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Nonverbal Communication and Relationships



Most empirical studies conducted in the past have mainly concentrated on how nonverbal behaviors help foster long term romantic relationships, especially in marriage. More research have mainly focused on the influence that increased liking has on positive nonverbal behaviors, but did not focus on the correlations between positive nonverbal behaviors and stability of romantic relationships, and general satisfaction with relationships. However, there is little research evidence that links the differences in the use of non-verbal behavior between gender and the various stages of relationships. The use of non-verbal behavior in marriage has been found to influence how long a relationship will last, commitment to relationships, and martial relationships. Furthermore, research papers show that alcohol drinkers display greater inconsistency in behavior over time than those who do not take alcohol. There is ongoing research to appraise the relationship between satisfaction in marriage and the positive use of non-verbal communication. This paper is an overview of the various research studies conducted to examine the how nonverbal behavioral cues affect the close and romantic relationships between people.

Body Language and Nonverbal Behavior

Nonverbal cues encompass the communicator’s use of an assortment of visual, vocal, and unseen systems and subsystems of communication by systematically encoding and decoding symbols and signs in order to share consensual sense in a particular setting of communication (Spott, Pyle, & Punyanunt-Carter, n.d).  Nonverbal behavior is used by couples to convey their feelings that portray the need for support and closeness, as well as conjuring up a partner’s caring attitude towards one another. The expressions of nonverbal communication vary from person to person. Facial expressions, voice tone, smiling, physical touch, gestures, and making eye contacts are just but a few manifestations of body language and nonverbal communication (Prinsen & Punyanunt-Carter, 2009).

Nonverbal actions are spontaneously driven by the emotional attachment that one has over another person. It is argued that nonverbal communications are taken by couples to be a more legitimate form of communication than verbal messages. Samp and Monahan (2009) observed that nonverbal cues are more useful in decoding the emotional inclinations, preferences, and outlook of romantic partners and close friends, and is embraced by both young and old people. Thus, nonverbal communications are very important in fostering long-term relationships.

Prinsen and Punyanunt-Carter (2009) observed that a person’s confidence in accuracy of his perspectives about love tend to increase when he is in a romantic relationship although his real accuracy may not be better. Negative expressions of affect tend to increase when conflict arises in romantic relationships, with less positive communication being the result.  Women who are undecided about relationships were also found to exhibit more number of negative facial expressions, and had a propensity to display shorter duration of positive facial expressions than women who are less ambivalent (Prinsen & Punyanunt-Carter, 2009). Empirical evidence shows that couples that are not satisfied with their relationships tend to exhibit more negative emotions in their facial expressions than other couples do.

Another research evidence indicates that old couples that are married tend to display responsive behavior in listening less often than their middle-aged counterparts do. Couples who are good at interpreting the facial expressions and voice tone of a partner have been found to enjoy stable relationships, and display behaviors that are more positive. Research also indicates that these interpreting skills for facial expressions and voice tones of a partner are positively correlated (Prinsen & Punyanunt-Carter, 2009).

Prinsen and Punyanunt-Carter (2009) argue that couples securely attached with one another tend to touch their partners more, are happy, make frequent eye contacts, and smile more often. Furthermore, these individuals with a style of more secure attachment were found to express themselves more nonverbally. Gender differences with regard to attachment style and the form of nonverbal communication used were not found. Decrease in satisfaction of a relationship was found to underlie the decrease in the accuracy of nonverbal communication. Moreover, husbands who are satisfied with relationships anticipate their wives to interpret their nonverbal cues accurately (Prinsen & Punyanunt-Carter, 2009).

Prinsen and  Punyanunt-Carter (2009) further indicated that the degree of touching and behavior it brings forth vary at different stages of a relationship, with married couples touching the most while casual daters touching the least. Moreover, the patterns of touch behavior may differ according to the stage of the relationship and sex. Research evidence also indicates that women tend to exhibit negative attitude towards touch by opposite sex than men do. Nevertheless, in a stable and more serious relationship, women more probably would initiate a touch. Conversely, in short term and less serious relationships, men tend to initiate the touch more than women do. Research shows that women tend to hold items of nonverbal communication with higher regard than men hold, although men tend to consider the necessity of nonverbal communication as more pertinent, and needs to increase for a relationship to be stable (Prinsen & Punyanunt-Carter, 2009).

Relationship between Drinking and Nonverbal Behavior.

