While I don’t claim to be able to read a person like a book, I don’t deny learning to have adept analyzing skills. I don’t know if it’s because I’m taking several communication classes, or just years of experience in and out of my comfort zone, but taking all this nonverbal communication information and reflecting on my past experiences makes me feel like a genius. I’m now easing this knowledge into action, but soon enough it’ll come naturally. It’s like I’m finally thinking before I speak now. Nonverbal communication is often paired with verbal communication, so I like to say I’m using both sides of my brain together to understand my interactions.
I want to analyze the moment before things get intimate, more specifically, the moment before a kiss. Every experience has been similar. There’s the same feeling that both people acknowledge right before it happens, and obviously it ends the same way. That feeling may just be sexual tension, but I’d like to say it’s a combination of a lot of things. It’s made and reinforced by our body language. It’s not like we are both saying, “Hey let’s make out,” we are communicating without speaking. Of course, conversation can happen before, but I find my experiences to begin without words, much more naturally and subconsciously. Don’t get me wrong I’m not sticking my tongue down girls’ throats without consent, but I do acknowledge the lack of verbal communication before. The development of a kiss lies in the oculesics, kinesics, proxemics, and haptics. There will be times where we are talking beforehand, but I want to analyze the moment when the conversation stops, and the (what feel like) slow-motion endless seconds leading up to our lip hi-five.
Our physical appearance plays a role, hence the saying “dress to impress”, but by the time I’m leaning in for a kiss, I’ve probably already deemed her to be attractive. Whether she is physically, socially, or task attractive, it makes the decision for me wanting to kiss her easier. With that being said, there is always a sense of subjectivity in communication. While there is a baseline for nonverbal communication that we all can agree on, individual taste exists. What I find attractive about a woman may not be what my brother finds attractive. Alas, that’s the beauty of humanity and self-expression. The most attractive thing a woman can wear to me is a dress, but for other cultures it may be a full formed suit. This encapsulates the variance that comes from nonverbal communication and personal taste. At the end of the day I’m describing my experiences and they may not have been anything like yours. The way I read into nonverbal cues may not be the same as yours, but the fact that they exist cannot be denied.
Once I’ve acknowledged that I want to kiss her, the next step is to do it. Her nonverbal cues (as well as mine) are the stepping stones to a kiss. All of our nonverbal communication is complementing our verbal messages and goals, as well as substituting the words that aren’t present. The environment plays a role, but it’s decided much before the kiss is initiated. It creates the playing field preparing for more nonverbal communication. I figure most people wouldn’t want to get intimate at a Monster Truck Rally, so choosing an attractive location is important. When that’s been chosen, the moment finally arrives.
Our eye contact is the first and most important nonverbal sign that we are both aware of. It’s normally attached with a smile or at the very least a lip bite, because it’s rare when eye contact isn’t paired up with a facial expression. If we’re feeling spicy it may even be a lick of the lips. Facial expressions are the key into showing what emotions we are feeling, as the eyes are the windows to the soul. According to the Nonverbal Behavior in Interpersonal Relationstextbook authored by Richmond, McCroskey, and Hickson, “98% of the time happiness is judged from the lower face” (Richmond 73), while sadness and fear come through the eyes. Kinesics are also very prevalent, but I think eye contact is the most determining factor in the evolution of a kiss. For instance, our eyes express emotions and establish and define relationships. We tell stories with our eyes. It’s almost impossible not to experience arousal when we see another person. This may come in the form of dilation, but no matter what, before a kiss there is normally some noticeable difference. It’s mixture of the facial expression and the dramatic held eye contact. If one of us would be consistently breaking eye contact, it would be a sign of uncertainty and anxiety. The unwavering connection between our eyes is the main sign of the intimate act that is about to happen.
Emblems are rarely involved, as I’ve never thrown up a “peace” sign, or any sort of verbally translated gestures like that. More often than not, the kinesics are prevalent in my approach to her. Affect displays can aid in her understanding of what I’m feeling, because in these situations my heart is normally on my sleeve. I wouldn’t hide what I feel, so if I don’t want to kiss her, she will clearly know. Posture is important to, as it shows the relaxation or tenseness involved in the interaction. It is often congruent because we both mirror each other’s posture. All of these kinesics build up to establish our movement and communicator style. In this situation I’m sure I come across as more dominant and relaxed as she is impression-leaving and open.
This all leads up to the moment of truth. With the atmosphere established, the last step is the lean in. I wouldn’t lead with my lips puckered and my eyes closed because who knows where my lips would land, so usually I offer out my hand. Once the touch is reciprocated, I slide it up her waist to her face and grasp her lower cheek bone. I like to end up with one hand behind her head and… Now that I’m writing this in detail, I realize how weird it is to over analyze how I kiss, but I figure since I’ve already gone this far I might as well finish. It honestly shouldn’t be too touchy of a subject because it’s a natural part of life, but now that I’m thinking about it, I’ve rarely thought through how I kiss. It’s always just been second nature to me. Reflecting on how I do it is something I’ve never done before. Even when my friends would ask me “How did you hook up with so and so?” my answer is always, “It just happened.” The lack of thought seems natural to me because it’s a much more physical moment than it is mental. It’s about acknowledging our feelings and acting on it, and the nonverbal cues beforehand tell me whether the feelings is right. I haven’t said it yet so just to clarify, I’m not attacking (nor have I) any girls face with my tongue, without consent. The experiences I’m drawing from have always been on dates or romantic outings where the feelings are mutual, I’m just analyzing this from the perspective of nonverbal communication. This makes me realize that it’s more about how those feelings are expressed than psychoanalyzing the girls I’m with, the moment of. Of course, not all of my kisses follow down this exact “formula”, but this is an accurate representation of how some have gone.
With that being said, the moment of, and after the kiss I’ll keep to myself. By that point our personal space is united. Pupil dilation or not, I wouldn’t know because my eyes close (only psychopaths kiss with their eyes open). It’s usually followed by more escalation from the kiss to who knows what else, and it stems from more haptics. Positive arousal becomes active and from then on, we are one… as long as we are both cool with it. Where and how we touch, as well as what we say are the deciding factors. The nonverbal communication got us together, and the nonverbal (partly verbal) act is what follows.
Jandt, F. E. (n.d.). Conflict & Communication. Sage.
Doyle, A. (n.d.). A List of Conflict Management Skills With Examples. Retrieved from https://www.thebalancecareers.com/conflict-management-skills-2059687
Richmond, V. P., McCroskey, J. C., & Hickson, M. (2012). Nonverbal behavior in interpersonal relations. Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.