Licensed from Shutterstock / Antonio Guillem
“You’re cute,” Janet said. “But you never talk. What a waste.”
In all fairness to Janet, we were 18 years old and had just begun our freshman year in college. It hadn’t been the first time someone criticized my quietude, but the additive of what a waste — that stung a bit, making that experience stand out from the many other digs at my quiet nature.
Verbal savvy has always eluded me. That proved challenging to my romantic life. In our culture, we’re expected to express our feelings vocally. But whenever I tried, my words came out jumbled and awkward.
Eventually, I learned to compensate for my lack of verbal acumen by perfecting my nonverbal communication skills. I’ve found that communication through actions and body language reveals a more accurate picture of your feelings and does a far better job of influencing the person on the receiving end.
Nonverbal communication forces the other person to evaluate and then conclude that you’re into them. That’s vital because we’re more likely to believe what we conclude rather than what we’re told.
These four techniques enable you to demonstrate your interest and desire in someone without saying a word.
1. Matching and mirroring
If you’ve ever been in sales, you might be familiar with matching and mirroring. It’s a way of building rapport by mimicking the behavior and mannerisms of the person you are speaking with. With a few modifications, it also enables you to express romantic interest in another person.
In a study conducted on speed dating participants, those who used these techniques garnered more favorable evaluations than those who didn’t.
It’s simple to do, and all of us employ it unconsciously in group situations. The next time you’re with a bunch of people, notice the body language of everyone else. You’ll see most everyone exhibit similar posture (arms folded, legs crossed, arms at sides). Next, put your hands in your pockets. I guarantee a few others will do the same.
Yes, it’s a cool parlor trick, but to demonstrate your feelings for someone, you need to go a little deeper.
Begin by noticing the body language and mannerisms of the other person. What are they doing with their hands? How do they sit? Do they repeat a catchphrase or keyword? Do they speak with fast or slow cadence? With subtlety, match with similar (but not the same) body language and speech patterns.
Let’s pretend you’re out with someone, and you’re interested in them. They’re sitting across from you, hands clasped behind their head. Match their mannerism, but move your hands lower, behind your neck. If appropriate, repeat back the keyword or catchphrase if it fits in the conversation.
To enhance the effect, combine matching and mirroring with focused attention: make eye contact, smile, and lean forward in their direction.
Don’t think of it as just a tool for meeting someone for the first time. In established relationships, it’s always necessary to show your partner you still desire them. You can even take it a bit further by adding a delayed-touch. Step into their personal space and pull back. Your partner will often do the same (matching unconsciously). Then move back in for an embrace. It’s more elegant than stampeding in for a hug.
2. Old-school love notes
If you’re old like me, you probably recall the art of passing notes in high school. Handwritten notes have lost their popularity since the rise of electronic communication. I get the convenience of texting, but there’s an intimacy of reading a message in someone’s real handwriting — the care they put into their penmanship, the shape of their letters, the smiley faces and hearts peppered throughout the page.
For people who struggle with formulating on the spot romantic talk, handwritten notes give you the advantage of time. You can think about what you want to say and write out different drafts until you get it right.
Here’s the secret to making them fantastic:
The best notes contain no more than five sentences. Make them short but impactful. In established relationships, you can write longer ones if your partner enjoys them.
Whether you’ve just started dating or have been together for twenty years, don’t turn it into a homework assignment. That means you should avoid asking questions, particularly ones that require deep thinking and research. And please, don’t quiz them on it later.
3. The no-reason surprise
The no-reason surprise works for all relationship stages. It’s simple. Perform a nice gesture for your partner or lover for no reason at all — one that requires effort on your part. A surprise night out for dinner is nice, but how difficult is it to make a reservation?
Sweat equity matters more than a monetary investment.
Let’s suppose you‘ve been out on a few dates, and you discover she likes classic Hitchcock films. Rent a projector. Cook dinner. Throw a blanket on your lawn and surprise her with an outdoor screening while you picnic.
The no-reason surprise works well at expressing your interest because it demonstrates thoughtfulness, effort, and a desire to make them happy.
It’s common to do this in the early stages to impress someone new, but you should do it even if you’ve been together for decades. It not only infuses a burst of joy in your partner, but it can also reinvigorate sputtering relationships.
Never make a big deal of your good deed. It communicates desire when you do it for no reason at all, not when you do it as a setup to ask for something in return.
4. The shoebox gift
When I lived in New York City, you could buy a bouquet of roses at every corner bodega for $10. They make a pleasant but lazy gift. From a man’s perspective, it’s a safe choice. I have no idea what she likes, so I’ll get her flowers.
Man or woman, we can do better than opting for the safe choice, and it won’t cost you much money. Whether you’re in a relationship or a pre-relationship stage, targeted tiny gifts communicate interest by demonstrating you not only pay attention to what they say but also care enough to act on what you learn.
Imagine you two are out having coffee, and you notice your guy or gal writes something in a notebook using a pencil. Nobody really uses pencils anymore, so comment about it.
“Hey, I notice you’re using a pencil instead of a pen.”
That will start a conversation, and if you discover they have an affinity for pencils, note it as a gift opportunity. The next time you get together, pick up a $5 pencil sharpener.
“You can carry it around in case you need to sharpen a pencil on the go.”
It’s a gift, and everyone likes gifts. It’s targeted to their needs, making it useful. It’s cheap, so there’s no possibility of making the other person feel uncomfortable. That pencil sharpener becomes the type of sentimental gift they tuck away in a shoebox for decades.
Whether you’re verbally savvy or challenged, nonverbal expression of your feelings enhances every stage of your romantic relationship.