Body Language (Feature Writing)

on Aug 19, 2012 in Writing | 0 comments

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The Birds and Bees, There’s Something To It!


During my freshmen year of college, I was a recently returned missionary at BYU-Idaho. Succumbing to the environment of “BYU-I-Do,” I fell into the dating game. As I sought for dates, I went with the method hammered into my head from the mission… invite, invite, invite, and eventually you’ll find someone “golden” who will accept that invitation! The only difference was that in this, a sea of datable women, almost everyone would accept the invitation for a date at least once!

Rebecca was one such girl. Excitedly, she accepted my invitation for a date to the park. We bought snow cones, I taught her a song on the ukulele, and she taught me how to do a cartwheel. Excited from the “wonderful time” she said she had, I to asked her out again. Busy, busy, busy… that was always the answer! How could this be? In our conversations she always said how much she loved being around and spending time together. However, that time we spent was only ever in class or in passing by. Obviously, the communication coming out of her mouth was not matching what was going on in her head.

This experience is not uncommon for many men here at BYU-Idaho. If only there was a way to read her mind! To intercept the signals between the brain and mouth, like Xavier of the X-men, ever knowing the thoughts of those he meets.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that such a power does exist, without the need for genetic mutation! Even better, the way to discern the female mind is not simply a shallow theory, but backed by real science.

The secret is hidden in female’s nonverbal communication, and its uses predate even the spoken word. Indeed, the animal kingdom runs rampant with nonverbal displays that communicate much more than a simple hello or goodbye. A peacock fans its feathers to attract a mate, horses lay their ears flat when they are angry, and dogs raise the hair on their neck when they feel threatened. These primitive movements stretch back to pre-historic time periods and are noticeable, easily read, and are reactions to situations rather than a conscious choice. It would be fair to assume then, that humans too have certain bodily reactions that occur without thinking… and most importantly, that can be read by the careful observer.

So, next time before asking out every girl in your foundations science class, look out for some key signals that the girl (or girls) you have your eye on might actually take you up on that not only first, but second date:




This habit is most easily recognized in the bird kingdom. “Preening is the process which birds groom and care for their feathers. When a bird is preening, she uses her beak to pick through her feathers — removing any debris [and] arranging feathers that are out of place.[1]” An even more fascinating fact is that birds often engage in, “…preening each other’s feathers… particularly during the breeding season, and is thought to strengthen the bond between the two birds.[2]” What is it then, which makes putting feathers in place a strengthening bond?

Most women will spend at least 30 minutes in front of a mirror preparing for their day. It should be no surprise that when they see a man they like, they will begin to “preen” or fix themselves up. This could include tugging down loose clothing, pulling stray hairs away from the face, or brushing off that stray piece of lint. They put their feathers back into place to return to that “perfect” image they saw in the mirror that morning, all for you!

Henry H. Calero, author of the book, The Power of Nonverbal Communication, believes that preening more often “takes place just before [someone] makes their move towards one person in particular.[3]” An even better scenario occurs when she picks a stray string off your jacket, fixes your tie, or tucks your tag back into your shirt. At this point, she has effectively moved away from self preening, and more towards something that coincidentally only occurs during breeding season! This behavior is a casual way to show affection without seeming too intrusive.


Pea cocking:


When a peacock shows its feathers, it’s because it is trying to show the most of itself, as if to say, “I am here, I am beautiful!” Indeed, peahens are more prone to select a mate whose feathers are most apparent during breeding season.

Now women don’t have a full feathered behind to display when they are interested, but they do have their shoulders. In essence, your shoulders always point towards a point of interest.  When a woman is interested in you, they will turn their body squarely towards you, thus showing you their whole body as if to say, “I am here, I am beautiful!” This body position denotes interest, confidence, and demands attention much like a beautiful display of vibrantly colored feathers. Their head might be turned in conversation to a classmate, but if their shoulders are towards you, their interest is more in you seeing all of them, rather than the conversation they are presently having.




To the outside observer, it would appear the honeybee is always working, always looking for that new pretty flower. When a honeybee discovers its flower, it returns back to the hive and performers a “waggle dance,” shaking its body back and forth in a circular motion. “By performing this dance, successful foragers can share with their hive mates’ information about the direction and distance to patches of flowers yielding nectar.”[4]

Following the dance, other bees go and find the flower. When they return, they continue the same dance, thus mimicking the first bees’ communication that it has found something desirable. This mimicking behavior tells the other bees that these two first bees have discovered something favorable, and are sharing a like interest.

Remember that car trip with the family when your younger sibling would copy your every word? In an effort to relieve the suffering of enduring the hated copy-cat, you would call your parent for assistance, and all they would say is, “Johnny is only doing it because he likes you SO much he wants to be EXACTLY like you.”

Those words offered little comfort at the time, but as it turns out, being a copy-cat is actually a tell tale sign that she is interested in you! “Adopting the same idiosyncrasies and movements of [the person you are interested in] is also largely unconscious when the conversation is flowing and there is a good connection.[5]”  Your bee in question has indeed found something they like!

In essence, she really does want to be just like you… or at least enough like you for you to like her! If you rest on your hand, she will do the same. Lean in, and she will follow suit. Put your hands on your knees, and she copies. Monkey see, monkey do!

While the female species have had centuries to develop their way of thinking, their style of speech, and their ever so clever verbal discretion, they still tell stories of detail and clarity with the way their bodies move. These habits have been developed and established well before we learned to speak. The beauty of knowing and recognizing these motions is not so much because it will allow you to be a mind reader, but more because their actions are something habitual, reactive, and almost uncontrollable.

If only I had known these signals when I asked Rebecca out! The careful observer would have been able to see the signs (or lack thereof) of interest, and known how to continue. So next time you find yourself staring Rebecca in the face, remember the birds and bees, and understand that Shakira was onto something very profound when she sang her top hit words, “ My hips don’t lie!”



[1] http://birds.about.com/od/glossaryofavianterms/g/preening.htm

[2] Why Do Birds Preen? – Rosemary Drisdelle

[3] The Power of Nonverbal Communication: How You Act Is More Important Than What You Say – Henry H. Calero

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waggle_dance

[5] http://veryevolved.com/2009/02/flirting-with-the-science-of-body-language/

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