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How Loving Advice Turns Into a Weapon That Kills Relationships

How Loving Advice Turns Into a Weapon That Kills Relationships

“Don’t be upset.” “You shouldn’t worry so much.”

All of these statements are seemingly harmless and are meant to be helpful. But unfortunately, they are not either of those things. In fact, these statements could be construed as dismissive or insensitive. When your partner is already experiencing a period of doubt, the lack of support from you could lead them to even question your feelings for them.

Sharing a problem is sharing a piece of mind

When a person gets more intimate with someone, they are more willing to share their inner thoughts with them. They won’t just share how they feel with anyone because it’s only this “someone” that they can trust.

So when your partner is sharing their issues with you, they are making themselves vulnerable. When they share things like “I’ve had a tough day at work, my boss kept assigning me tasks even though I already had a lot on my plate,” or “I tried to help our neighbor out for her housework because she’s sick, and now I’m just exhausted,”  they’re not looking for a solution. They just want to vent to someone who will listen and try to understand.

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    Wanting to fix a problem is natural

    Instinctively, when someone shares with you about their bad day, it’s human nature to want to help out, especially someone that you hold near and dear. By offering help and support, you are by no means intending to be offensive.

    You may say things like “you shouldn’t worry so much,” or “from now on I will handle it,” or “but you shouldn’t feel that way, you should just…”

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      But sadness doesn’t need to be fixed

      This sort of problem does not require a solution on your part. They’re not asking you for one. And saying things like, “don’t worry about it,” is rude and dismissive. This is offering unsolicited advice when your opinion was never asked for to begin with.

      Your well intended advice could make them feel belittled, which will make them feel even worse because they are not receiving the support they need. This misleads them to think that you don’t care about their feelings, and you don’t try to understand them.

      Think about your partners issues like metaphorical houseplant. Plants need to be watered. But they don’t need water all of the time. Trying to be helpful because you think you know what it needs, you over-water the plant. You think you’re doing a good thing, but the plant doesn’t actually need more water.

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        The disclosure of their problem was not an invitation for you to try to solve them. It needs to be expressed and processed.

        Sometimes plants need water, but at other times they just need some sun. Sometimes people need advice, but at other times all that they really need is for you to listen and show that you are trying to understand. So instead of “over-watering your plant”, place it under the sun to give it the nourishment it needs.

          Purge the urge, be the rock

          When you are someone’s rock, you offer support simply just by being there. The rock doesn’t offer advice. The rock offers a place to rest until they are strong enough to continue on.

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          If there is no invitation to give advice, don’t. Chances are your partner doesn’t actually want it. If they did, they would have asked for it. Especially if your “helpful” advice entails what they should or shouldn’t do, how they should or shouldn’t feel.

          Sometimes things that you say with good intentions can be received negatively, ultimately making things worse. There are a few things that you can do to demonstrate active listening and to just simply be there for your partner.

          • Give reassurance through body language. Just listen. Keep eye contact and nod reassuringly as they are stating their points. This shows that you are intently listening, which is all that they really want.
          • Validate their feelings. Instead of saying, “I know exactly how you feel, it’s hard.” Say, “I can never understand how you feel, but I can see that it’s very hard for you.” This way you are validating their feelings without being belittling or condescending.
          • Show your consideration. Process everything that they have said to you and reiterate it in a way that shows understanding. Instead of saying, “you are under a lot of stress,” say,” you have a lot on your plate. The last thing you need it even more. I can see how this is very stressful for you.”

          Lend an ear. Listen. Let them process through their issues by talking through it. Just simply letting it out might make them feel better.

          More by this author

          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

          Reference

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