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Brutal Truths You Need To Know For Having A Healthy Relationship

Brutal Truths You Need To Know For Having A Healthy Relationship

OK, I know what you’re thinking… who are you to tell me about healthy relationships? Are you some kind of expert or something? No, I’m not an expert on healthy relationships. But, I have been married for 20 years (to the same person) and we’ve learned a thing or two along the way about the realities of making it work. These points may come across as harsh but sometimes the truth hurts, especially when it’s worth hearing. So here goes…

You’re not perfect, Superstar

We all have to get to know ourselves in order to function healthfully in our relationships, and part of that is owning our crap. None of us are perfect. I’m not and you’re not. So let’s get over ourselves, admit our flaws, and make a commitment to try to be better.

And neither is your partner

See above. If you’re not willing to be held to a standard of perfection, then you can’t expect your partner to be either.

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Relationships take work

Because you’re not perfect, you’re going to screw up and so is your partner. You are going to get cranky and take it out on each other. You’re going to forget to pay the bills on time and they will leave dirty socks on the floor because it’s just not a priority to pick them up. What should be a priority is loving and appreciating each other for who you are and what you each bring to the relationship. When you do this, you can expect the same from each other in return. Then you work together to find mutually agreeable solutions to the other stuff.

It’s a give and take, but it’s not always going to be 50/50. Get used to it

Relationships have a rhythm. There will be times when you need extra support from your partner and times when your partner needs extra from you. If you both truly love and care about each other, you’ll each want to give more than you receive. On the other hand, when the ratio of give to take is perpetually unbalanced, it’s time to re-evaluate the health of the relationship.

Communication is key; because mind reading is unreliable

As much as you want may them to be, your partner is not a mind reader and shouldn’t be expected to “just know” anything about you, what you want, or how you feel. So start talking… and listening because you’re not a mind reader, either. As author don Miguel Ruiz stated in The Four Agreements, “Don’t Make Assumptions.” When you communicate clearly with each other you avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. When you assume, you make as ass out of… well, you know.

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You will fight. If you don’t ever fight, then neither of you is invested enough in the relationship to make it last

Because we only spend time and energy on things we care about. If you passed anger and hurt feelings miles ago and have entered Apathy-town… then do yourself and your partner a favor and end it so that you can each move on.

If you are thinking about leaving the relationship, chances are your partner is too

If you (or your partner) feel “blindsided” by an admission of unhappiness in the relationship, then you probably aren’t paying enough attention to the relationship and need to re-evaluate your commitment to each other.

What your partner doesn’t know CAN and most likely WILL hurt them (Because they are going to find out. Oh, yes they will.)

We are living in the social media age in a town called Selfie-ville… Take my advice and live your life as if Every. Single. Thing. you do is going to be posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Whether it’s your page or your friend’s or your friend’s friends’, it’s going to get out and your partner is going to find out and be hurt, humiliated, and quite probably plotting revenge by the time you get home.

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Comparing your partner to others is a sure way to kill your relationship fast

Oh yeah? If that person over there is so great, then why aren’t you with them or trying to get with them? Listen, if someone else is so far superior to your partner that you need to make comparisons, then please by all means take a hike over to the greener grass… and let your partner be free to find someone who appreciates them for who they are and what they bring to the relationship.

The relationships we have with our caregivers in childhood may drive how we behave in our adult relationships

Psychoanalyst John Bowlby (1907-1990) theorized that children form attachments with their caregivers from infant-hood, and the quality of those attachments drive instinctive behaviors that can follow us into adulthood (1969, 1980). For example, if your partner’s mother (or other primary caregiver) was cold and distant, or inconsistent in caring for their needs, then they may have developed an innate sense of insecurity and mistrust that could be driving their adult behaviors like clinging, insecurity in the relationship, or defensiveness, to name a few. So…much of what your partner does may have very little to do with you and more to do with the relationship they had to their primary caregiver as a child. (And vice versa, just in case you were wondering…)

You won’t change them and continuously trying to do so is unfair and can become abusive

Constantly picking at someone to make them change erodes self-confidence and self-image. You may think you’re doing it “to help them” or “because you care sooooo much” about them. You’re not. You’re trying to change someone you don’t really like into someone that you can love and neither of you are going to be better for it. So either accept the person for who they are and work on understanding them “as is”, or let them go and move on to someone who doesn’t need so much of your “fixing.”

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Speaking of… if you only take one thing away from this article at all please let it be this:

Abusive partners DO NOT change

Whether they are verbally, emotionally, mentally, or physically abusive, they will not see the error of their ways and learn to treat you better. They will not grow out of it. And they will do it again… and again… and again. They will continue to abuse you. Your only option is to get out of the relationship any way you can; get help to pick up the pieces and find yourself again; and learn to recognize the signs so you can avoid those people in the future.

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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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