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14 Things That We Shouldn’t Say to Our Partners Anymore (and What to Say Instead)

14 Things That We Shouldn’t Say to Our Partners Anymore (and What to Say Instead)

It’s not always easy to express what’s going on in our heart and mind. Whether it be telling a loved one about a problem that’s been upsetting us or simply telling a friend we don’t want to go out, our emotions and feelings might get in the way of our intended message. The person we’re talking to may feel hurt, get defensive, or offended. As confrontational as misunderstandings and disagreements can be, they cannot be completely avoided.

However, we are more likely to have healthy relationships if we think more consciously about how and what we say to others. And there is one particular relationship where this is so important—and that is the romantic relationship we have with our partner.

Here are 14 things that we shouldn’t say to our partners anymore (and what to say instead).

1. Instead of “I hate it when you…” say “It’d help a lot if you…”

We all have quirks. We might even have “bad habits” that grate on the nerves of others. But when you choose to be in a relationship with someone, you make a conscious decision to accept the “good” with the “bad.” As annoying or frustrating some character traits or behaviors may be, it is still a part of the person whom you care deeply about.

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Keeping this in mind, you need to be gentle in your approach. For example, you could say, “It’d help a lot if you put your dishes in the sink when you’re finished. It just makes it easier for me when I’m cleaning up after dinner.” This approach acknowledges your true feelings without hurting the other person. Telling your partner about any kind of upset does not need to be confronting in an aggressive way. You can speak up and still minimize conflict.

2. Instead of “You don’t care about how I feel” say “Sometimes I don’t feel that you take my feelings into consideration.”

When our partner says and/or does something that’s upsetting, it’s easy to assume that they don’t care about you at all. But chances are, that’s far from the truth. All of us are capable of hurting someone else, regardless of whether that was the intention or not. But what’s important is that they validate how we feel.

Rather than assuming that they don’t care, it is more respectful to say, “Sometimes I don’t feel that you take my feelings into consideration.” This will give your partner a chance to ask why you feel that way and put you both on the path to finding a solution.

3. Instead of “You don’t even try.” say “I’d like you to put in more effort.”

We all have our own responsibilities and priorities. Sometimes there are periods in our lives that are busier than others. But this doesn’t mean that we don’t care about our partner. If you’re someone who is feeling a bit neglected and thinks their partner doesn’t make an active effort anymore, then approach the topic with your partner, but be kind.

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Your partner may be working hard to make ends meet; they may be going through a crisis and need your help, or maybe they’re not “trying as hard” but don’t realize it. Rather than be confrontational, gently tell them, “I’d like you to put in more effort” and elaborate on the area that is upsetting you.

4. Instead of “You don’t love me.” say “I wish you’d paid more attention to me.”

There may be times during our relationships that we feel unloved, or that we don’t feel that our partner cares about us as much as we thought they did. It’s important that we vocalize these feelings. We can do this by saying to our partner, for example, “I wish you’d paid more attention to me.” If they’re the right person for you, they will want to know why you feel this way and how they can stop you from feeling this way.

5. Instead of “You never tell me how you’re feeling.” say “I know it’s hard for you to open up, but I’d like to know what you’re feeling.”

For many people, it’s hard for them to express how they’re feeling. They might not even know what it is that they’re feeling. Rather than be confrontational, try a much gentler approach and say, “I know it’s hard for you to open up, but I’d like to know what you’re feeling.” This approach acknowledges that it’s not easy for your partner and encourages them to talk about it.

6. Instead of “You never treat me as an equal.” say “I’d like you to help more with…”

If you feel that your partner doesn’t do their part in helping around the house, with the children, and/or value your opinion—it could be quite possible that they don’t realize it. So, a “you” statement might just leave them feeling defensive. Instead, tell them, “I’d like you to help more around the house/with the kids” or “I wish I could have more of a say in where we eat dinner.” These statements are far more direct and a better indication of what is upsetting you.

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7. Instead of “You never think about the future.” say “I’ve been thinking about _____ and was wondering what your thoughts are on this?”

