“Intimacy is based on shared vulnerability…Nothing deepens intimacy like the experiences we share when feel flayed, with our skins off, scared and vulnerable, and our partner is there with us, willing to share in the scary stuff.” ~Dossie Easton & Catherine Liszt
Ever had that dream where you leave the house naked? That’s the dream we all dread. It’s not feasible that you would wake up in the morning and simply forget to put clothes on–but the dream still terrifies most people.Advertising
The same can be said for those who struggle with making and maintaining intimate connections. Does the thought of allowing yourself to be completely vulnerable and letting someone see your bare naked soul terrify you? Do you find yourself going from one relationship to another, but you can never seem to find true love? If this is you, you may have intimacy issues.
Many people struggle with developing an intimate relationship with others for a variety of reasons such as:Advertising
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of being hurt
- Fear of exploitation
- Past experiences
- Inability to trust
- Traumatic childhood experiences
These are all legitimate intimacy blockers and valid fears. When we lower our guard and allow people to get close, there are consequences–good and bad.
True Intimacy Keeps People Bonded
Intimacy is a close personal connection between two people that is developed over time. Typically, we learn how to develop intimate relationships as children through our interactions with out parents and close family members. As we grow older, opportunities arise to develop other intimate relationships outside of the home. We learn to establish commitment and trust, and build connections through work, play, sex, and shared experiences. The journey towards creating intimate relationships is therefore potentially never ending and everyone’s experience in learning to be intimate is different.Advertising
The one constant and fundamental truth concerning intimacy is we all have a deep, innate need to have intimate relationships in our lives. Psychologist understand and have proven that relationships matter to our sense of well-being. Throughout life, we need relationships to help us feel connected, boost our feelings of self-worth, and sustain our moods.
The Truth about Letting your Guard Down
When determining how to lower your guard and trust people, there are a few things you must consider, understand and accept.The first of which is that intimacy involves risk. This is just a hard truth about intimate relationships. You could get hurt. But on the other hand you could enter into a relationship and experience love at its deepest level–the kind of love musicians sing about and laureate wax poetically about. You could find yourself in a deep meaningful relationship and experience the euphoria of being totally and completely loved and accepted exactly as you are–flaws and all. Consider the possibility of experiencing true, unbridled, intense and passionate love. As intimacy grows, the intensity of the love and passion grows as well. This happens over time.Advertising
Intimacy Takes Baby Steps
The next fact is that developing an intimate relationship takes time; intimacy is a gradual process. Take baby steps. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT bare your soul and present your heart on a platter on a first date. You are begging for rejection. We all want to be loved and accepted but we must be considerate of the other person. Believe it or not, you are a lot to take in all at once. Throwing all that you are at a stranger or mild acquaintance, all at once isn’t fair to them. Divulge your true self in small doses. Get to know them as you allow them to get to know you. Evaluate their response and then proceed a little further. As you see them begin to open up, you do the same. Mirror their level of intimacy until you are comfortable and it feels safe to share a bit more of yourself.
Mirror Your Expectations
As you begin to gradually open up and connect to the other person, you will have the urge to pull back. During these times it is critical that you remember that you have to give in order to receive. If you want acceptance you have to give it. If you want trust you must first be trustworthy. If you want someone to open up and expose themselves to you, you must do the same. You have to model the behavior you are expecting. Ask questions and genuinely become interested in who your partner (or potential partner) is without judgement. Intimacy occurs when both people share and are transparent and honest with each other. The relationship is not truly intimate if only one person is open.
Learn to Express Yourself
Lastly, understand that as intimacy builds shutting down and refusing to share can quickly kill the intimacy. Learn how to express yourself. Expressing our thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, fears and traumas is difficult. Talking is only one mode of communication. Write out your dreams, journal your feelings and fears and then, let your significant other read it. Illustrate your feelings in a painting or drawing and use that as a catalyst for conversation. Find songs that evoke deep emotion or remind you of an experience you had and allow your special someone to hear it and then explain why it is so meaningful to you. There are so many avenues to generate conversation and get naked emotionally–use whatever vehicle that best suits you. Find a way to be open.
A Wise Word on Intimacy
Intimacy is cleverly described by some in the faith community as “In-to-me-see.” When you refuse to allow yourself to be truly seen, you are preventing yourself the emotional sustenance you need to be your best and most complete self. Intimacy is risky but the love and connection that results is definitely worth the risk.
Last Updated on January 15, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension. 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.
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? 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.
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.
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:
“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.
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.
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
- Increasing Confidence with Body Language
- 8 Fatal Body Language Mistakes To Avoid During Presentations
- Be Instantly Irresistible With These 10 Body Language Tips
Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com
|||^||Berkeley News: The 16 facial expressions most common to emotional situations worldwide|
|||^||Science Daily: Teeth grinding and facial pain increase due to coronavirus stress and anxiety|
|||^||National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint & Muscle Disorders|
|||^||Michigan Medicine: Stress Management: Doing Progressive Muscle Relaxation|
|||^||Spectra Magazine: Oculesics: Science Speaks Where Words Do Not|
|||^||NCBI: Attention to Eye Contact in the West and East: Autonomic Responses and Evaluative Ratings|
|||^||ResearchGate: An Anthropology of the Handshake|
|||^||Sage Journals: Mapping the Range of Information Contained in the Iconic Hand Gestures that Accompany Spontaneous Speech|
|||^||Journal of Experimental Psychology: Hand Matters: Left-Hand Gestures Enhance Metaphor Explanation|