Ask the Sexpert with Dr. Stephen Furlich

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Dr. Stephen Furlich is a Best-Selling Author of Breakthrough Books that Shows Us How To Communicate Better!

Dr. Furlich was recently interviewed by One America News Network, has been published in numerous journals, including: Texas Speech Communication Journal, Kentucky Journal of Communication, The Florida Communication Journal, Journal of Applied Communication Research, Academic Exchange Quarterly, Journal of Integrated Social Sciences, and Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

I was fortunate to interview Dr. Stephen Furlich, a seasoned communication expert with over two decades of university-level teaching and research, has always delved beyond the ordinary to understand the essence of human interaction. Through diverse communication courses and innovative research endeavors, he’s explored how to foster better understanding among individuals. 

Dr. Furlich’s teaching philosophy prioritizes applying knowledge to everyday life, both personally and professionally. His unique communication approach centers on appreciating both the speaker’s and listener’s viewpoints, particularly as differences emerge between them. Passionate about leveraging scientific progress to unravel communication intricacies, he’s inspired by the intersection of technology and understanding. This curiosity led him to pen “Sex Talk,” an exploration uniting diverse scientific studies to illuminate biology’s role in gender communication. 

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Here are some of the questions that I asked Dr. Furlich:

  1. Can you provide insight into how you think the intersection of biology and communication impacts society’s understanding of gender? 
  2. How important do you consider the connection between scientific research and practical communication strategies in today’s world? 
  3. What aspects of your background and experience make you uniquely qualified to discuss the intricate relationship between biology and gender communication? 
  4. What are some of the ways people from diverse age groups and backgrounds benefit from the knowledge shared in “Sex Talk”? 
  5. Can you envision any potential controversies or debates that might arise from the assertion that biological sex has an absolute influence on gender communication differences? 
  6. How does the interdisciplinary approach of this book, combining social science and biological science research, set it apart from other works on gender communication? 
  7. Given the wide-ranging implications of this topic, how do you see the potential for practical application of the communication strategies presented in the book? 
  8. What role do you think books like “Sex Talk” play in advancing the conversation around gender communication beyond academia and into the public sphere? 
  9. You emphasize the importance of understanding communication from both the speaker’s and listener’s perspectives. How might this approach reshape traditional views on effective communication? 
  10. Can you share your perspective on how “Sex Talk” contributes to the ongoing dialogue on gender, diversity, and inclusivity in today’s society?

Dr. Furlich answers more questions about his books on his website:             

