Analyses of the pair as they stepped out hand-in-hand in New York City on Saturday and Sunday night have flooded social media feeds as people look to decode what their physicality is telling us about their blooming relationship. And although some might say it's all for press, many believe, from the looks of Kelce’s delicate touch of Swift’s waist, that they’re watching the two fall in love.
“Body language really is the underlying truth of what is going on,” says Lillian Glass, a body-language expert and author. “There’s no question that there’s a real romance here.”
What is body language?
Body language is a type of nonverbal communication that encompasses a number of physical behaviors to convey thoughts, emotions and intentions. These include facial expressions, gestures, posture, eye contact, physical touch and even tone of voice.
These cues exist in all human interaction and can be either conscious or subconscious. Expert Blanca Cobb says that when involuntary, body language often reveals a person’s true feelings. It can even take precedence over verbal communication, as body language is expressed through action rather than words.
“Looking at a person’s micro-expressions on their face, reading facial expressions and listening to voice intonation — that gives you more confidence in believing what you’re actually hearing them say,” she says.
Glass tells Yahoo Life that deciphering body language is a form of both “art and science,” as she’s studied anatomy and physiology to find meaning in the most subtle movements, like a jaw twitch or a pulsating muscle. She uses this knowledge to read situations between celebrities, politicians and even people in law enforcement. While there’s no actual scientific study or practice of it (other than a theory calling it kinesics), most people are able to read general signals.
“It’s human nature,’’ Glass says. “We’re all capable of body language because this is how we survive, this is how we know who is friend or foe. You know if somebody likes you, or they don’t, just by the way they say hello to you. ... We are very much tuned in.’’
How does it apply to romantic relationships?
Body language can be used as a “temperature reading of a relationship,’’ according to Cobb, as outsiders note expressions of positivity, openness and trust — or the opposite — between two people.
“Let’s say that you have a really great, fun relationship with one particular person. You would expect to see some closeness and togetherness, some happiness and fun times,’’ Cobb says. “If it’s a more stressful relationship, then you would expect to see [one person] pulling away, perhaps some facial grimaces or some muscle tension that would let us know that something isn’t quite right with that particular relationship.’’
In the case of Swift and Kelce, the former type of relationship was conveyed through the nature of their hand-holds and the positioning of their bodies as Kelce took the lead on walking Swift to and from their shared vehicle.
Most reviews of the situation on social media agree. But it’s important to note that more information is needed over time to make more accurate reads of relationships. “You have to analyze body language in context and in clusters,’’ says Cobb. “Looking at patterns or looking at different pictures over time to get a pattern, to get a sense of how a couple interacts with each other, gives you a better sense than just one still photo.’’
While this applies to onlookers of other couples, it’s also important for reading personal relationships you are a part of and getting a full understanding of how somebody might portray interest and investment in you.
“One of the best things to do with body language in romantic partners is figure out their baseline behavior. So in the initial stages of relationships and going out, having tough conversations, or even fun conversations, what is their typical body language? How do they express themselves? What words do they use? You want to get a sense of how they typically act,’’ Cobb explains. “And the reason that’s so important is because when there’s a change in body language, that’s your 'aha’ moment that you’re like, 'Whoa, what just happened here?’ It could be positive or negative.’’
For Swift’s biggest fans, there’s an understanding of how she’s publicly interacted with romantic interests in the past that contributes to the meanings they decipher from her recent moments with Kelce.
For example, TikToker Eli Rallo posted a video comparing Swift’s hand-hold with Kelce to how the singer typically held hands with former beau Joe Alwyn. “This is giving, like, 'Last night we said I love you for the first time. Now we can’t stop saying it, we can’t keep our hands off each other,’’’ Rallo said of Swift and Kelce’s interlocked fingers before showing the hand-in-hand positioning that Swift and Alwyn typically displayed. “This is, 'We hate each other but we’re still together ’cause it’s convenient.’’’
This, of course, is speculation. But there’s a reason that people are engaging in this kind of commentary and analysis.
Why are people so fascinated by body language?
“People want the inside scoop,’’ says Cobb. “High-profile celebrities want to keep their private life private, understandably. But when you analyze body language, it’s like, 'What's really going on for this couple? Are they really attracted to each other?’’’
And while the inner thoughts and feelings of any person can be spoken aloud, there’s nothing quite like their physical expression.
“It’s those candid shots that tell us the most, when people don’t know they're being watched,’’ she says, “because they’re more relaxed, they’re not on guard.’’