Longing to hear, “I love you” from someone special? Try watching his or her body language instead. Some 60 to 90 percent of the meaning of our communication is delivered nonverbally — and in romantic situations, this jumps to 99 percent, says anthropologist David Givens, director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies in Spokane, Washington, and author of Love Signals.
“When it comes to emotions, our bodies do the talking more than words,” Givens says.
Here are nine surprising (and wordless) ways the body telegraphs, “I love you.”
Love sign #1: Shoulder rolls or shrugs
Who knew the shoulders were one of the more expressive parts of the body? Thanks to their rounded shape, smooth skin, and ability to move — shrugging, lifting, rolling — the shoulders are able to convey emotional nuances remarkably well, Givens says. Rolling a shoulder, in particular, reads as a gesture of affection or flirtatiousness.
Unlike some other large muscles, the upper trapezius has special “gut reactive” visceral nerves that are sensitive to your emotions. (Think about how your shoulders sag in defeat and shake when you cry.) The biceps, as a contrasting example, rely on somatic nerves, which help those muscles do intentional tasks, like lift weights. “The biceps aren’t very emotionally expressive,” Givens notes.
(Ladies, try a sleeveless top on that big date to help your shoulders do the talking.)
Love sign #2: Mirroring your actions
You splay your right fingers around your coffee cup; so does he. You take a sip; he takes a sip. Anthropologists call this synchrony of actions “isopraxism” (iso being Greek for “same” and praxism meaning “behavior”). Couples tend to do this unconsciously as they fall in love; their bodies can’t help themselves.
Mirroring behaviors are a strong element in the courtship rituals of all animals that use courtship, Givens says. A female mallard hen, for example, swims close to her male target and bobs her heads in the water until he copies her, and they do this back and forth until they mate. The behavior demonstrates that neither is threatening to the other, allowing them to get closer.
“The more alike you are, the more you like each other,” Givens says. “It strengthens your bond.”