In my role as counsellor/therapist, I have learned to "hear" things that are not being said --- and to "see" things that are not being shown. It's not about 'reading a person's mind'. That's a whole different ball game. I'm talking about nonverbal communication... and the 'leakage' that comes out in situations.
Tone of voice, body language, facial expressions, gestures, physical orientation... and yes, the eyes... They say a lot of things. Often, much more than what we'd care to let on.
That's why I'm always interested in sharpening my skills in observing such nonverbal cues and signals. Two similar articles I found online recently deal with gender differences in nonverbal communication (1, 2). There are many other studies on this, I know. I've encountered a lot of these things in the past as a student of psychology. But, since these two articles are presented in a simple and basic manner, I thought that they're good places to read and refresh my mind about the topic. I did a few other searches and followed other leads based on these two links. And, some of the things that I've noted from this exercise include the following:
1) Men are less comfortable with making eye contact than women. Apparently, it has something to do with dominance, power and status. Direct eye contact is a sign of emotion. So, the less eye contact shared, the less emotion. Oh, and yes, we tend to look more directly in to the eyes of someone we like and look less in to the eyes of people we dislike and/or feel uncomfortable with.
2) In terms of gestures, postures and facial expressions, results appear to be mixed. But, basically, men and women use gestures, postures, touch and facial expressions differently. For example, women tend to smile and use facial expressions more than men do. Men appear more relaxed in posture while women appear more tense.
3) Men also tend to be more uncomfortable with close proximity. Women, on the other hand, are more comfortable with sharing their personal space especially between each other (female-to-female interactions). But, both men and women tend to show their interest and affinity towards someone by how much they are willing to share their personal spaces. It's also interesting that this piece says that women prefer side-by-side interactions while men prefer face-to-face. I wonder how much of that can be verified?
4) Women interepret nonverbal communication better than men. Hmmm... Maybe. But, regardless of one's gender, I believe that if attraction and other strong emotions are involved between two people, their ability to interpret nonverbal communication diminishes greatly*.
Let me see if I can find out other things as I continue to learn more about this topic. Please feel free to share thoughts, references and resources on the subject.
*UPDATE: kampampangan pie asked this regarding the last point, "I thought itâ€™s the other way around. Why do you say so?" - I realise that I should've qualified my statement. The ability to interpret nonverbal communication between people who are attracted (and/or feel other strong emotions) to each other often diminishes if one or both parties are trying to hide something. For example, a man and a woman who may be attracted to each other but do not feel comfortable letting each other know of such feelings tend not to "read" the other person's cues and signals as clearly. Of course, people who have an actual relationship with each other (friends, lovers, etc.) will tend to interpret each other's nonverbal communication much better.