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How to Argue So You Won’t Damage Your Relationship

How to Argue So You Won’t Damage Your Relationship

All couples argue. Or at least all healthy couples do. Maybe your partner is running late for an event that’s important to you. Or he or she forgets to update you on their whereabouts, or has too many opposite sex friends, or forgot to bring you something after work. The list for conflict causers is endless.

But the best relationships are “thick” with arguments. It doesn’t matter what you argue about, but how you argue.

When you fight, you feel fear

Conflict carries a negative connotation. If your partner doesn’t agree with you, you may feel a sense of betrayal and lash out at them because you are hurt. Human nature dictates that when you are hurt or threatened you should retaliate. So most people retaliate by doing things that are irrational.

Some people give the silent treatment. They freeze their partner out by refusing to talk to them about anything. This is done vindictively and is different than taking a break to properly process their feelings.

Some disappear without checking in for hours or even days on end. They do this to cause the other partner to worry or fear that the relationship is over. It is a manipulative and hurtful tactic even though they don’t mean to do so.

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Some attack their partner by name calling or belittling instead of focusing on the issue. They lash out and attack their partner’s character instead of the issue. This is fighting “dirty” and can really wound their partner.

Some people make the issue black or white with their point of view as right. This happens when someone refuses to be open-minded and consider their partner’s point of view. This greatly hinders negotiations.

Others bad mouthing their partner to their friends or even posting cryptic messages on social media. They unfairly color their relationship and their partner when they negatively publicize their issues. Having an outlet is good, but an unproductive outlet like Facebook is bad. And once you’ve said something bad about your partner, people remember what you’ve said.

Retaliation and negative behaviors like the ones listed above are driven by fear. Feeling fear is natural. People are fear that they aren’t good enough, or their partner isn’t good enough. The are also afraid that aren’t worthy of being loved and that they will lose their partner.

Love could be a scary thing. Opening yourself up to love and entering an intimate relationship is risky. But anything worth having is worth the risk. When you are truly in love, you open yourself up and become vulnerable. You are exposed and subject to being hurt.

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How to fight right

The key to healthily handling conflicts that arise in your relationship is to respond constructively—with love and logic. And work to avoid knee-jerk fear-based reactions.

Conflict is inevitable. Instead of waiting for it to arise and dealing with it on the fly, it is far more productive to take a proactive, intentional approach to dealing with conflict. While you can’t anticipate the nature of the argument, you can plan a tactical response. This is how to constructively deal with conflict with your partner next time:

1. Work to control your response

In lieu of flying off the handle and laying into your partner, take a moment to check your emotions and gather your thoughts. When you feel anger and other negative emotions begin to bubble toward the surface, take a break and calm yourself down.

You are allowed to feel how you feel. Your feelings are valid and legitimate. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they should be expressed at that moment. Your feelings will change and fluctuate, it’s important to understand how you truly feel (at least to some extent) and why before you discuss.

2. Watch your mouth

Once you’ve had a chance to process and sort through your emotions, then you are ready to share your feelings with your partner.

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When discussing the issue, be open and honest about your feelings. Use “I feel” statements[1] and try to avoid negative “you” statements. Explain why you feel the way you do and allow your partner to ask clarifying questions. The key here is to discuss your emotions without giving into them. It’s tough, but it’s doable.

3. Don’t run away or avoid conflict

Avoiding or refusing to deal with conflict doesn’t make it go away. Avoiding issues will turn molehills into mountains, and everything becomes a huge fight.

The primary goal in any conflict is to resolve it. But there are other underlying benefits to addressing conflicts even when resolution is not possible. Make your partner feel heard, valuable, special and loved is far more important than any temporary dispute. Stay and fight fair.

4. Accept your differences

More often than not, there may not be a clear right or wrong answer. Although your viewpoints may be on the opposite end of the spectrum, they both are valid and worth considering.

In some cases, after you’ve hashed out how both of you feel in a calm and rational manner, you may have to agree to disagree. Reaching an impasse can feel like a complete waste of time initially, but going through the process of trying to resolve the conflict will strengthen the relationship long-term. Although a resolution isn’t reached, both parties leave the discussion feeling heard, validated and valued. Everybody wins.

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5. Choose your confidants wisely

Discussing the issue with someone else is a great way to gain a different perspective on the issue. The danger with talking to a third party is they could offer advice that could exacerbate the situation. When choosing a relationship confidant, make sure they know you well, have your best interest at heart, are objective and will lovingly tell you the truth instead of what you want to hear.

Once you’ve gotten good solid advice and have had a chance to reevaluate your position, go back and readdress the issue with your partner.

Fight to improve, not to damage

It’s normal for a couple to quarrel from time to time—it comes with the territory. Conflicts and arguments themselves don’t jeopardize a relationship. How you chose to respond does.

Successful couples have the ability to solve problems and let them go. They focus on taking care of the issue rather than attacking the person. Even when angry, they find ways to be upset and stay close at the same time.

Conflict gives you and your partner the opportunity to identify issues, address them, improve yourselves and the relationship and move on. All couples fight. Successful couples fight right.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Alva Pratt on Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Good Therapy: “I” Message

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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.

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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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