Samp and Monahan (2009) indicated that consumption of alcohol could be a crucial indicator of the implications of nonverbal behavior on stability of relationships. The portrayal of several typical pro-relational behavior including openness and sexual concern for strangers, is promoted by a person’s intoxication with alcohol. A research on married couples found that individuals consuming alcohol tend to be more expressive in their feelings towards their partners. This implies that alcohol intoxication can facilitate positive relational behaviors in close friendship and romantic relationships. Nevertheless, a recent research contradicted this fact. The research found out that alcohol-consuming marriage partners talking about an overriding relationship issue tend to manifest less positive and pro-relational behaviors than their sober counterpart do (Samp & Monahan, 2009).

Samp and Monahan (2009) indicated further that the alcohol intoxication that underlie inconsistency in behavior, display the disruption of the working of executive processes. The executive functioning, important in planning, activating, and self-regulation of purposeful behavior, encompasses the ability to instigate purposeful action and to prohibit improper behavior. These executive functions deficits caused by alcohol consumption can only affect behavior as far as that some aspect of the environment influence the drinker to respond to that stimulus. Hence, it is less probable for an alcohol drinker to consider the environmental context and other prompts that usually determine action. The most important environmental prompt majorly influences the drinker’s judgments while other cues tend to be ignored (Samp & Monahan, 2009).

Samp and Monahan (2009) indicated that the differences between sober and intoxicated males become more apparent with the advancement of a relationship, with intoxicated men at the middle stage of a relationship exhibiting a number of less relational and concern-focused behavior. Moreover, both sober and intoxicated men were found not to differ significantly when it comes to smiling or facial expressions at the early stage of a relationship, and yet at the middle of a conversation, intoxicated males tended to smile less and exhibited less positive facial expressions (Samp & Monahan, 2009).

The relationship between the different stages of a relationship and satisfaction

According to Spott, Pyle, and Punyanunt-Carter, the actual experience and expectations of an experience by an individual determines real satisfaction. The increase in overall relationship satisfaction is reflected clearly by the correlations between the duration of romantic relationships and use of nonverbal behavior. Therefore, the longer the duration of a relationship, be it dating, committed or marital, the greater the probability that those within the relationship will employ nonverbal tactics. Moreover, the use of positive nonverbal communication has been found to be positively correlated with increase in overall satisfaction in romantic relationships (Spott, Pyle, & Punyanunt-Carter, n.d).

Research evidence shows that females have a greater ability to identify and decode nonverbal cues than males. This information is especially useful in measuring all nonverbal cues and behaviors when conducting research. This research will be more useful in drawing conclusions about the differences that males and females have in their nonverbal and communicative behaviors. There are differences between the perceived and actual use of nonverbal behaviors. Research evidence shows that relationships tend to last longer when a couple uses more nonverbal behaviors, as well as using them more frequently. The research evidence that links nonverbal relationships and stable relationships is still anecdotal due to the influence of liking behaviors (Spott, Pyle, & Punyanunt-Carter, n.d).

Future Research Areas

Even though research evidence shows that the use of nonverbal behaviors, stability of a relationship, and the overall satisfaction are positively correlated, it does not address the reasons why this relationship occurs, or what kind of behaviors can influence increase in satisfaction in relationships. Furthermore, the research was based on the assumption that those in a relationship of less than one year would display the same outcomes as those in relationship of more than a year (Spott, Pyle, & Punyanunt-Carter, n.d).

More research needs to be done on the relationships between the living situations of the couples; be it casual dating, stable relationships, cohabitation within stable relationships, marriage or exclusively dating, and nonverbal communications and overall satisfaction in a relationship (Spott, Pyle, & Punyanunt-Carter, n.d; Prinsen & Punyanunt-Carter, 2009). Research examining how specific nonverbal behaviors and body language affect the most sentimental behaviors necessary in achieving satisfaction in a relationship needs to be carried out. Research needs to consider the various races when conducting research on nonverbal communication and relationships. More research needs to be done to establish the relationship between relational factors, alcohol consumption, and communicative behavior (Samp & Monahan, 2009).


Body language and nonverbal communication form the most important aspects of relationship. Listening has also been found to play a key role in fostering long-term relationships. Most empirical studies have mainly focused on the differences between males and females in nonverbal communication. A partner in a relationship uses nonverbal behavioral cues to express his emotions that portray the need for support and closeness, and conjuring up a partner’s caring attitude towards one another. The ability of a partner to decode the meaning of nonverbal communication is very important in determining the stability of relationships. Decrease in satisfaction of a relationship was found to underlie the decrease in the accuracy of nonverbal communication. For quality writing services of such educative papers, visit tinacustompapers.com and make an order now.

Source by Brian

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