  1. What’s your new book, Nonverbal Epiphany, about? Nonverbal Epiphany provides current nonverbal communication research for readers ranging in age from teenage years through adult seniors. Subtle nonverbal communication behaviors that most people are unaware of are covered throughout the book. The research covered throughout the book addresses topics found in both professional and personal communication interactions. First, it is academic research that brings credible support for the findings covered. Secondly, it is a focus of Nonverbal Epiphany to apply the topics covered in each chapter. The end of each chapter has an activity helping readers to personally experience the nonverbal concepts they read. The interconnectedness between biology and nonverbal communication is emphasized. All nonverbal communication is influenced by biology and all nonverbal communication impacts one’s biological functioning.
  2. What inspired you to write it? Two particular areas are those communication behaviors that often go unnoticed and those communication behaviors that people can intentionally communicate to achieve their goals. Accomplishing both of these goals is the focus. It is a focus of this book to enlighten people about these subtle nonverbal behaviors in order to better recognize them from other people and also get a deeper understanding of the meanings behind such behaviors. Some of these subtle nonverbal messages can be in the form of micro facial expressions, combinations of gestures, vocal changes, colors, and measurement proportions to mention a few areas. This book helps readers develop these skills. They range from obvious nonverbal behaviors to subtle behaviors that influence perceptions of other people.
  3. How can our communication behaviors that don’t involve speaking influence others in a professional setting? One reliable way is through emotional contagion. People often take on the emotional state of those people around them. One can strategically influence the intended emotional state of others through priming. This takes building trust. This can be done through mimicry prior to a request, a genuine smile, and head nodding to mention a few strategies. People can also have emotional associations with products. Products in close proximity often elicit similar emotions to people near them. Emotional contagion can also take place from a salesperson to the customer’s emotional feelings about the product. Displaying nonverbal immediacy behaviors can also persuade in a professional setting.
  4. Can one develop skills to detect what the nonverbal communication behaviors of others mean? Yes, one can learn how to determine a genuine smile from a fake one. Only around 10% of people can artificially exhibit a genuine smile. There are biological influences that make it near impossible to display a disingenuous real smile. Another example is what their legs and hands are indicating. Often people point their feet unintentionally to what interests them. For instance, someone might be facing another person during a conversation but have a foot pointed to the side toward a door. Another detection is yawn contagion indicates empathizing with those around.
  5. What are examples of subtle behaviors that can influence our perception of other people? It has been found in research studies that the left side of a person’s face is more believable. It has also been found that genuine emotional expressions start on the left side of the face. My guess is that the right side of the brain is responsible for emotions. The right brain hemisphere controls the left side of the body. Another example is pupil dilation and contraction. One reason our pupils dilate is when we see something we have interest in. They contract when we see something we dislike. This can be beneficial in sales knowing what specific products a customer likes and dislikes. Another example is subtle behaviors involving synchrony between people can indicate their level of rapport.
  6. You claim that nonverbal behaviors and perceptions by both a doctor or nurse and a patient can influence healthcare outcomes. How so? The nonverbal behaviors from a healthcare professional can influence patient diagnosis precision. When a healthcare professional mimics the nonverbal behaviors of the patient, research has found that they more accurately rate the pain level of the patient. One explanation is an increase in empathy. Mimicked behaviors increase empathy between the people. It activates similar areas of the brain and both people have similar emotional experiences as a result. They understand each other’s communication more accurately.
  7. Do we misread one’s facial movements? One example of misreading facial movements is the difference between a romantic kiss and one that is not. Both people tilting their heads to the right side is an indication of a romantic kiss. Both people tilting their heads to the left is an indication of a kiss that is not romantic. A smile that is less symmetrical and shorter to create often indicates a fake smile.
  8. Do males and females differ nonverbally? Overall, females are superior nonverbally. They understand other people’s nonverbal behaviors more accurately. They also send their nonverbal messages more accurately. It is also easier for a female to adjust her nonverbal behaviors to mimic another person’s nonverbal behaviors than it is for a male to adjust his behaviors to mimic. Part of this is explained by females are better able to empathize with others. Females also can see a much larger range of colors. Color vision is located on the X chromosome, with females having two. They also have more P cells in their retina for color vision and details. Hence, males and females actually see the world differently.
  9. Why do you believe that biology plays an important role in our nonverbal behaviors? Females have more connections across both hemispheres of their brain. They also have more areas of their brain activated during social interactions. This allows them to engage in a conversation while at the same time analyze another person’s nonverbal behaviors. Therefore, they understand subtle nonverbal behaviors better. Males on the other hand have more connections within each hemisphere. They focus more on one task at a time, either engaging in the conversation or analyzing another person’s nonverbal behaviors. Oxytocin is a bonding chemical. Females have higher levels of oxytocin during social interactions enabling them to understand others on a deeper level through empathy.
