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12 Science-Based Tips On How To Maintain Happy, Lasting Relationships

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12 Science-Based Tips On How To Maintain Happy, Lasting Relationships

Have you ever made silly mistakes that ruined great relationships? I can’t be the only one, can I? Well, since then, I’ve read a lot more about the science on how to have happy and long-lasting relationships, whether with romantic partners or family and friends. My wife and I have been together for 18 years, over half my life, and I have a wonderful circle of close friends. I want to share these science-based tips with you to help you avoid those silly mistakes and help your relationships flourish!

1. Be intentional.

Be intentional and figure out the truth about your relationship. Think through all aspects of your relationship—your feelings and thoughts, the other person’s feelings and thoughts, and the external context. If you notice yourself flinching away from a certain aspect of reality, this is the time to double down your focus and really get at the truth. The things you flinch away from, the truths you don’t want to acknowledge to yourself, are likely to be the ones that will most undermine your relationship in the future. It’s better to face the truth squarely in the face right now and address it rather than let it sabotage your relationship in the long run.

2. Avoid failing at their mind.

One of the biggest dangers in close relationships is assuming the other person is exactly the same as you in their feelings and thoughts, and thus failing at their mind. This is something that’s so easy to flinch away from, as our emotional self just doesn’t want to accept that the person we’re so close to is actually different from us—sometimes very different. I know I made this mistake, and it cost me dearly in the past. So how to avoid it?

3. Use Tell Culture.

Use Tell Culture! Tell Culture is a communication strategy where you are open and honest with close people in your life about your feelings and thoughts, about what’s going on with you, lowering your private barrier and being vulnerable and authentic. Tell them information about yourself that you think they would want to know.

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For example, if you want a hug, you should tell the other person that you would enjoy a hug. However, for Tell Culture to work, it’s really important for you not to expect that the other person will hug you. You are responsible for telling them about your needs and desires, and they are then free to act as they choose based on their own needs and desires.

4. Remove communication barriers.

For open and honest communication to work, you need to remove communication barriers. Figure out your individual communication preferences and then compromise on something that works well for both of you.

5. Practice emotional attunement.

As you communicate with each other, don’t listen only to what the other person is saying, also listen to the emotions underneath the words. Notice whether the other person seems stressed, frazzled, sad, frustrated, confused, pleased, glad, joyful, etc.

Pay attention to the tone of the voice, body language, and what is not being said as well as the content of the words. Such emotional attunement will level up your ability to understand the other person, and respond in ways that lead to happy and long-lasting relationships.

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6. Check in on your relationships.

This is a magic-bullet solution to so many relationship problems! Schedule systematic meetings to talk about the state of your relationship and what can be improved. For the process, you can follow this science-based questionnaire or come up with your own approach to the relationship check-in.

For example, my wife and I have a relationship check-in every two weeks. We first talk about what we appreciated most about each other during the last two weeks. Then we discuss what can be improved in our relationship, and how to do so. We then finish up with gratitude to each other for doing the relationship check-in and have some delicious chocolate to reward ourselves. It’s done wonders for improving our relationship!

7. Trust others.

All of these strategies will help you build up trust, what research shows is key to having happy, lasting relationships. Always keep in the back of your mind a personal evaluation of the level of trust in the relationship. How much do you trust the other person to act in ways that both match your mental model of that person? How much do you trust that person to have your back?

If you want an intentional relationship, do things to build up trust and gather information about the other person’s trustworthiness. Exhibit vulnerability and openness, share secrets, and be generous in your offers to compromise. If the other person shows themselves trustworthy, then be more committed to the relationship. If they do not, then re-evaluate your own level of commitment, as the relationship likely will not work in the long term.

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8. Respect boundaries and privacy.

A key aspect of showing trust is allowing each other to set boundaries and permitting privacy. Technological developments make it so easy for us to track each other and to be in constant communication. However, permitting each other to have a private space and avoiding pushing the other person to do things they would prefer not to do helps a lot in creating sustaining happiness in relationships. Respecting boundaries and permitting privacy will do wonders for building up mutual trust!

9. Have healthy conflicts.

Surprise, conflicts can be healthy in relationships! If you go into a relationship expecting never to fight, you’ll lose out on great relationships because the first fight might well lead to the end of the relationship. Instead, learn strategies for healthy conflict resolution, and talk about them with your relationship partner before the fact.

Start any conflicts by highlighting how you care about the other person and the relationship. Talk about both the facts and how you feel about them. Avoid the blame game and instead be as generous as you can be in interpreting the other person’s actions. Be open to changing your mind if you discover you made the mistake and apologize quickly and profusely. Avoid focusing on the past and instead orient toward better behavior in the future. At the end of any conflict, focus on reconnecting and rebuilding emotional bonds strained by the conflict. My wife and I found these techniques to be so helpful in resolving tensions between us!

10. Meet your own goals.

Remember that you are in the relationship for yourself, not the other person. So meet your own goals first in any relationship. Be intentional and consider what you want from the relationship as you evaluate it in your own mind and heart. Don’t allow the other person’s needs and desires to overwhelm yours. Play by the rules of Tell Culture and be honest and open with the other person in the relationship about your needs and desires, and encourage that person to be honest and open with you. Otherwise, you risk building up resentment and frustration both for yourself and the other person in the relationship, and subverting the possibility of a happy and long-lasting relationship.

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11. Compromise.

Balance getting your needs met with meeting the other person’s needs. Seek a mutually beneficial compromise on any areas of disagreement. The ability to compromise is key to happy and lasting relationships. Today’s society emphasizes individuality, but for any relationship to work, we need to get out of the self-centered shell and put ourselves in the shoes of the other person, understanding their perspective, thoughts, and feelings. That makes compromise much easier! My wife and I make compromises for each other all the time, big and small, and that’s how we keep our relationship strong.

12. Don’t fight against change or diversity.

People change and relationships change all the time. This is not something to mourn, but just a fact of life, to be acknowledged and celebrated. Sometimes, relationship needs to become more diverse for both people to remain happy. So consider the possibilities of non-traditional relationships such as polyamory and others. At other times, people who were right for each other earlier are no longer right for each other. To ensure mutual happiness, it’s important to let each other go at that stage. The key is to be intentional and pursue your own goals in any relationship you are in.

I hope these science-based tips help you have happy, lasting relationships!

Featured photo credit: Love is in the air via flickr.com

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More by this author

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

Cognitive neuroscientist and behavioral economist; CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts; multiple best-selling author

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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