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This Is How You Worsen the Relationship Without Noticing

This Is How You Worsen the Relationship Without Noticing

I’ve committed my fair share of relationship faux pas. I wish I could tell you that I get communication right every time, but I am guilty of creating an awkward situation now and then. Studying relationships and cultivating self-awareness has helped me curtail some of my most frustrating subconscious habits. I hope that you can apply these insights to your own life so that you can have healthier and happier relationships.

Whether we’re interacting with friends, coworkers, or a significant other, there are a few pieces of relationship advice that all of us should carry at the forefront of our minds. Here are three things that we do unconsciously to sabotage our relationships.

1. Giving feedback without permission

How many times have you felt driven to give advice even when nobody asked for it?  This communication pitfall usually comes from a place of love and concern. When you love someone, you want them to be good and that’s totally normal. But our compulsion to spew out unsolicited feedback often backfires.

Just like how Ted from the movie “Ted 2” fights with his wife because his wife asked him to get some jobs. The intention is good because they really have bills to kill, but his wife ignored Ted’s stress and whether he needs this advice from her or not. Such comments with good intention ended up turning into a fight.

It happens all the time in relationships when we are so eager to help our partners to improve without thinking whether they need the advice from us. As the saying goes, “Honesty is the best policy,” but sometimes we take it too far. If you hear yourself saying, “I think you should [x]” or “your [x] is not good,” then look out. You’re probably about to give some unwanted advice.

Imagine what happens when you make a comment about a stranger’s outfit. He or she may immediately become defensive because they didn’t ask for your opinion, and you didn’t have permission to give feedback. Most people don’t mind hearing something positive about their clothing choices, but if you are offering a criticism, you are likely to offend the person.

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The Right Approach: If you feel that it is important to give feedback to someone, you have two options for how to approach the subject. You can either ask for their permission to offer feedback, or you can find ways to assure them that they can get constructive feedback from you.

Asking someone for permission to offer feedback doesn’t always work because the person may say that they are not interested in hearing it. If they don’t want to hear what you have to say, would you want to say it? Even if the outcome is not as you would like, asking saves you from offending the person.

Having someone solicit feedback from you can take more time, but it yields better results. I prefer this piece of relationship advice for giving feedback because the recipient is already primed to listen to what you have to say.

For example, imagine that your best friend just purchased new glasses. You might mention that you recently read an article about the best types of glasses for different face shapes. You note that when reading this, you realized that the frames you just pick for yourself didn’t match your face’s shape. Your comments and the knowledge that you have from researching the topic might lead your friend to ask, “How do you feel about these glasses for me?” When they ask you for feedback, they’ve granted you permission to speak your mind.

    Photo credit: Source

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    2. Neglecting their feelings when they need you

    Our emotions fluctuate throughout the day, and unfortunately we can’t be cheerful all the time. We may feel stressed at work, sad about something that happened, or frustrated about not getting what we want. The greatest sadness of all comes from feeling that the person who should know us best of all can’t recognize our feelings of distress.

    Imagine your partner comes home after a stressful day at work. You hear what he or she has to say, and you immediately start giving advice. You think that you are doing your partner a favor by trying to fix the problem. You might say things like, “I don’t think that is the right job for you,” or, “Your boss is mean.”

    You have not only fallen into the first relationship pitfall by giving unauthorized feedback, but you’ve also ignored your partner’s needs in that moment. There may be a time when your partner would like to have a kvetching session or problem-solve, but when he or she first comes home, they may just want someone to listen.[1]

    The Right Approach: Honor your partner’s feelings by listening to them. Use active listening techniques[2] and avoid trying to fix the problem for them right away. Even if the issue seems minor to you, refrain from trivializing their feelings. You can help him or her find perspective later, but at first, just acknowledge their thoughts and emotions.

    Instead of hopping into advice mode or trying to find the silver lining in their tough situation right away, simply ask your partner how they feel. If they’re willing to open up, listen to them. You can affirm them with nonverbal cues or by paraphrasing what they’ve told you. Resist the urge to give feedback! I know it’s hard because you care.

    You will feel emotionally better when someone ask “Are you ok?” when you are sick, than to hear “You should wear enough clothes next time.” Who wants advice when we are sick?

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    We all need time to allow emotions to calm before we are ready to handle feedback. Remember that until they have authorized feedback from you, they will not find it helpful.

    3. Failing to offer feedback at all

    Not giving useful feedback is on the other end of the relationship-pitfall spectrum. The previous problems involved giving too much information, but this piece of relationship advice is borne out of giving too little information.

    Imagine your partner comes to you to take suggestions about where to go on your anniversary. Instead of listing a few options, you respond by saying, “I don’t know,” or “It doesn’t matter. I’ll be fine with whatever you pick.”

    You think you are conveying how flexible you are, but that isn’t the message you’re sending to your partner. He or she came to you because they wanted your feedback, and you just told them that you don’t care or don’t want to take any responsibility for decision-making.[3] You didn’t have to produce a definite answer, but they wanted to see that you were willing to give some input on the matter.

    You ask for feedback because you genuinely wanted help for your problem. When you want input, you may also be working to take the pressure off yourself. When someone fails to give you feedback, they place the onus of decision-making back on you.[4]

    The Right Approach: When someone asks for your feedback, take a moment to consider their request. You don’t have to fix the problem for them, but you might be able to help them think about the situation in a new way.

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    Instead of telling your partner you don’t care where you go for your anniversary, you might say, “I’m not sure, but we haven’t had Italian food in a while. Maybe we could find an Italian place we haven’t tried yet.” By responding in this way, you show your partner that you are both on the same team, and you are willing to help find a solution.

    Remember, this isn’t even about the answer that you give to the person. It’s about your attitude toward their concerns.

    When You Start To Be Aware Of These Problems, You Will Experience Less Conflicts

    At this point, you may be cringing as you think of times when your best intentions have gone awry, but know that you are not alone. I wish that I could tell you that I’ve never given unsolicited advice, ignored someone’s feelings in an attempt to fix a problem, or failed to give helpful feedback when asked, but I have done them all.

    We can’t change what has already happened, but we can use this relationship advice to ensure that the people in our lives feel empowered by our ability to listen and provide feedback when they ask for it.

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    Anna Chui

    Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the Content Strategist of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

    It’s Okay To Be Envious As Long As You’re Not Jealous The Jeopardy of Taking Others’ Opinions Seriously life is pain Life Is Pain: Why a Life Without Pain Guarantees True Suffering Why the Conscientious Mind Is a Successful Mind What Is The Secret To Convincing Someone To Change Their Minds?

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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

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