Welcome to the second part of affect displays.
In this part I want to focus on gestures and signals that reveal sexual attraction, nervousness and hidden objections.
Physical attraction in body language is a whole set of signals that’s often manifested in “illogical” or “bizarre” ways.
For example, a girl might pick on a boy in the school yard because she really likes him and wants to get his attention, not because she likes to hit boys.
With this in mind, let’s look at another “weird” aspect of attraction - self touch gestures.
Such actions often reveal nervousness, insecurity or discomfort - all negative emotions. But when it comes to attraction they’re actually a good sign (if you’re the target of such displays of course).
So what special about these hand gestures? They either:
1. Stimulate the desired touch and physical intimacy. Such actions done mostly subconsciously.
2. Preening actions that suppose to emphasize our “good parts”.
In both cases, the maker of such actions is usually a female who are much more adept than men in sending and receiving non verbal cues.
What kind of gestures am I talking about? some examples:
How come that these same signals that often mean anxiety and tension, suddenly signal attraction? well this is possible because:
In any case, because it can be so hard to identify whether it’s insecurity, coy, submissiveness, attraction or some mix of them, you need to be extra careful when trying to interpret such behavior.
Preening is an interesting gesture, because it’s an action we make for others - we want to look better and more “orderly”, but it’s often a reaction to certain emotions.
The most obvious use of the preening gestures appear when we see someone attractive - we automatically try to look our best:
1. We correct or adjust our clothes
2. Remove any linen or cover stain spots.
3. Straighten up and elevate our head
4. Increase muscle tone to appear more healthy and fit.
5. Women will flick their hair to reveal their neck and create the flowing motion of their hair.
6. Men will puff their chest up and try to appear more masculine and “manly”, they’ll even expose some muscles or use the crotch display
But preening can be also a reaction to negative events - when we hear something we don’t really like, we want to dismiss it by distracting ourselves in another action - such as pretending to preen: we pick up invisible lint, move the hand through our head or adjust our collar and tie.
These actions are not actually necessary, but they allow us a temporary relief from the negative source by maintaining a “productive” image.
This is why if you spot someone unnecessarily picking invisible lint and looking away while you speak - you can be sure that there’s a hidden concession in that person’s mind.
Preening can also be a very natural reaction to stressful events which we will discuss in adaptors.