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How to Finally Stop Fighting About the Phone

How to Finally Stop Fighting About the Phone

Technology is intended to connect us. We text, FaceTime, ping, post, tweet, and snap in seconds to anyone, anywhere. It’s supposed to make us feel closer. However, these days, technology is eating away at personal, intimate relationships. It’s increasing distance and contributing to numerous misunderstandings between partners.

Someone is on their phone when their partner takes issue with it and the conflict quickly begins: “Why are you on that thing, again?” “I was only on it for two seconds, what’s your problem?” “I told you I was going to have to check my email for work, why are you getting on my case?” “Will you relax? It’s just a quick text message. God!”

You’re not really fighting about the phone.

It’s not about the phone. It’s about two issues the phone is coming to represent: control in the relationship and exiting from the relationship.

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1. Control

When someone’s fighting with you and defending their screen time, it’s typically not because they really, really want/need to be on the phone at that exact minute. What they really, really don’t want is to feel controlled. They are reacting to the idea that you are telling them what they can or cannot do in that moment. They’re fighting against the restriction and against the limit.

They are also fighting against and defending themselves from the stories that you are creating about their use of screen time: They are just tuned out. They’re lazy, they don’t care. They resent the implications made about their phone time and seek to defend it. This is usually because they typically pick up their phone mindlessly and out of habit. They have no ill intent when they pick it up to just check something really quick” and they resent the implication that it’s about anything else.

2. Exiting

When you’re with your partner and you’re having a fine time laughing, joking, or hanging out and they suddenly pick up their phone, it can be jarring. It can trigger a quick, knee jerk reaction that can surprise you with its intensity. Suddenly, something so small has a lot of power in your relationship.

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It can take your partner away from you. It can interrupt a nice, close moment. Your partner is right there with you one moment and then, POOF! They’re gone – even if they remain in the same room with you. In that moment, intended or not, it feels like your partner has abruptly exited the relationship. It’s as if they’ve left the house suddenly without saying good-bye.

That quick disconnect is so sudden that it’s jarring and suddenly you’re fighting about the pinging sound from something no more than 6 inches big only to hear What? It’s a commercial break. I was just checking my mail.” Your partner may have indeed only been checking their email in the commercial break of your favorite television show but it felt like an exit and you fought because of the disconnect you suddenly were experiencing.

What feels like control is actually about respect.

Here’s the thing. If you’re choosing to be in a committed relationship with someone, you simply do not get to do whatever it is you want at the exact moment you want to do it. Relationships don’t work that way. You’re going to be limited and restricted in what it is you want to do based on how the other person thinks or feels.

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It’s disrespectful and rude to just disconnect with your device whenever you want without checking in or touching base about it. If your partner has a problem with something you’re doing, you both have a problem until you can come to some kind of agreement.

Like it or not, you have to make an agreement.

Couples typically fight about anything they don’t have an agreement about beforehand. It’s just easier to navigate situations when you’re on the same page beforehand. That’s how you know how much you can spend, who’s doing what chore, etc. You find yourself fighting when there is no agreement or when the agreement is broken without word or warning.

Making an agreement about the phone and screen time is going to feel like you’re being controlled.

Get over it.

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At some point, it’ll be your partner who wants to just check something quick right when you’re starting to settle in and enjoy your time together and you’ll be glad to have an agreement.

  • What times do you already agree are unplugged?
  • Is there a time of day you can both agree to be unplugged? I like to recommend the last hour or two before a couple goes to bed as unplugged time.
  • Can you turn the sound off at times so you’re deciding together when one or both of you is going to check their gadgets but otherwise are uninterrupted?
  • With the exception of an alarm for waking up, can the bedroom be an unplugged zone?
  • Can mealtimes be unplugged?
  • What’s the rule when you’re in the car? If one of you is driving and the other person is on their phone, that can feel disjointed for some but no big deal for others. Where do you guys stand?
  • When you’re hanging out together, can you both agree to quickly check with the other person before you pick up the phone to text or get online? It won’t feel like an exit if you check before leaving.
  • What are the issues that have already come up for the two of you? If you’re consistently fighting about phone time during certain activities or times of day, check in and have an agreement.

Acknowledge when you’re asking for an exception.

A friend and I like to text one another when we’re watching a certain show. It’s a fun, memory making time for us but it’s also during the unplugged time my husband and I have agreed on. I don’t get to just turn on my phone and start texting her without checking in with him and saying something. We might have to struggle through the discussion a bit because he doesn’t get why it’s important to me but we’re less likely to fight and more apt to reach a compromise if we discuss it.

Take care of the relationship and everything else will follow.

No one wants to feel controlled. No one wants to be accused of exiting from the relationship just because they’ve picked up their phone but those feelings are real and they need to be attended to. Come together and make an agreement that feels right for both of you. It won’t be iron tight but it’s a start. Take care of your relationship and it’ll take care of you.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.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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