The first part of this article:
Synopsis: Here are 6 more of the 12 things to know for succeeding at doing the very important way of love known as expressional love, including greater sexual love and 7 significant questions to ask yourself.
As we said before, 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 covered the first 6 in the blog post titled “Expressional Love Behaviors – The First 6 of 12”. Now, let’s cover the last 6. They may seem rather technical but they contain some really useful, concrete information. Being genuine is always a best practice for relationship success.
7. Approach and Avoidance Action Messages
Love relating often involves approach or avoidance relationship signals and actions. Think about approaching anything. First, we notice it, then we read the signals of its approachability and then we choose to go toward it or avoid it. Now think about love relating. The importance of comprehending the signs and signals of our loved ones helps us determine whether or not to interact with them. If we do not accurately read those signals, we can stumble into mis-communication and mis-understanding.
Also important in this process are the signals we send. The actual action of approaching a loved one can broadcast the love message that we want to be close to them physically and emotionally. How we do that is best coordinated with their emotional state. For example, if they look sad, we might approach more carefully and caring. If they look happy, we might make a more exuberant approach.
If we expressionally project an approachable countenance, it can lead to so many relational benefits. Connecting and bonding, functioning together and teamwork, and intimate knowledge of each other are only a few of the perks.
There also can be avoidance or distancing issues communicated by our signaling behaviors. Sooner later every couple, family and ongoing friendship faces a situation where someone wants to approach some topic and the other person wants to avoid it. This can lead to conflict if not handled well. Consider this couple’s conundrum.
Kelly wants to introduce Chris to a new sexual activity. Mischievously, Kelly shows Chris a photo of the desired activity in a sexy magazine. Chris freezes up and moves away from Kelly. Instead of getting upset, Kelly decides to be more loving and considerate of Chris’s obvious discomfort and stiffness. When Chris sees Kelly’s soft, caring look, it triggers a relaxation of Chris’s tension. Kelly seeing this relaxation, moves a bit closer and makes an open arms gesture. Chris smiles and moves into Kelly’s arms.
This couple had a wordless, expressional conversation about whether to approach or avoid a touchy topic. Doing that helped them get to a successful point where they were comfortable enough to openly start talking together about this sexual issue. This example shows how important sending, recognizing and receiving expressional signals can be to richer communication in love relationships.
8. Receptive and Reciprocal Love
Suppose a person is handed an unexpected gift from a loved one. Do they smile and look pleasantly surprised? Or feeling interrupted, maybe they look mildly annoyed, put the gift down (to open later) and turn away? The way we expressionally receive and respond to an act of love frequently sets off a positive or negative cycle in our close relationships.
Here is a little, seven question survey to help you access the strengths and weaknesses in your receptive and reciprocal, expressional practices.
1. Are you good at noticing smiles aimed at you, and smiling back?
2. When you hear loving tones of voice coming your way, do you respond likewise, or with flat tones, or gruffly, or are you often non-responsive?
3. If someone who loves you leans toward you as they talk, do you tend to lean toward them, become a bit rigid, lean away or stay as you were?
4. If you are greeted with open arms by a loved one, do you respond with open arms that are wider, not as wide or with no arm gestures at all?
5. If a loved one moves closer to you, do you move closer to them, do you stiffen or relax, do you move away or do you do nothing?
6. If a loved one looks and/or sounds troubled, sad, upset or aggravated, do you look and sound caring, annoyed, threatened, angry, baffled, unaware or what?
7. Does your everyday demeanor around your loved ones usually look and sound happy, friendly, loving, positive or more neutral, more unhappy, irritated, grouchy, indifferent or otherwise negative?
Whatever your responses to those questions are, do you wish to make improvements in your love reception responses? If you do, how might you go about that?
Be careful of automatic responses. They can be seen as mechanical and insincere. If you dare, instead pepper replies with extravagant motions, exuberant gestures, chipper voice tones, and zany facial expressions that show your reciprocal love in lively ways. Some might see that as overdoing it. Cultural, societal, family and personal experiences influence that perception. A lot of this may be repression training. Look at young children who naturally are expressionally animated. Observe the spirited interchanges of people in Latin cultures. More and more with the help of the behavioral sciences, we see positive expressional freedom as healthy.
