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5 Signs You’re In A Healthy Relationship

5 Signs You’re In A Healthy Relationship

Relationships are risky. No matter how well you think you know the other person, there is no guarantee you won’t get hurt. In fact, in the best of relationships, couples disappoint or hurt each other from time to time. No secret there. Most of us can deal with that. In the end, we are imperfect people forming imperfect relationships.

However, repeated or severe hurt can really threaten security in a relationship. Lies, betrayal, selfishness, or controlling behavior will shake the foundation. What foundation am I talking about?

I’m talking about trust.

If you want a healthy relationship, you have to work hard on building trust between you. This takes time and effort by both sides. One cannot do the work of two. It never works that way. A mutual effort is needed.

In a healthy relationship, couples value trust and protect it together. They build on this foundation by making certain agreements.

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So how do you know if your relationship has what it takes?  Check this out.

1. You allow each other space to be yourself

Relationships need space for each person to breathe. If you give up too much of yourself you will suffocate! Healthy couples don’t allow this to happen. Instead, they accept each other. They also encourage and support the expression of these individual differences. This includes accommodating each other’s need for personal time.

I enjoy sports, rock n’ roll, and contemporary movies. My wife prefers nature walks, 80s music, and classic movies. I don’t try to get her to be like me, nor does she try to get me to change. We accept our differences and enter each other’s world occasionally.

In a healthy relationship, support is mutual. Honoring personal boundaries shows respect. When you feel accepted, respected, and supported by your partner, the relationship is solid.

2. You keep your relationship exclusive

Another sign of a healthy relationship is an agreement couples make to keep their relationship exclusive. They establish boundaries to keep private the love and romance they share. These couples avoid getting into compromising relationships that threaten the security of their bond.

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Affairs are a big threat today in our culture. Ashley Madison is one of many examples. The existence of an affair, even though hidden, shifts a relationship from exclusive to inclusive. A mysterious third party now enters sacred territory. When an affair is exposed, it severely damages the relationship. I help couples recover from an affair. Trust me, you do not want to be in that arena!

If you want your relationship to be healthy, make a mutual agreement to keep sacred the love you have for each other. When it comes to romance and matters of the heart, keep it exclusive. Don’t allow anyone but your mate in that space.

3. You make a regular investment in the relationship

There is an easy way to tell if a couple has a healthy relationship: their calendar. These couples have regular date nights and occasional weekends away. They know this is money well invested (notice I didn’t say spent).

In my work with couples, I encourage them to have planned time and pockets of time. Planned time as I already described is on your calendar. Pockets of time pop up during the day or week and allow you a small break to connect. You can use it to share a latte at Starbucks or jump in the sack for a quickie!

The investment healthy couples make is not only time and money. They also invest in a daily effort to stay tuned in to each other. These couples find ways to check in with each other during the day.

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My wife and I do the occasional text and phone call. Recently, I was blindsided by a major problem that happened at work. During a chat with my wife, she stepped away from her desk, listened to me unload, and talked me off the ledge with her calm and supportive voice.

The effort to stay tuned in accomplishes several things. It allows you to know what’s going on with your partner. It gives you an opportunity to offer support. Also, knowing that you have each other’s back feels good!

4. You are friends and lovers

Balancing friendship and romance is a definite sign you have a healthy relationship. Maintaining laughter, having a sense of humor, with your partner pumps oxygen into the relationship. Nothing better than a good laugh together to work out stress and keep things in perspective. Isn’t that what friends enjoy doing?

A sense of adventure is also good too! Do you do fun things together? When was the last time you tried something new together? One of the couples I work with started taking dance lessons. Totally new territory for them. They really enjoy learning something new together. It has been great for the relationship!

When we travel, we love to hit the backroads and see what surprises come up along the way. Some of the best memories my wife and I have happen when we go off-roading.

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Healthy couples also keep the hunt alive in their relationship. They still flirt with each other, sending sexual cues back and forth. Romance remains a front-burner activity, getting plenty of action to satisfy each other’s need for romance.

5. You talk well, and listen better

People in a healthy relationship know how to communicate really well. They know that listening is the differentiator in good communication. If you know the art of listening and validating your partner, you are light years ahead of most couples.

People who communicate poorly talk over each other, do not listen well, react in a defensive manner, and let their emotions get out of control. If you want a healthy relationship, communicate with this approach in mind:

  • Slow down when you talk.
  • Keep your emotions in check.
  • Listen to what your partner says.
  • Summarize what you hear and validate feelings.
  • Avoid using the word “but” too quickly or often.
  • Give each other the courtesy of being heard and understood.

Featured photo credit: Dollar Photo Club via dollarphotoclub.com

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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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