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If You Want to Save Your Relationship, Be Willing to Be Vulnerable

If You Want to Save Your Relationship, Be Willing to Be Vulnerable

Does your relationship feel like “groundhogs day?” If so, you are probably experiencing never-ending, repetitive conversations that create a vicious, repetitve and toxic cycle with no solutions in sight.

Conversations to create clarity usually lead to more frustration with little hope in sight. When you are in this place, it’s important to consider how you want to proceed. Is couples therapy an option? Will it be worth the effort? Or, should you just let the sparks die and move on? I’ve always believed that every serious relationship experiences one monumental, penultimate moment in which the couple has a choice: do you choose to work through it and stay together, or have you accomplished all you can as a couple and it’s time to go separate ways.

Lets explore the possibilities to give you some insight into the different roads you can travel down and what they look like.

Couples therapy is for the ones who are willing to give their relationship a fighting chance.

Arriving at the realization that it’s time to get help for your relationship is not an easy one. While couple’s counselling is becoming less and less taboo, the idea of seeing a therapist can seem dramatic. You may not think your relationship warrants professional help. Maybe you assure yourself that it’s “not that bad.” But remember there are expert relationship counselors for a reason. It’s important to know that choosing therapy is not a way to get someone on your side and convince your partner you’re right and they should listen to you. Rather the point of couple’s counselling is to better understand yourself and how you behave in a relationship, while also learning more about your partner. Through therapy, the two of you would address the interactions and patterns that have led to the problems you face and hopefully look for solutions to remedy them.

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Accepting you need help can be challenging when you are very close to the problem. In fact, when you’re in the midst of the issue, it can be difficult to realize there is an alternative, let alone identify what got you to this point in the first place.

Of course, admitting that you don’t have all the answers requires humility. Admitting that you don’t know how to move things in a better direction will inevitably open the door to change. Often, most couples get in the way of their own change – usually unintentionally. So, if you (and your loved one) are willing to be vulnerable, you will give your relationship a fighting chance.

You have to be willing.

Couples therapy only works when a couple is willing to be “raw and real.” Your job is not to make the therapist think you’re a great girlfriend/boyfriend, etc. but rather to be as honest as possible in a safe space while a neutral party guides the conversation. Therapeutic change requires an interest to make your internal conversation external. Yes, your secret thoughts and inner conversation must be revealed.

Therapeutic change happens when a couple is willing to leave the comfort zone. What this means is embracing an openness to act in ways in your relationship that are different that you know yourself to be. Many patterns can be very hard-wired over time. Long-term change only happens when the “lens” that you both use to see one another begins to shift.

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In couples therapy, weekly interventions and experiential activities can begin the process of creating shifts. At first, the change may feel awkward and uncomfortable because you are introducing behavior that is new. It’s like beginning to go to the gym for the first time. Feeling sore and having some aches and pains is normal. It means you are pushing yourself. You are growing. All change requires discomfort. If you are open to experiencing new ways of being in your relationship the possibilities for change in couples therapy are endless. It all depends on you (and your loved one).

Couples therapy is worth it when couples are willing to make changes.

Your therapist doesn’t exist to “fix” your love. Your therapist cannot promise that he/she will be able to solve your problems. But the therapist can provide the opportunity to delve into issues without the fear of starting a nasty fight. While it would be nice if there was a magic fix to broken relationships, it just isn’t so. Couples therapy requires much footwork, patience and determination.

Now, this is not to ignore the reality that a couples expert should be highly skilled in knowing how to create therapeutic change. Both during a couples therapy session and outside the session there are countless ways to help couples create change and positive shifts in their relationship. The part that the therapist can’t control is the couple’s willingness to invite change into their lives.

Just like the gym example earlier, you can hire a personal trainer to help you create the kind of body you like but you have to be willing to put in the work. Many times, people ask for change and are simply not willing to place the effort and energy forth required to create shifts. You and your loved one have to want the change badly and be willing to do whatever is necessary to introduce change into your relationship. Its a process you engage in together and its critical that you work as “one” in order to create deep, lasting change.

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Couples counselling can heal relationships through improved communication, revitalizing emotional connection and renegotiating commitments to each other. No relationship is ever going to be perfect, but counselling creates the opportunity to find balance.[1]

Even if you really think it’s time to end the relationship, a counselor can help.

If you (or your loved one) are not sure if you care enough about the relationship to seek help, seeing a counselor can still help you have a clean, healthy breakup. Though it may seem counter-intuitive to see a counselor to help you end a relationship, the truth is that healthy breakups are much more valuable than dramatic, toxic ones. A counselor can help you evaluate what didn’t work in the relationship, ultimately helping you find a relationship that will work in the future. And if you aren’t sure if you want to break up or fight for your love, a counselor can still be helpful in helping you to identify what you need.

Make sure the therapist you choose intends to help you.

While there are plenty of therapists out there who would be more than willing to take your money and listen to you talk about your relationship problems, you need to make sure your therapist has receives specific training and is experienced in marital therapy. Make sure they have the intention of helping you and your partner find solutions in an unbiased way, rather than immediately jumping to assisting you in ending things. You also need to feel supported, respected and comfortable with your therapist. Sure, it may be awkward at first, but once that passes, you need to feel like you’re with someone who cares.

Make sure to set goals with your partner ahead of time. What is it you are trying to accomplish? Don’t just go in and start venting. Make sure the therapist knows what you are trying to work through. This will make everyone’s life easier. The best way to find the right therapist is often word of mouth. If any of your friends are in counseling with their partner, ask them who they use and how they like them. Don’t worry, everything is confidential, so no one will be spreading rumors.[2]

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As for cost, on average counselors charge between $75 and $150 an hour. It is recommended to attend therapy for three months with one session per week. If you feel like you can’t afford it, but you truly want a specific counselor, call and ask if they offer any type of discounts. The worst they can say is no.[3]

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] Marriage & Relationship Counselling Sydney: How Can Couples Counselling Benefit Our Relationship?
[2] Psychology Today: How to Choose a Good Marital Therapist
[3] HusbandHelpHaven: What is the Average Cost of Marriage Counseling?

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Heather Poole

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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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