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SonrisaSans Smile

Smile nunca sabia  si me quieria  hasta que sonrio acia miAnd then it will come to pass that she will rest her eyes on the knight and he will rest his on her, and each will appear to the other as something that is nearer divine than human; and, without knowing how or why it comes about, they will find themselves caught and entangled in love's inextricable net, with a deep pain in their hearts at not being able to put into words their longings and desires. --Miguel de Cervantes (Don Quixote, 1605:162) Coy Response

"In short, my son, note her every action and movement. If you report to me faithfully all these things, I shall be able to make out the hidden secret of her heart and discover how she feels with regard to my love; for I may tell you, Sancho, if you do not know it already, that among lovers exterior signs of this sort are the most reliable couriers that there are, bringing news of what goes on inside the heart." --Miguel de Cervantes (Don Quixote, 1605:566)


Talking Stage

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. --Matthew, XII, 34

Other parts of the body assist the speaker, but the hands speak themselves. --

Courtship. Any of several nonverbal signs exchanged during the conversation phase of courtship.

Usage: From preverbal cues of presence, gender, friendliness (willingness to be approached), and sexual attractiveness, men and women progress to the third or speaking stage of courtship. Talking to a stranger is a formidable hurdle in the progression to intimacy. Many couples remain locked in nonverbal dialogue, unable to utter a word (see STRANGER ANXIETY). Those who do converse move beyond posturing to the harsher reality of speech.

Exclusive duo. To speak, a man rotates his face toward a woman. She revolves her face to gaze back into his eyes. Conversation locks the pair in a mini-territory as a courting duo. The visual focus on each other's lips, eyes, cheeks, and brows excludes others nearby, and reveals subtle cues with which to probe possibilities of physical intimacy. Gazing too long (see EYE CONTACT), turning the face too far to one side (CUT-OFF), or in-rolling the lips to a thin line (LIP-COMPRESSION) may be unconsciously decoded as negative cues.

Lunch signals. Perhaps the most common nonverbal device for reducing conversation-phase stress is eating. Chewing, crunching, and grinding reduce tension. Like a drug, food engages our nervous system's calmer parasympathetic division (see REST-AND-DIGEST). A tranquil mood arrives through ventromedial-nucleus circuits of the hypothalamus (Guyton 1996), as feelings of "tameness" come on through stimulation of the brain's reward centers (Guyton 1996). Heartbeat slows, pupils constrict, palms warm and dry. Relaxation and peace of mind (the reverse of fight-or-flight) make it easier for couples to bond through words. Eating together stimulates bonding through the principle of isopraxism as couples share nachos, clink glasses, and break fortune cookies together. (N.B.: The soft, tactile cues used while making love (see LOVE SIGNALS V) also reflect the body's parasympathetic mode.)

Media. "More than anything else, women want you to make them laugh" (according to Esquire magazine [Spokesman-Review, Feb. 7, 1999]).


Touch Cue

Courtship. Any of several signs exchanged during the fourth or touching phase of courtship.

Usage: From verbal and nonverbal cues exchanged in the speaking phase (see LOVE SIGNALS III), men and women move on to the fourth or tactile stage of courtship. Older than words, older than Homo sapiens--older even than vertebrates--touch encodes a primordial sense of closeness (see TOUCH CUE). Among the least ambiguous and most believable of signs, touch cues are profoundly "real" to the brain. Tactile messages lead couples ahead in the courting progression, often despite reasonable objections, to one of Nonverbal World's most rewarding experiences.

Baby signs. Humans are mammals, for whom reassuring hugs, snuggles, nuzzles, and kisses evolved as nurturing cues in the mother-infant bond. That we touch lovers softly, as parents caress babies, happens for sound evolutionary reasons. Just as enamored elephants intertwine their trunks and wooing whales nuzzle, so couples touch a. to stimulate the caring and b. to simulate the harmlessness, of infancy. Through the tactile channel, men and women "become each other's baby."

Culture. 1. "KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--Islamic police turned Valentine's Day into a fright night for 208 Malaysian couples, raiding hotel rooms and lovers' lanes to enforce rules against illicit sex and cuddling [Islamic law forbids unchaperoned touching between unmarried couples]" (Anonymous 2001C:A5). 2. "'Adults would call it [the full-contact "freak dance" style sweeping U.S. high schools] the Kama Sutra with clothes on. That's what one of my chaperones calls it,' says East Valley High [Spokane, Wash.] Principal Jeff Miller" (Lalley 2001:F1).

First touch. The first touch--a milestone in courtship--is likely to seem casual, unpremeditated, and "accidental" rather than serious. An eager hand reaches out to a neutral body part (a forearm or shoulder, e.g.) which reacts by accepting the contact or by pulling away. Sensitive pads of our fingertips used as tactile antennae gauge the slightest startle (see STARTLE REFLEX), tenseness (see FREEZE REACTION), or hesitation of response. Negative replies include angling away (see ANGULAR DISTANCE), leaning away, and no reaction. Positive responses include a. lifting the shoulders (see SHOULDER-SHRUG), b. sideward head-tilt, and c. returning the touch with a touch. Thus, partners learn a great deal from the first manual contact, which deftly probes beneath spoken words to feelings. Touching another's body captures full attention, and is the evolutionary true test of where a partner stands.

