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What To Expect During Engagement

What To Expect During Engagement

Every phase of a relationship has its own joys and challenges–singleness, dating, engagement, and marriage. I recently transitioned from “In a relationship” to “Engaged” on Facebook. The newness of it all since the proposal has dimmed some, but the question has lingered, “Now what?! I’ve never made it this far before!”

For those of you who have, kudos! But for the rest of us, here are some things to know about this new landscape that has opened up in our relationship.

1. There’s a lot of planning

I don’t know if anyone has told you, but engagement is the time of preparation for marriage, primarily planning the wedding! I went into engagement grossly underestimating just how much planning goes into a wedding (and ours is by no means extravagant!). There are so many choices that must be made, so go ahead and brace yourself. Yes, it is a stressful process, but it is also the greatest joy because you are PLANNING YOUR WEDDING!!! It’s finally happening, and you get to decide what color palette to use, what kind and color of flowers to use, where to get a venue… and it’s for you and your spouse-to-be!

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Tip to the dudes from a currently engaged dude: Man up and get involved in the planning process. Your partner needs you (and wants you) to participate–now is not the time to slack off. Jump in with both feet and help your partner out because there’s a lot to be done.

2. There’s a lot of intimacy

The greatest thing about the engagement period is that a whole new level of intimacy opens up between you and your spouse-to-be. The deepest parts of your personalities surface–especially in stressful situations like planning–and you get the chance to learn each other on such a deep level. My fiancée and I are becoming so much closer as we are on the planning path to becoming one. I am growing to love her so much more as we begin the process of building a life together, and it is a beautiful thing. Relish this moment and this season of engagement because it will be stressful, but it will be some of the sweetest time with your future Mr. or Mrs.

3. There’s a lot of family

I’ve heard it said many times, “You don’t marry INTO the family, you marry THE FAMILY!” but I never realized exactly what that meant until engagement. Kels (my fiancée) and I had to spend quite a while coordinating with both of our families to set a date that worked well for them–talk about a task! There is also more involvement from both of our families as we are knitting them both together. Kels and I even talked about how to share holidays between our families–THAT’S a new concept for me.

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Don’t expect the welding of two families to be an easy process–there are two very different cultures of people being united into one. Just like it takes time for two people to get to know each other and learn how to interact with each other, it is the same with families. Have patience and boatloads of grace.

4. There’s a lot of compromise

I’m not a particularly opinionated person, but I still have preferences on occasion. Kels, on the other hand, knows exactly what she wants (even if she doesn’t actually want it…) and I love her for it. Throughout our relationship we have had some disagreements, but even more so during engagement because there are so many more decisions and opinions that go into planning a wedding. But alas, all is not lost! There is a solution to the disagreements. Learn how to compromise with each other. And I don’t mean you each get half of what you want (although sometimes that works). Often it means being willing to say, “You know what, let’s go with your preference.”

There are two kinds of compromise–one of which is an imposter. The first kind (the imposter) approaches a disagreement with the attitude “Well, if I can’t have it all my way, I may as well get it half-way.” This is selfish. It doesn’t solve anything. It just leaves two people unhappy. The real compromise approaches disagreement with the attitude “I want us both to be happy. I’m willing to give up what I want to make that happen.” This method solves problems, and it is a valuable skill to learn for marriage (if you haven’t learned it already!).

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5. There’s a lot of doubt

If you aren’t sure that you want to marry the person you are dating, don’t get engaged. Engagement is not an extended time to see if you want to marry someone. It is a time of planning a marriage and starting the process of becoming one. That being said, I knew Kels was the woman with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life before I got down on one knee. But during our engagement she and I have both experienced moments of doubt and fear and insecurity–marriage is a scary thing! We will be spending THE REST OF OUR LIVES together. I will only be married to HER. And she will only be married to ME.

If that doesn’t give you pause, you haven’t thought about it enough. It’s a HUGE decision. So anticipate some doubt, but don’t let that scare you away. Sometimes you need to make a decision and stick with it. I would encourage everyone to step into engagement with certainty, and then be faithful to the person to whom you have made the pledge of commitment.

6. There’s a lot of joy

Many of these tips seem to have a negative vibe to them, but don’t think for a second that engagement is a drag. As a man currently in the engagement phase, I can tell you that, even with all of its challenges, it is the greatest joy and privilege and adventure of my life. I am stoked out of my mind to be marrying Kels. I am blown away that she is willing to spend the rest of her life building a life with me. Relationships are hard. Engagement is hard. Life is hard. But it is totally worth every moment. I am growing more in love with Kels each and every day–and dang is she getting more beautiful every day, too! I can’t wait to marry her, live in the same house as her, wake up to her, laugh with her, cry with her, get sick with her (it happened this last weekend!), have children with her, raise those children with her… and the list goes on. I have found my treasure, and I’m going to treat her like the precious jewel she is.

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7. There’s a lot of everything

As you may have noticed from reading, or from personal experience, engagement just has a lot of everything. A lot of smiles. A lot of tears. A lot of planning. A lot of intimacy. Just a lot. Everything is amplified during this beautiful season–both good and bad. Roll with the punches. See it all as an awesome adventure. Even the bad things will be fond memories when you look back on it. Because it’s totally worth it.

Featured photo credit: Lemuel Cantos via flickr.com

More by this author

Austen Broome

Social Media/Public Relations Manager and Copywriter for Liquid Creative

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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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