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6 Golden Rules For Strong Relationships That Are Backed By Science

6 Golden Rules For Strong Relationships That Are Backed By Science

Love is perhaps the most studied – and yet, still the most confusing – of human emotions. It is not surprising that scientists have yet to concoct a love potion. However, one important thing that scientists have done is provide helpful tips, backed by scientific studies, to improve our chances of finding true love and build strong and lasting relationships.

It doesn’t matter if you are in a new relationship or if you consider yourself an expert in relationships, the following scientifically proven rules for building strong romantic relationships may come in handy.

Keep in mind that there is a distinction between romantic love, which can endure, and passionate or obsessive love, which often fades after the beginning of a relationship.

1. Cultivate positive thoughts about your partner

Scientists have found that having positive thoughts about your partner is vital in relationships. When you focus on the good in your partner’s personal qualities and character, it strengthens your relationship.

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Bianca Acevedo, Ph.D. and author of a 2009 study conducted by researchers at the University of California in Santa Barbara, noted that couples in good relationships engage in “positive sentiment override.” That means they remember more of the favorable than the unfavorable experiences they’ve shared together, and also give each other the benefit of the doubt.

These couples seem to be able to resolve conflicts better because they don’t dwell on things that bother them. Ruminating about these things can only lead you to magnify the small foibles which will make your partner even more irritating to you.

2. Express your affection to your partner physically

Feeling love and affection toward your partner is important, but so is expressing that love and affection in physical ways. Studies suggest it’s not wise to play hard to get when your goal is to build the passion in your relationship.

Expressions of affection don’t have to be overly gushy or elaborate at all. A kiss on the cheek or touch on the shoulder is often enough to build intensity in your relationship. Similarly, in secure, long-term relationships, having more sex is often a positive expression of love’s intensity.

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Researchers Michelle Russell and James McNulty of the University of Tennessee say frequent sex could be the answer to maintain feelings of love and happiness that endure over time.

Even if the sex isn’t good now, keep it up. Other studies indicate sex may get better with age, despite a lower sex drive.

3. Talk with your partner face-to-face

You probably already know that communication is a vital component that determines the quality of any relationship. But, did you know that the method in which you communicate is also critical to the quality of your relationship?

Scientists have found that couples who talk face-to-face are more likely to stay together. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that women are generally happier the more they communicate with their partners face-to-face.

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Calling, texting, Skyping, and the like are OK, but communicating via electronic means does not correlate with greater relationship satisfaction. For stronger and more satisfying relationships, have more face-to-face conversations with your partner.

4. Explore novel and challenging activities together

Spending time with your partner is important, but studies show it’s how you spend your time together that influences your relationship satisfaction most.

Psychologist Arthur Aron, Ph.D. and collaborator in a study reported in the prestigious journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, found that couples can improve their love for each other when they spend their time together exploring new and challenging activities. The study identified this factor as especially relevant for men.

So, if you’re going to go bungee jumping for the first time, researchers say your relationship will benefit when you and your partner face this challenge together. On the other hand, if you’re not up to bungee jumping, seek out mentally challenging ways to spice up your daily routines.

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5. Give each other space — but not too much

No matter how much you adore each other, every couple needs a little elbow room. It’s best to understand each other and how much space you both require in a relationship, and to give each other that space.

Giving your partner too little space and smothering them in the relationship is just as bad as giving them too much space and coming across as distant. In fact, a 2013 study published in the journal Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin found that if a partner wants more closeness than what they get in a relationship, they are more likely to be unhappy. This leads them to think about breaking up more, and they tend to feel depressed.

6. Maintain other passions outside of the relationship

This may sound counterproductive, but don’t give up on your passions just yet. People who approach their daily lives with zest and strong emotion seem to carry these intense feelings over to their love life as well, according to the findings of the study collaborated by Arthur Aron.

Your brain’s reward centers respond similarly to love as to getting excited about your other interests and passions. So, if you want your relationship to have passion, put that emotional energy to work in your hobbies, interests, and even political activities. Getting “fired up” in these areas of life translates into firing up the feelings you have toward your partner. The study found this rule seems have more impact for men.

Remember, the formula for keeping love alive isn’t always straightforward. But, by making conscious changes in thought and behavior, you can boost your relationship and keep it fresh and vital for years.

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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