Hugging. Primate holding in the arms, a natural mothering response, is met with clinging, an infantile sign of needing to be mothered. Thus, embracing is the evolutionary correct way to say "I love you," and the proper primate way to say "I need you" as well. As humans embrace, a gentle rocking motion from side to side occurs. Swaying, a positive sign, stimulates pleasure centers linked to the inner ear's vestibular sense. Not only do we rock babies, but also the adults we love.

Intention to touch. An unacquainted couple telegraphs the wish to touch by extending arms and reaching hands toward the partner across a table top. In courtship, the hand-reach is a commonly used intention cue to show readiness to touch.

Kissing. Locked in an embrace, ever so slowly the couple's heads may loom closer and closer together, like docking spacecraft. Three inches away and closing, their faces roll several degrees right or left, in synchrony, so the noses will clear, and the lips begin a cautious link-up. The pair seals the fourth stage of courtship with a kiss (see HOMUNCULUS).

RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. "Nuzzling, licking, sucking, playful biting, kissing, and so on, which appear to have a broad geographical distribution as sexually meaningful signs, can be used to communicate the emotional intimacy that is prerequisite to sexual intercourse" (Givens 1978:352). 2. "In courtship, only the ancient language of touch can convince and reassure us that the ultimate closeness, sexual intercourse, will be OK" (Givens 1983:83). 3. In the fourth stage, "The expressions of affection that appear match those between caregiver and child" (Burgoon et al. 1989:328).

Oral exam. Speaking tests the limits of physical closeness. While nonverbal cues show the body's "hardware," words reveal the verbal software of personal ideas, values, intelligence, and inner notions about life and living. Thus, the conversation phase begins a deep probing, as subtle and pointed questions are asked. The face-to-face closeness of speech accents the impact of nonverbal signs, signals, and cues as well.


Physical Closeness

She hath done wondrous naughty! --King Francois, on Katherine Howard, 5th wife of Henry VIII

Far from having a mind of its own, the penis is now known to be under the complete control of the central nervous system--the brain and spinal cord. --Irwin Goldstein (Scientific American, 2000:70)

Courtship. Any of several signs exchanged during the love-making phase of courtship.

Usage: From signals exchanged in the touch phase (see LOVE SIGNALS IV), men and women progress to the final stage: sexual intercourse. In every society, men and women attain the physical closeness of coitus through courtship, a usually slow negotiation based on verbal and nonverbal cues. Communication continues in the fifth phase of courtship, to orgasm and beyond.

Waning signs. After physically bonding in love, there is less need to renegotiate the closeness achieved in previous courting phases. Loving couples thus emit fewer love signals. Since they take the distance between them comfortably for granted, they give off fewer "come-hither" cues.

Neuro-notes. The joy of romance is rewarded by a short-lived spasm of pleasure known as an orgasm. Triggered by nerve impulses from the clitoris and penis (through dorsal aspects of the spinal cord's pudendal nerve), orgasm is accompanied by vaginal contractions in the female, and in males by the ejaculation of semen into the female's body.

Anatomy I. Humans are primates, and the sexual skin (or perineum) of primates is replete with ancient receptors known as Meissner's corpuscles and Merkel's disks. The penis and clitoris (which are evolutionary equivalents), the perineal skin of the surrounding "saddle" area (buttocks and inner thighs), and the forehead, nipples, soles of the feet, palms of the hand, and fingertips, all contain dense concentrations of these encapsulated nerve endings, and are important in the tactile-arousal phase.

Anatomy II. Before orgasm, couples stimulate each other with tactile cues in foreplay. Known as the light or protopathic touch, caressing a partner's hairless thighs registers in Meissner's and Merkel's receptors, from whence impulses travel an evolutionary-old pathway (the anterior spinothalamic tract) to pleasure areas where the sensations are consciously enjoyed. Protopathic cues draw the body into a relaxed, parasympathetic mode (see REST-AND-DIGEST) in which sexual tissues lubricate and enlarge. (N.B.: Fearful feelings latent in the sympathetic nervous system [see FIGHT-OR-FLIGHT] may be calmed through kissing, nuzzling, and gentle massage.)

Anatomy III. In stage five, the most effective touch zones apart from genitalia are a. the outer and inner thighs, b. the derrière, and c. the saddle area of the perineal skin. Touching these areas stimulates the pudendal nerve, which innervates the penis and clitoris directly. In tandem with the pudendal, gluteal and perineal branches of the posterior femoral cutaneous nerve (from the sacral plexus) may be pleasurably strummed in preparation for intercourse. Branches of the latter are numerous in the inner thighs, backs of the legs, and gluteal area.

Voice cues. While laying on hands, couples may use soft voice tones as well. Early in vertebrates, sound perception evolved from the sense of touch. The first amphibians "heard" vibrations conducted through the lower jaw. Love talk, therefore, is an intimate form of "touching."

