Relationship Coach: Are You Missing Your Partner’s Emotional Cues?

Did you know that only 7% of communication is verbal?

93% of communication is nonverbal, including body language and tone of voice. Even though your partner is not verbally saying something to you, they may be thinking or feeling something that they are communicating through nonverbal means.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis looked deeper into this idea. How does a partner interpret another partner’s cues? What cues are generally given that partners should spot? How can you gain the skills in order to understand your partners better?

The short answer is that even long-term couples have trouble understanding and “measuring” a partner’s emotional cues. So if you’re confused about what you should be looking for, you’re not alone.

The study focused on two types of emotional cues: suppression (hiding emotions) and reappraisal (changing a perspective in order to look at the “bright side.”)

Both cues have their drawbacks. They don’t allow a person to fully feel and realize their feelings toward a situation. Both cues are used by men and women, but in general, men use suppression techniques more often than women.

When it comes to judging these techniques, things can get tricky. For example, women frequently overestimate their partner’s ability to look on the bright side. Partners who are more positive are more likely to be accused of reappraisal. And more emotional partners are less likely to be accused of either reappraisal or suppression, leaving partners more clueless about when they are hiding or covering up their true feelings.

Researchers also found that it is harder for a partner to judge reappraisal than suppression. If you know something is bothering your partner but they won’t let it show, you’re more likely to see their true emotions than if they are playing off the situation and looking for the positive.

These findings are important to think about when you are talking to your partner about their emotions. In general, we suggest these two words: Don’t assume.

If your partner is normally happy, don’t assume they have the ability to move past struggles with ease, but also don’t assume that they are “hiding” their feelings behind optimism. There are very fine lines between expressing your true emotions and hiding them in order to appease another person.

It is understandable if you miss something that your partner is trying to communicate. After all, nonverbal communication is not a part of a school’s curriculum. But through experience and understanding, you can develop your ability to spot and interpret the emotional cues that your partner gives you through nonverbal communication.

To learn more about building these skills and communicating with your partner more effectively, call a Bend relationship coach.