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How Pronouns can Affect the Quality of Your Relationships

How Pronouns can Affect the Quality of Your Relationships

Although most of us never really consider how we use words, particularly pronouns, we need to realize their potential in positively or negatively influencing the quality of our relationships. By consciously and mindfully selecting inclusive pronouns in our interactions, we can create a sense of unity and purpose in our relationships. When we select and use possessive and singular pronouns, we tend to isolate ourselves and alienate those we share our lives with.

I, me, he, she, herself, you, it, that, they, each, few, many, who, whoever, whose, someone, everybody, etc. are words that take the place of a noun. We use them constantly in our lives. They shape our lives and the quality of life that we share. How we use pronouns says a lot about what we believe of others, ourselves, our lives– and here’s why.

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It seems so simple, but if we learn to use less of some pronouns and more of others, we can enjoy a highly elevated quality of life. It may surprise you to know that the pronouns “I” and “me” can be the most destructive pronouns to use. Oftentimes when we use the pronoun “I”, we omit the existence of anybody else but ourselves. The word “me” also implies that we have no concern for another person in our statement.

Moving on to the pronoun “mine”. It is no coincidence that the word “mine” can be used to describe both a state of ownership, as well as a very deep hole, or a kind of bomb. Consider how many conflicts begin in relationships due to the use of the word “mine”. Then consider the outcome of conflicts that end badly due to the use of the words, “me, mine, or I”. Nearly every conflict that results in tragedy has within it a reason that includes the words “me, mine, or I.”

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People end up alone due to the overuse of the words me, mine, and I. People end up hurting each other deeply because of the use of these three words. People end up in prison and in court because of their use of these words. People also end up dead, because of the use of the words, I, me, and mine.

It is ironic that if we just learned to replace those three words, we could enjoy a much more productive and fulfilling life. Unfortunately, many social norms encourage and even honor the use of possessive and singular pronouns. Consider how normal it is today for example, to say the phrase, “that is my car, I bought it”. If you are a part of a marriage or any other kind of relationship, using the words I, me, or mine, completely invalidate the existence of the other partner. Would it not be more productive to say something like, “This is our car, we bought it”, even if the money you technically bought it with, was your own?

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The same concept applies when it comes to parenting with your significant other. Who has not heard or used the phrase “That is my child”, when in reality the phrase should say, “he/she is our child”.

If you have ever been around young children, and seen them fight with each other, they will often only use one word against one another, and that is the pronoun “mine”.

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It is not ironic that as we get older, we become more ensconced in our use of these words either. As we age, we accomplish things, and acquire things, and it is just natural that we would deem these accomplishments and acquisitions as explicitly our own. In reality however, no one ever accomplishes anything completely by him or herself.

If you have anything or have done anything, it is because other people helped you along the way somehow. No one is truly “self-made”. There are always supporters, encouragers, and helpers, who contribute their own time and resources into our successes.

By exchanging the words I, me, and mine, with we, us, and ours, we start to become a part of something larger than ourselves. We start to recognize that we all need each other, and have more things in common than not. We start to enjoy a higher quality of life, and develop an awareness of other people’s needs. In addition, we can enjoy the benefits of fulfillment personally and professionally, because pronouns can be our friends, or our enemies depending on how we use them.

Featured photo credit: Kaboom Pics- People on the pier via kaboompics.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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