Eye signs. In the rush of excitement as couples align pelvises for sexual intercourse, and make thrusting motions stimulated by circuits of the reptilian brain, an optimal form of eye contact called en face enhances the pair bond. For men and women, sex is highly personalized as facial planes and eyes align for maximum impact. The same eye-to-eye gaze is used to strengthen the mother-infant tie. Eye contact in sex gives a human touch. Worldwide, copulation most often is performed front-to-front rather than front-to-rear as in other mammals and primates.

RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. "Nuzzling behaviors, such as nose-rubbing among the Copper Eskimo and face-rubbing among the Gahuku Gama of New Guinea, can be regarded as cultural embellishments of infantile behaviors" (Givens 1978:352-53). 2. "The final stage is resolution. In true courtship, the culminating act is copulation" (Burgoon et al. 1989:328). 3. "Ejaculation and orgasm--the climax of sexual excitement--are brought on by a complex interaction of neuronal and hormonal processes, which are still incompletely understood" (LeVay 1993:51).

Sex in outer space. "While NASA officials don’t categorically state that there has never been any sexual activity in space, they have consistently drawn a veil over public discussion of such questions." According to NASA spokesman, John Ira Petty, “We consider all aspects of long-duration space flight. Obviously there are various psychological stresses (that crews would have to face), but in terms of experiments in sex in space, that’s just not on the agenda” (reported by MSNBC TV, February 24, 2000).

At or about age 12, girls all over the world begin applying makeup to their faces, while boys roll up their sleeves to reveal the biceps brachii of masculine arms. Generation after generation of adolescents dance to the heartbeat of courtship's primal routine. With little regard for logic or reason, they fumble toward a realization that the meaning of life in Nonverbal World is none other than life itself.

Copyright 1998 - 2005 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies)
For more information, see Givens, David B. (2005). Love Signals: A Practical Field Guide to the Body Language of Courtship, St. Martin's Press, New York.

Oral gambit. Polls reveal that what is said in the opening line matters less than the saying (i.e., the content) itself. According to Parade Magazine, a simple "Hi" works 71% of the time for men and 100% of the time for women to launch the conversation phase. (N.B.: What popular polls exclude is the preparatory posturing needed to prompt a verbal reply.)

RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. "Speaking, or more broadly, linguistic-like contact--which would include American Sign Language, writing [e.g., e-mail], using mutually unintelligible languages, and so on--appears to be essential if courtship is to proceed" (Givens 1978:351). 2. Women rate men more physically and sexually attractive when they verbally a. solicit a partner's opinion, b. show sensitivity to a partner's perspective, and c. display warmth and "agreeableness" (Bower 1991). 3. Men rate highly agreeable women as most attractive and desirable as dates (Bower 1991). 4. "The topic of conversation is irrelevant to the formation of a bond. . . . It is highly animated, responsive, immediate, and submissive" (Burgoon et al. 1989:326). 5. Across cultures, women seek mates who speak about their ambition, industriousness, and good financial prospects (Bower 1995). 6. "Thoughts and emotions are interwoven: every thought, however bland, almost always carries with it some emotional undertone, however subtle" (Restak 1995:21).

Courtship. Because lunch is conducted in the light of day, it is an effective venue for the early exchange of love signals. As in the more serious dinnertime rite (usually conducted after dark; see below, Media), couples find eating together less stressful than conversing without the shared focus of utensiles, food, and drink.

LUNCH internet library

Lunchtime Laugh

Ritual. The usually friendly patterns of eye contact, gestures, and words exchanged at midday while consuming food products.

Usage: We "do lunch," schedule luncheon meetings, and conduct business over lunch because eating together a. reduces anxiety as the parasympathetic nervous system switches to rest-and-digest, and b. promotes sociability through the reptilian principle of "acting alike" and "doing the same thing" (see ISOPRAXISM).

Courtship. Because lunch is conducted in the light of day, it is an effective venue for the early exchange of love signals. As in the more serious dinnertime rite (usually conducted after dark; see below, Media), couples find eating together less stressful than conversing without the shared focus of utensiles, food, and drink.

Media. "The next day, Vicki offers to cook Gary dinner at his apartment. Thinking quickly, Gary says his place is too messy; they decide to have dinner at the ranch instead." --Young and Restless (Soap Opera Digest synopsis, May 2, 2000:114)

Corporate culture. Office rituals inevitably involve eating and drinking together. Nonverbally, food consumption allies staff and draws employer and employees closer together. (But note that food is rarely served during the performance review.) To win friends and influence people in the firm, chocolates work better than words.

Ancient history. Food is a powerful symbol, as the Egyptian artists who drew ritual offerings of food and drink on tomb walls understood 2,500 years ago.

Prehistory. Unlike other primates, human beings have been sharing edibles for at least two million years, as evidenced by arrangements of cut and broken big-game bones found in sites at Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. The earliest-known ritual involving food is found in Upper Paleolithic cave paintings dating to between 34,000 and 12,000 years ago. The cave walls show big-game animals speared or caught in what may have been "magical" traps (Wenke 1990).