9. Expressionally Communicating Emotional Responsiveness
We have touched on this before but this area is so important it deserves fuller treatment. In all our love relationships, it is immensely useful to keep current about our loved one’s feelings. This is the art of tuning-in and then responding to those emotions. Our loved one’s feelings might change more frequent than we think. They can change in strength, in a different direction or in the kind of feeling projected. Our job is to accurately read those emotional expressions. One cannot over-estimate the importance of two indicators – facial expressions and voice variations. Sometimes gestures, postures, positioning and all the other expressional ways of influencing a love communication are of considerable significance in reading a loved one’s emotions and then responding appropriately.
Showing a fitting emotional response to a loved one’s feelings helps them to handle bad feelings and enriches good feelings. It also helps to grow the bond between those who love each other.
To be a star when doing expressional responsiveness, let’s look at a few basics regarding emotions and feelings in general. Technically, all of us have physical and probably emotional feelings almost all the time, even in our sleep. Many of the smaller feelings never reach our conscious awareness. Some feelings reach our semi-conscious awareness in the form of intuition, hunches, notions, impulses and things like that. Our responsiveness can be affected by any of those. All of our emotions are thought to have evolved to help us survive and thrive, even the ones we call bad. For example, fear tries to keep us safe, anger gives us emergency power, depression may get us to inventory what is wrong. Good feelings guide us toward what to do again and can assist us in getting through bad feeling times.
If a loved one is happy or is having any other pleasurable feeling, it is best to respond in kind. If a loved one expresses a bad feeling, usually it is best to respond empathetically with care. This tends to show you believe in them and in their ability to improve, thus, helping to restore their own confidence and courage. The general rule here is be stingy with advice at first and go further into problem-solving only if met with clear, eager receptivity.
Active listening is a good way of responding expressionally. In active listening, your mouth says very little while your expressional behaviors say a lot. With facial expressions, tones, gestures and postures you continuously can show your love. If you are puzzled, you can look quizzical which communicates you are trying to understand. Never underestimate how much love relating is accomplished by emotional interacting or how much emotional interacting is accomplished by expressional communication.
10. Gestural Love Communication
Did you know that the more you talk with your hands the more likely you are to get your message heard? Preachers, politicians and ardent lovers seem to be adept at this. A great many impactful messages can be communicated by hand, arm, head, and once in a while even by foot gestures.
Gestures come in many forms and can broadcast different meanings. You can wave at someone as an act friendship love or you can wave off someone from danger as an act of protective love. You might gesture approval and affirmation with a thumbs-up gesture or agreement by the OK hand sign (be careful about hand signs, they can mean very different things in different cultures).
Subtle gestures also can be a part of our ability to send and receive love. If you welcome the approach of a loved one with a recognition smile and a brief hug, they probably will feel lovingly welcomed. If you accidentally keep your hands in your pockets or down at your sides that could be interpreted as a subtle, anti-love rejection or a devaluing gesture. A V for victory sign flashed at a loved one can be an obvious “I’m proud of you” love message. In more sedate or formal settings small gestures, like a slight head nod still can send strong messages of love.
Some loving couples develop their own personal and private, gestural language. A hand held over the heart may mean “I love you”. While seated at a gathering, wiggling a foot in the direction of an exit, secretly may suggest “Let’s go home and be alone together”. Certain types of smiles may beckon a loved one, shrugs may communicate “I don’t care” and a wince might suggest “I just got my feelings hurt and would like your loving support”. Couples that grow in love, tend to increasingly and effectively interpret many mini-gestures and are guided by them.
Couples, families and friends, from time to time, get body language messages confused which makes for unhappy situations. In counseling, I heard a wife tell her husband that at a party the night before, she had felt rejected by him. She had crossed her legs at him, over and over, and she concluded he had rejected her request. He looked baffled and said “What request”? She replied, “You know perfectly well that means let’s go home and make love”. With astonishment he swore he had no idea it meant that but from now on he certainly would abide by that seductive inducement.
Some gestures have fairly widespread understanding, at least in Western society. A loved one is struggling with anguished feelings. If you lean forward and assume an open body posture, they likely will feel cared about. If you lean back and cross your arms, they may interpret you as rejecting or closed off. In a noisy, crowded environment, pointing toward someone and clapping can convey strong praise and camaraderie. Copacetic feelings often rise when hand dancing movements are used. Italians have the best reputation for energetically gesturing conversely, upper crust, English speakers not so much. Whether gesturing is with tiny movements or bold and vigorous ones, good use of gestures can be very additive to love relating. For a best practices approach to love, we recommend you give expressional, emotional responsiveness some of your sincerest attention.
