You hear it all the time – couples complaining that one or the other partner is not communicating. Yet, they don’t realize that married couples can’t not communicate. Even when neither party is talking, or perhaps especially when one or both parties are not talking, the nonverbal communication between married individuals is just as strong, if not stronger, than any verbal communication efforts the couple might make.
The unconscious mind is a powerful thing. It can pick up on many different things about a person, even more so within a married relationship. It has been estimated that over ninety-percent of the effectiveness of communication is facilitated non verbally. Non-verbal communication includes attitude, facial expressions, body language, physical touch, and even words that are left unsaid. Understanding nonverbal communication between yourself and your spouse can greatly improve your marriage. To become an effective nonverbal communicator, you need to pay attention to both your partner’s cues, as well as the non-verbal messages you yourself are transmitting.
Look for signs of tension and nervousness.
By taking note of your spouse’s anxious or nervous behaviors during conversation, you can often identify that there are thoughts or feelings not being verbally expressed. Likewise, the same goes for uncommon silence, talkativeness, or the inability to maintain eye contact during conversation. (Remember, a spouse’s nervous behavior does not mean they are intentionally hiding something from you that would necessarily impact your marriage.)
Make (& appreciate) small personal gifts.
Let’s be honest. We all enjoyed finding those little notes tucked into our lunch boxes from our moms when we were kids. Why does that feeling have to go away when we become adults? Leaving little love notes, cards, a flower, etc. somewhere for your spouse can be an immense way of communicating with your spouse non verbally. Even a simple little sticky note on their car’s steering wheel wishing them a good day at work lets them know you are thinking about them and that you care about them. Small personal gifts or notes can show affection to your spouse in ways that verbal communication can’t, as it lets them know you are thinking about them even when you are not physically near one another.
Be certain of the meaning of gestures.
Every single gesture is communicating non verbally in some manner. Sometimes, a spouse will assign different meanings to the same gesture, which can cause both confusion and friction between spouses when one person misinterprets the intended meaning of the gesture. For example, a husband might call his wife several times a day while she is away on a work trip because he wants to stay connected, knowing the wife was wary of being away from their infant for a couple days. The wife might misinterpret the husband’s frequent calls as smothering, not realizing the husband is attempting to help address the wife’s concerns about being away from their baby. In order to avoid such misinterpretations, ask your partner to explain their gestures and identify the emotion provoked by them.
Pay attention to mood and attitude changes.
Perhaps one of the most difficult things within a marriage is being able to step outside of yourself and put yourself in a position to really pay attention to your partner and their nonverbal cues such as mood and attitude. Avoiding eye contact, frowning, silence, or sitting cross-legged are common indicators of a sour mood. Freely participating in conversation, eye contact, and smiling are common signs of a good mood. Additionally, noticing your spouse has become more forgetful or increasingly distracted is another good way to hone in on issues, concerns, or other things that might be causing your spouse stress.
Use positive language during disagreements.
Nonverbal communication plays a vital role in verbal communication efforts, as it is often the words left unsaid that can mean much more than those actually verbalized. Rather than using negative language such as “Yes, but,” or “Whatever” in response to your spouse’s question or sentence will often result in negative feelings, defensiveness, or attitudes within the conversation. Using more positive language such as “Yes, and” will actually help avoid negative reactions, as tone and attitude is not always verbalized, but rather implied in voice and words.
Do not take any single clue as a surefire indicator of a specific problem.
It is human nature to jump to conclusions based on initial impressions. This can have a negative impact on your communication within your marriage. Use your concern for your spouse as a motivator to incorporate each nonverbal blue into a “big picture” view of your partner’s nonverbal communication so as not to get the wrong impression based on a single representation.
Author Bio:– Rachel Pace is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage. She is a featured writer for Marriage.com, a reliable resource to support healthy happy marriages.