  10. You also claim that there are things we can do to influence our biology, and that of others, in order to have more favorable nonverbal communication in our careers, potential relationships, or current relationships? Cuddy has researched the power pose for years. She found standing with your legs farther apart and hands on hips with elbows out increases testosterone and decreases cortisol. It was found that people taking this pose prior to an interview were rated higher regarding the interview even though the people conducting the interview never saw who had the power pose and who did not. This pose has also been found to lead to more accurate judgements of other’s emotional state. Possibly this is due to lower cortisol levels that help people relax from lower stress.
  11. Why do you warn us not to rely on only one nonverbal behavior to analyze another’s intentions? Understanding nonverbal communication of other people is like putting together pieces of a puzzle. A person needs to put together different pieces of information for an educated assessment. One particular nonverbal can have a different meaning with different individuals and different cultures. It can also differ based upon the topic discussed, context, and people involved in the interaction. No one single nonverbal behavior is absolute every time with 100% accuracy.
  12. Which nonverbal behaviors cross cultural lines and are universal? One nonverbal behavior that has been found cross culturally is the eyebrow flash. When greeting someone a person often raises their eyebrows quickly when they are happy to see them. Lowering of the eyebrows has a more negative meaning. A slight head tilt is often perceived positively during social interactions. This behavior exposes more of the person’s neck. Exposing one’s neck shows one’s physical vulnerability and that they are not a threat. Pupil dilation is also absolute. Jewelry dealers have known for years that buyers will have their pupils dilate when they see a piece they like and contract with pieces they dislike.
  13. Your prior book, Sex Talk, some interesting things. How did you crack the gender communications gap? Males will understand communication more literally. Females will understanding subtle behaviors more. They understand nonverbal cues more accurately. Males often oversimplify their conversational understanding. Females over analyze conversational understanding. Females have more sensory information to process. All of their senses are superior.
  14. Are these nonverbal behaviors learned or are they genetic? There are a lot of nonverbal behaviors that are genetic. Cultures influence the proper way to display these nonverbal behaviors. For example, research has identified about 5-7 emotions everyone experiences. How people display these emotions can vary from culture to culture. Epigenetics also plays a major role. Nonverbal behaviors are passed down genetically from generation to generation that help individuals survive, reproduce, and succeed in society at a given time.
  15. How can you tell when someone is lying, other than listening to what they say? Professionals who are trained to recognize deception do so with only about 60% accuracy. It is a difficult task. Each person, context, and topic is different. One thing to do is understand how a person normally communicates. Then, notice if they communicate differently when talking about the topic of interest. Contrary to popular belief, people often make more eye contact when trying to deceive. They also use repetitive nonverbal gestures. It has been found that people look to the left when recalling factual information and to the right for imaginary information, this has been well confirmed for right-handed people.
  16. Is there a secret formula to nonverbal communication? There are secrets about nonverbal communication that most people do not know about. However, like everything else one can improve reading other people’s nonverbal communication through practice. Each chapter ends with an activity to help reader’s improve their nonverbal communication skills. There are a few basic principles that apply to most people in most situations. Nonverbal behaviors are reactionary to experiences but nonverbal behaviors can also create emotional experiences. Everything about nonverbal communication should be analyzed with the context in mind. Understand each person’s normal communication style. Put together the individual pieces of nonverbal information together to create an informed analysis, just like putting together pieces of a puzzle.
  17. What type of gestures are effective to communicate certain things? One piece of advice is carry a newspaper or professional periodical to business meetings rather than having your cellphone in your hand. Set it on the desk. This will professionally stand out. Having palms up when someone already agrees with you is more effective when making a request. Having palms down when someone is cautious or vigilant is more effective when making a request.
  18. Can one fake empathy or a smile? Yes, about 10% of people can fake a genuine smile. This matches the percent of people in society with certain personality disorders. A real smile takes longer, is higher in the cheeks, symmetry, wrinkles by the sides known as crow’s feet.
  19. What can you tell from a handshake? A handshake can often give someone an advantage. Having your hand on top gives you more power. Having your palm down gives you more power. Having your palm up exposes your vulnerable veins and is perceived submissively. One strategy is to have the person stand to your left when shaking hands so you reach and your palm is down and theirs is up.
  20. Do attractive physical features of a person communicate something to another? It has been found universally and across generations that attractive faces have features that more align with the golden ratio. This is regardless of sex, race, and culture. The Golden Ratio is the proportion or distance comparing objects as 1 to 1.618. These attractive ratings are found in real-life, pictures, artwork etc. Plastic surgeons often follow this understanding when preparing for cosmetic facial surgery procedures.
  21. How do colors or a physical environment communicate something? Colors impact us in several ways. When using technology visual aids such as a powerpoint, warm colors such as yellow and red increase comprehension by the audience. Our memory also often influences our perception of colors. For example, a study found people seeing grey bananas rated the color as yellow because of their familiarity with yellow bananas. Water in a blue cup is rated more refreshing than in a yellow cup. Men wearing red are often rated more attractive than those wearing other colors. A salesperson wearing red is often more persuasive than wearing a different color. Blue is often used for company logos because it communicates trust similar to the sky and oceans

Dr. Furlich’s books are available on his website, and on

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Watch Dr. Stephen Furlich on Ask the Expert with Dr. Ava Cadell



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