Although people can have very differing views of short-term and long-term goals, it is never appropriate to label them as “right” or “wrong.” People value different things and have different plans for the future. If your partner is quite different than you in this respect, you need to remember that they may not look at life the same way you do. So, if you still want to approach this topic, it would be more appropriate to say, for example, “I’ve been thinking about _____ and was wondering what your thoughts are on this? I just want to see if we’re on the same page.” This would seem less of a personal attack on your partner and also help you to better understand where the relationship is heading.

8. Instead of “You can’t…” say “I don’t like it when you…”

As much as relationships add value to our lives, it’s important for us to value ourselves and our independence. As much as you dislike some aspect of your partner’s life, you can’t ban them from behavior you don’t agree with. You can’t force them to follow a different direction. For example, you can’t say, “You can’t go drinking with your friends” because you hate drinking. You can, however, accept that is a part of them and who they are. You can still be honest and say, “I don’t like it when you drink so much because…”

9. Instead of “I don’t like your family and/or friends.” say “I’m worried that your family and/or friends are having a negative impact on your life.”

It’s quite possible that you don’t actually like your partner’s family and/or friends. But you need to re-evaluate your reasons for this and whether your feelings have more to do with you than with them. Are you feeling jealous that your partner spends so much time with them? If that is the case, you could try saying, “I’d love to spend more time with you.” If your reasons are definitely tied to your partner’s family and/or friends, then be honest. You could say, “I’m worried that your family and/or friends are having a negative impact on your life.” then add your reasons for why you believe this.

10. Instead of “Why did you come home so late?” say “I was really worried about you. I wish that you’d let me know that you were running late.”

This statement itself doesn’t sound particularly confronting, but the problem lies more in the tone. Communication is key in any relationship, but sometimes, your partner might have plans that come up out of the blue. If you wish they’d called or messaged to say they’re running late, it might be better to say, “I was really worried about you. I wish that you’d let me know that you were running late.” This gets your message across, without adding further anxiety to your partner’s mental state. Maybe your partner was late for a perfectly valid reason and is already feeling quite remorseful about it.

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11. Instead of “Why do you spend so much money?” say “I’m worried about how we’re spending our money.”

Many people differ with their spending habits. They prioritize certain types of spending over others. If you are worried that your partner’s spending is affecting your finances as a couple, it is reasonable that you want to speak up. However, just like every other topic, this should be done tactfully. You could try saying, “I’m worried about how we’re spending our money. Maybe we could both work out areas where we could cut down on our spending?” This shows that you’re not just “pointing a finger.”

12. Instead of “All you do is work.” say “I’m worried about you working so hard.”

Life is about trying our best to maintain balance, but it’s also about plenty of responsibility. Your partner might be quite passionate about their career, have extra deadlines to meet, or simply not have realized that they are overworking themselves. Rather than finding ‘fault’ with their behavior, express your concern. Try saying, “I’m worried about you working so hard. I miss spending time with you.” Hopefully, your partner will see that your comments come from a kind and loving place—and they will be more likely to re-evaluate their priorities.

13. Instead of “It’s all your fault.” say “When you do/say _____, I feel _____.”

When you’re having a disagreement with your partner, it’s easy to fall into the “them vs you” trap, to believe that everything is about “winning.” But it’s not. In order to grow as a couple and to learn from each other, you must both be willing to accept responsibility for the relationship. Rather than laying blame on your partner, it’s more constructive to say, “When you do/say _____, I feel _____.” If your partner understands how you feel and feels remorseful, then you can both work together to find a solution.

14. Instead of “I want you to change.” ask yourself, “What can I do to help the relationship?”

It’s so easy to look outwards as opposed to inwards, to focus on the weaknesses of others. But in order to have a healthy relationship, it’s important to compromise, to learn from our partner, to stop the finger pointing and ‘”blame game,” and to make changes within ourselves that will improve us and the relationship. When we choose someone to be our partner, we choose all of them. Both their strengths and weaknesses, even their flaws. If one of their character traits is affecting the relationship, you could gently say, “It hurts me when you ____.”

e need to focus on how we’re feeling, not on labeling our partner. It is not our job to “change” someone. We do, however, have the chance to help them fulfill their potential, to be an encourager and motivator, to reveal their own inner beauty. When you choose to stand by their side, you’re choosing to work together and make each other better. It’s these types of healthy relationships that impact us for the better and help us to become the person that we were destined to be.

Featured photo credit: Nick Fuentes via flickr.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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