Humans are of course social beings who thrive on communication with those around them. Though when we've been in a relationship for a long time, we can come to diminish the need for ongoing communication with our partner, or partners if you're in a PolyAm relationship. Plus, we can forget that our actions will always speak louder than our words, reminding us that nonverbal communication is an essential way to express our love and affection. Physical touch, facial expression, how your body is facing your partner (or not), eye-contact, proximity...our body language communicates so much more than our spoken language ever will. And we need this form of language to strengthen and deepen the bonds in our relationships.
It's also important that our words match our body language. If we're saying one thing but our body language communicates something else, our partners have the often subconscious experience of distrusting us. Humans are so perceptive that we'll pick up on any discrepancy between what another person is telling us with their words and what their body is simultaneously communicating, so it's essential that we're communicating authentically.
What exactly is nonverbal communication?
Nonverbal communication is positive or negative body language in conveying a thought, feeling, or idea through physical gestures, posture, and facial expressions. It can be the same as italicizing speech to emphasize what you're saying. Each movement of the body, such as shifts in posture, the direction of the eyes, and motions of the limbs, provide signals to others to communicate how you are feeling and what you're experiencing within yourself. Nonverbal communication helps people to:
- Reinforce or modify what you are saying verbally
- Convey information about your emotional state.
- Define or reinforce your relationship with people
- Provide feedback to the other person
- Regulate the flow of communication
These non-verbal signals can give clues and additional information and meaning over and above spoken communication. Research suggests that around 70 to 80% of communication is non-verbal!
Why is nonverbal communication so important in your relationship?
In relationships, nonverbal communication plays a huge role in feelings of security, which is just so crucial to intimacy and bonding, as well as creating a feeling of connection and affection. Gestures such as a light, affectionate touch, a warm smile, an openness in body gestures towards another person all are messages that communicate how we feel to one another. These types of interactions are essential, and yet it's easy to fail to realize how much of a role nonverbal communication plays in our relationship.
How do you improve nonverbal communication in your relationship?
It's important to make sure that your nonverbal communication matches verbally. Those subtle actions that really express what you are feeling make more of an impact. If you're in a conflict and you want to make things better, slow down when you are apologizing. If you see your partner is stressed, a hug or a light touch will help them to understand you're there for them in that moment. Eye contact is so important! It's a large part of how we connect on a deeper level. It shows that we're present, that we're listening, and that the other person's experience is important to us.
If you need help connecting with your partner or increasing communication, individual or couples therapy can help. Clarity Counseling Seattle is here to assist in creating stronger relationships through relationship therapy, couples therapy, and individual therapy in the Seattle area. Please reach out if you'd like to talk about getting started with us!