Here’s something that you’ve heard a billion times but is so hugely important, it bears repeating: Guys aren’t socialised to talk about their feelings – especially when navigating something unpleasant. ‘When men feel vulnerable they tend to hide their anxiety because that’s what they’ve been trained to do,’ says Dr Judith Hall, professor of psychology. ‘Plus, many men think talking about an issue only makes it worse. But their body language can point to what’s really going on.’
Luckily, women are naturally gifted at reading the emotions behind expressions and gestures. Yet, the crazy thing is, research has found that people tend to get worse at reading a lover’s body language when they’ve been in a relationship for more than a year, says Dr Paul Ekman, professor of psychology and co-author of Emotional Awareness (Times Books). This lack of perception poses a danger to your relationship -because if you’re missing red flags you won’t get at what’s truly swirling inside your guy’s head… or know how to respond.
So, we’ve created this body-language boot camp, which employs all the info you need to pick up non-verbal clues. ‘You can train yourself to recognise the meaning behind micro-expressions – flashes of emotion that last only about one-fifth to one-twenty-fifth of a second,’ says Ekman. ‘A person can display a feeling he either didn’t know he had or is trying to hide, and you can glean information from it.’ The key is in responding carefully because many men get more uncomfortable when you tell them what they’re feeling. With the help of body language expert, Janine Driver, we’ve pinpointed five critical facial expressions and gestures that indicate a man is feeling vulnerable, upset or angry. We then teach you how to react to these emotions in the best possible way.
His Move: His hands are planted firmly on his hips, his chin is jutting forward, and he is looking down his nose at you.
What They Mean: He’s about to lose his cool. This is the classic ‘fight’ posture and a display of imminent aggression. Maybe you made a joke at his expense or you’re pressing him a little too hard on something that you disagree on. His reaction signals that things are about to get a lot more heated, especially if you naturally mirror his aggressive stance.
Your Move: First, relax your frame. You want to display a non-threatening posture so he doesn’t feel like he’s being attacked physically – think, rolling your shoulders back and down, unclenching your hands and jaw, and taking a deep breath to open up your shoulders. When he sees you relaxed, he’ll be inclined to take a cue from your body language and scale back the mounting level of conflict, even if the debate continues for a while longer.