-beat feelings; all are ways to express your love without words.
3. Notice Gestures, especially how love effective people do open arm greetings, wave hello and goodbye, signal inclusiveness, friendliness, gestures of expressed positive emotion, especially acceptance, approval (as in thumbs-up and V for victory), and the many hand and arm gestures which signal subtle indications of comradeship and “I’m with you”.
4. Notice Posture expression, especially posture changes that show turning to include, standing and sitting open to receiving, friendly leaning forward, standing with, gracefully moving out of the way, respectfully making room for, and standing tall in support of loved ones.
5. Notice Touching which is love expressive, including friendly “tap touches”, strong but not too hard hand shaking, one arm “Buddy” hugs, pats on the back, tiny caressing, cheek kissing, fast and slow ‘up-thrust’ pressure hugs, empathetic and emotionally intimate nonsexual physical contact, gentle holding, tender rubbing, hand holding, leg to leg touching, full body and A frame hugging, movement filled touch, and calming still touch; all of these are ways to “talk” love without words.
6. Notice Timing, especially as expressed in not talking louder and at the same time loved ones are speaking, waiting for appropriate pauses and until someone is finished, replying in pace (usually not faster or slower), checking to see if a loved one has caught up with you or you with them, avoiding being accidentally interruptive or invasive, and choosing appropriateness of a topic to the situation; all of which can influence your behavioral messages of love.
7. Noticing Closeness, especially being with, standing with, sitting next to, moving closer, closing space gaps and distancing when appropriate, cycling away and back to a loved one periodically, allowing closeness to happen, being aware of another’s safe distancing, spatial boundaries and boundary reduction, friendly closeness, intimate closeness, private and public closeness differences, formal and informal closeness behavior, and doing uncomfortable closeness when it is needed; these also are part of how we ‘talk’ love without words.
8. Notice Active Listening behaviors as in making good eye contact when a loved one is talking, doing silent corresponding facial expressions to another’s speech and facial expression changes, nodding approval and acceptance, harmonizing body and gesture movements with a loved ones movements as they speak, obviously paying close attention, avoiding bored, blank or looking away too much, refraining from stone-faced and robot like motions, and being generally synchronized in movements and tones when a loved one is conveying their messages. This too is very much a part of talking love without words.
9. Notice Responsive Receptiveness as in quickly turning toward a loved one who is starting to speak, focusing on the same topic a loved one is talking about, responding in a friendly manner to a loved one’s input or questions with at least a sound indicating having heard the loved one speak, returning greetings, friendly acknowledging of messages received, and being generally pleasantly responsive to whatever a loved one initiates even if declining or disagreeing. Remember receptional love is one of the eight major groups of behavior by which love is directly conveyed (see the entry “A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love”).
10. Notice Assertive Action conveying love as in suddenly kissing a loved one, reaching and lovingly grasping a loved one’s hand, giving an approval whistle, handing over a surprise gift, initiating flirting with your eyes and other looks, saying common things with intimate special personal tones, a wink, initiating hugs and cuddling, romantically lighting a candle, making lingering eye contact with a special smile, and the many other actions which can assertively convey love without words
Once you have begun to note how loving and effective others do things, begin to notice your own ways of behaving in each of the above 10 categories. To do this some people watch videos of themselves at family and friendship gatherings looking for how they can improve. Others listen to recordings of their own voice searching for tonal improvements to make. Still others ask friends and family for honest feedback on how they can improve the way they come across when showing love. Taking a personal speech class (often offered in a continuing education class at local colleges), or being in a counseling group where everybody gives each other improvement feedback can work wonders. Raising into conscious awareness the things talked about in this site’s entry and others like it may trigger a substantial change. Adding more exact personal goals for improvement also will do if you practice specific desired changes enough.
Now, let us dare to look at the dark side of this issue. What happens to those who do not learn enough about how to talk love without words. For some, things go along tolerably well but for others in love relationships destructive problems arise and sometimes disaster occurs. Hear what Rita had to say about Rex. “Rex told me he still loved me and wanted our marriage to work but I decided to go ahead with a divorce because I believed what the rest of him was telling me. You see, as he told me the words I wanted to hear and believe his actions said the opposite.
As he spoke the right words his head often was shaking no, his voice usually was flat and had no real feeling in it, he frequently leaned back in his chair away from me, and his hands just hung there limp with his eyes looking past me. Worst of all his face was like a mask without expression. That was just too much evidence contradicting his words. I think his words lied but his behaviors told the truth and that’s what I’m going to act on”. Hear what Trey said about Carmen. “Carmen was always the same. Polite, even sweet but I could never tell what she was really feeling.
There was never much variation, or at least not very often. Maybe she over did it with Botox or something because her facial expression was always the same, a kind of pleasant, plastic smile – but that was all. Her voice never told me anything either. I once dreamed she was manufactured by a toy company. So we aren’t together anymore. When I broke it off she said she was sad but there weren’t any tears so I don’t think she cared that much, but who could tell”. Here’s another type of non-expressional couple problem. Emily said of Colin, “All he ever does is try to look and sound strong or tough. It’s like he’s made out of stone or steel or something. I’m done with that. I want a guy who can show me all the feelings humans have”.
Well now, I think you can draw your own conclusions about the necessity and desirability of learning to talk love without words. Here’s one last suggestion for avoiding the dark side and going to the bright side of this issue. Pick just one, or at most two of the above 10 items having to do with talking love without words and focus on that. Decide for yourself a few specific improvements to practice for a couple of weeks, keeping track of each time you perform a practice action.
Reward yourself for doing that, and then go on to another item. It’s important not to overwhelm or even just “whelm” yourself by taking on too much at once. Trying to improve 10 things all at once is definitely too much. Also you might want to talk to a loved one about these items and see if they would want to choose a few in which to make improvements. The best of luck in learning and practicing all the subtle and bold forms of talking love without words!
As always, Grow and Go with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
On a scale of zero to 10 (10 being best) how do you rate yourself on your ability to communicate love without words to those most dear to you? (You could rate yourself on each of the 10 items listed above).