Subtle body language can break your love life

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imageContributing blogger Mike Alvear is an Atlanta-based columnist, author and TV personality who rants on sex, dating and pop culture while living at the corner of urge and merge. Find more from him at his blog.

Frowning and crossing your arms is the equivalent of throwing Kryptonite at the Superman you’re hawkin’ on, but what about barely noticeable body language?

If you’re skeptical about how the subtlest body language affects your love life, play a game with me.

Straighten your arm as if you were doing a “Heil Hitler” salute. What’s the feeling? Dominant, aggressive, hateful, right?

It isn’t your arm that’s creating those feelings, by the way. It’s your palm.


imageKeep your arm in the air, but now turn the palm up. What’s the feeling now? Open, inviting, fun. Turn the palm down and you feel like Hitler. Turn it up and you feel like … Evita.

Now, if a simple palm movement has that kind of emotional impact on you, imagine the effect it has on other people.

Clearly we don’t go around saluting like SS guards, but you’d be surprised at how every day palm gestures can have nearly the same negative effects. Quick example: I have a good friend who’s fairly disliked by a good many people. Although I think he’s kind and generous, some folks have taken me aside and said, “There’s something about him that rubs me the wrong way.”

That “something” is the way he uses his palms. In the Hitler example, you saw the raw emotional power of a simple palm position, but again, that’s not realistic. Here’s how your palms can make somebody dislike you (like my friend) in a real conversation.

Stand in front of a mirror so you can see the full effect.

Let’s say you met a guy who’s so good looking he makes your teeth ache. Pretend you’re telling him a funny story about the time you asked a co-worker to move a pile of folders from one side of the room to the other. With your palm facing down, point your hand to the imaginary pile, then to where you want it to go. Now, try it again, this time by pointing with your index finger.

Either of those palm positions will make Toothache think you’re a prick. And he won’t even be able to tell you why. But I can.

Research shows both of those hand positions communicate a contemptuous, overbearing personality. Especially, the finger pointing. It’s subconsciously perceived as a symbolic club that you beat the listener with, a kind of over-the-arm blow primates use to attack.

In fact, the research is so clear and so consistent it rises to the level of law: Do not ever talk to anyone by pointing your finger or turning your palm down. If you’re a habitual finger pointer, stop.

Yes, some guys are turned on by macho, command-and-control authority figures, but come on. When was the last time anybody said to themselves, “Tonight I want to meet an arrogant prick who thinks I’m an idiot.”


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