So, Valentine’s Day is here again, and women across the country will be uttering those famous words, “Oh I don’t want a present!”
But men, be warned, take that request literally and you risk being in the doghouse.
Body language and behaviour expert, Judi James, is on hand to explain…
Words are not enough
…for women, that is. “Words are just part of women’s communication process and we’ll often use them in context, adding real meaning with body language or tone of voice,” says Judi. “Men, however, tend to use words in a ‘say it straight or you’ll get it crooked’ fashion – which is why they’re often accused of being tactless or blunt.”
No questions asked
So if your other half has said she doesn’t want anything for Valentine’s Day, how can you figure out what’s really going on in her head?
[Related: Why you shouldn't just show your love on Valentine's Day]
“What women often mean when we say we don’t want a gift or treat is that we didn’t want to be asked,” explains Judi. “Asking shows a lack of understanding of our character and our emotions. If we have to agree to a gift and even tell you what we want, that gift will instantly become unromantic and meaningless. For women, gifts are a measure of understanding and effort on a guy’s behalf.”
It’s the thought that counts
Judi suggests that while we might say we don't want a fuss, we do want the guy to want to make one. Confusing, huh! “We want a man to be able to evaluate our words versus our true feelings, just like when we say we’re ‘fine’, when our body language and vocal tone clearly signal that we’re not.”
How to get it just right
So can’t you just come out and ask what she means? “Challenging a woman is never a good idea here,” warns Judi. “Then you’re calling her bluff on the incongruent signalling, or worse, accusing her of lying. Better to plan a surprise which you deliver with the line ‘I know you said you didn’t want anything but I wanted to let you know how I feel about you’. Focus on the outgoing aspect of the gifting process – that you wanted to give it, rather than the fact that she wanted to receive it. Never make her feel greedy.”
[Related: Delicious Valentine's Day dinner recipes that you can whip up in just 15 minutes]
Do some detective work
But how do you go about deciding how much fuss to make? If you’re going to bring up the subject of the gift, Judi recommends talking to your partner face to face so you can check out her vocal tone and body language. “If she looks or sounds faintly annoyed (tight lips, averted gaze, even a dismissive shrug), then she’s indicating you were wrong to ask, but not wrong to get something. If she laughs and sounds too bright and breezy, she’s being modest. Look for an over-stretched smile and lots of eye contact plus some extravagant gesticulation.
“If you manage to make your offer while the gift is in view, i.e. you’re both looking in the jewellery shop window, only focus on her eye gaze. If she wants something she’ll gaze at it longingly despite denying the fact she wants it, or she may look away but then return her gaze to the gift after a pause.”
And if you’re still unsure? Remember it’s the gesture that is important, so buy tickets to a concert or gig you know she wants to see, or for a pretty fail-safe option that shows you care and doesn’t cost the earth, cook her favourite dinner.