11. Non-Verbal Vocalization
Here is a somewhat obscure area of expressional communication called Paralinguistics. It is a bit complicated but it has its importance. Researchers report paralingual factors may be four times as important as the words used in face-to-face, personal conversation.
Scientists in this field, study everything about spoken communication except the words.
Besides the words we speak or their dictionary definitions, there may be as many as sixteen factors that influence vocal intercourse. Don’t worry, we are not going to cover them all.
Non-word components of speech include things like volume, inflection, pitch, pauses, rates of speech, spacing of words, sighs, grunts, pacing, hesitations, cadence, accent, noise making and other related stuff. These non-verbal vocalizations get subconsciously analyzed and then influence how we interpret, understand and choose to react and interact. Consider how these things can affect the messages we send to our loved ones.
We can affect the potency of our love messages by understanding and using some of this paralinguistic knowledge. For instance, if we focus on our tones of voice, we may determine whether or not they are as loving as we want them to be. Also, volume, speed of speech and pacing can be custom tailored to each of our loved ones. Impressions we do not want to make include weak and whiny, frenetic, sing-song, always annoyed, dull and boring and so forth. The impressions we do want to make with our voice expressiveness include up-beat, sensitive, interesting and interested, positive, loving and so forth. If with our voice tones we can sound melodic, effervescent or joyful, we can make our love more impactful, rich and welcome. Honing and sophisticating our ways of showing love using these factors can help us treat our loved ones as special and unique.
12. Expressional Mirroring for Love’s Sake
Now, we come to an expressional area that encompasses all the above into one best, practices package. If you want to help a dear one that is troubled, you could try expressional mirroring. That also is useful in dealing with those who seem closed to hearing outside input or who just seem hard to reach. Expressional mirroring is a way to help them feel emotionally understood and loved. If it is done well, it frequently leads to new ideas and better dealing with hard to handle issues. One caveat, it does not work with everyone.
When a troubled loved one is expressing something that obviously is quite important to them, try this. With empathy, begin to mirror back to them their movements and their voice modulations while saying very little verbally and listening intently. If they lean one way or another, you do too. If they smile, so do you. If they start talking softer and slower, you say something slower and softer also. If they make a gesture, you make a similar one. Many who begin the art of mirroring start with more miniature behaviors until they become comfortable with mirroring.
New practitioners of love-by-mirroring usually have some doubts, worries and questions about this approach. One concern is, “Won’t those I mirror ask why am I doing the same things they’re doing?” Surprisingly, that question almost never arises. But if it does, you can reply with the truth by saying, “It helps me feel really with you and with your emotions. Another worry is that your loved one might feel they are being made fun of. That probably will not happen if your empathy really shows.
Empathy is a way of riding with them as they continue their emotion-filled journey of struggle. Don’t add anything new with words! Just keep mirroring. Mirroring helps to behaviorally show you are feeling what they are feeling as well as viewing what their mind is viewing as they reveal it. Essentially, it is sort of like trying to live inside their drama as they describe it.
With mirroring, it is amazing what can accomplished. A loved one often feels profound acceptance and deep emotional understanding. Emotional strengthening also occurs with being well loved. Loving through mirroring often tends to be an extremely intimate experience.
Mirroring is a great way to help people with catharsis, tension release and stress reduction. It seems to clear the way for new insights, for arriving at solutions and for achieving a sense of closure. It also is a way to help your loved ones arrive at their own answers. Quite often it appears to help open mental doors to hearing new inputs, suggestions, recommendations and fresh expressions of care and love. However, it is surprising how often that guidance is not needed after a mirroring experience.
Mirroring also can be integrated with reflective listening. Basically, the practice of reflective listening involves saying back to a person, versions of what they have just said, coupled with the emotions they are describing and expressionally exhibiting. Simple example: your loved one, with a big huff and a scowl says, “Your mother told me I don’t look good with long hair”. A reflective response might be, “Awww, that hurt your feelings”.
Recipients of mirroring frequently express feelings like, “You really understand me”, “I felt so alone in my problems but now I don’t”, “You went to the trouble to really know me and I feel so loved”, and “I don’t know why I feel so much better but I do”.
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 12
Again, marvelous benefits can accrue to those who becoming mindful and active with these 12 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: How often do you think about how well you are doing your love – showing, giving, demonstrating, etc.?
The first part of this article: