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An Example of Non-Verbal Intimacy

This example nicely illustrates the general ideas that (1) intimate experience is a product of intimate behavior, (2) non-verbal behaviors can produce intimate experience, and (3) intimate experience consists of a sense of shared understanding accompanied by some positive feeling(s).

In her book, The Psychology of Intimacy, psychologist Karen Prager calls attention to the fact that the word “intimacy” can be used to refer to a characteristic of relationships, behavioral interactions, and subjective experiences. An important question for scientists and practioners--and all of us who cherish intimacy--is: What kinds of verbal and non-verbal behaviors bring about the experience of intimacy? Dr. Prager offers the following example of the connection between intimate behavior and intimate experience:

“Katie has been listening to an uninspiring lecture for nearly an hour and has found her eyelids dropping more than once. Suddenly, the speaker catches her attention by making a substantial factual error. Amused and now awake, Katie, without reflection, looks in the direction of her close friend and colleague, Grant, who is sitting several rows away, to see if he caught the error. To her delight, he has simultaneously turned in her direction. When their eyes meet, both mime raised eyebrows and wide-open eyes in feigned horror. Both smile and turn back to the speaker. Katie’s feelings of warmth and amusement persist for several minutes.”

Here we see that Katie and Grant experience a moment of intimacy. Their interaction is intimate because they share something that is totally private. Katie’s intimate experience is constituted by two things: positive feelings of warmth toward Grant and her perception that she and Grant both understand each other’s meaning. Of interest is the fact that their intimate behaviors are all non-verbal: They each use eye contact to seek out the other and then use facial expressions to express and share their amusement.

This example nicely illustrates the general ideas that (1) intimate experience is a product of intimate behavior, (2) non-verbal behaviors can produce intimate experience, and (3) intimate experience consists of a sense of shared understanding accompanied by some positive feeling(s).










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