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Preening

 

Techniques > Use of body language > Core patterns > Preening

Pattern | Found in | Discussion | See also

 

Pattern

'Preening' is act of faked cleaning or tidying that is common in courtship rituals across the animal kingdom. birds pick at their feathers, chimps pick at fleas and humans tidy themselves to look good for their prospective partners. Actions include:

  • Straightening the tie or other clothes.
  • Looking in a mirror.
  • Curling lips to even out lipstick.
  • Brushing imaginary lint off arms or legs.
  • Patting down hair or combing it with the fingers.

Found in

Discussion

Preening happens a lot before people meet as people deliberately make themselves attractive. Women in particular spend time in the bathroom primping themselves up. This can be a competitive signal to other women ('I'm more beautiful than you, so don't bother competing with me!').

 As an act in front of another person, preening says 'Look, I am making myself beautiful for you!' It may be combined with the look away -- look up flirting pattern.

Sometimes preening is just about vanity, as self-obsessed narcissists make themselves beautiful just for themselves. It says 'I am too wonderful for you, but not for me.' In this way, preening can be a dominant activity.

Preening is also touching oneself which, when done as gentle stroking, can be done romantically as an offer ('Wouldn't you like to touch me like this? I might just let you...').

Self-touching can also be a sign of insecurity as a person comforts themself, stroking or patting their body in emulation of parental reassurance. Recognize this with other signs of anxiety. In contrast, preening is done with confidence and even arrogance ('I am so wonderful, you will not be able to resist me!').

See also

Romantic body language

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