Advertising
Advertising

Is Relationship Counselling for You? Find Your Answer Here

Is Relationship Counselling for You? Find Your Answer Here

Most people have heard of relationship counseling, but very few believe it is for them.

We all want to believe our relationship is perfect, unique, and meant to last. Even if we acknowledge there is room for improvement, we often want to be able to resolve it ourselves. And it doesn’t help, either, that relationship counseling suffers from the same stigma as every form of counseling: that if you go, there must be something wrong.

For these reasons and others, Brian Doss, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the University of Miami, says the average couple endures six years of unhappiness before seeking couples counseling.

But in my opinion, you don’t need to wait that long. You don’t even need to be unhappy. You just have to know what relationship counseling is, how it can help, and whether it’s for you.

Advertising

When you should consider couples counseling

“Same issues, different tactics, same results”

— that’s what I tell anyone who asks me whether they should seek couples counseling. Here is the three-step consideration:

  1. Same issues. Fighting is only natural. Along with strong positive feelings toward a person naturally come negative ones. But the first consideration is whether these fights are over the same issues. If so, it demonstrates that you and your partner are not communicating past them. Some type of blockage is taking place.
  2. Different tactics. If the above is true, I recommend trying a different tactic. Example: every time you and your partner get in a fight, you end up talking over one another. Next time, try remaining silent while your partner speaks. See if this makes any difference.
  3. Same results. Have you tried a few different things and ended up with the same result? If so, couples counseling can help.

Couples who fight about the same issues, try different tactics, and end up with the same results, are having a difficult time communicating past their issues.

What does communicating past an issue mean? It means working through it within the relationship. It means reaching a point where it no longer remains such a trigger.

Advertising

Since couples will inevitably experience hardship together, it’s essential that they have this ability to eventually move beyond issues; otherwise they will continue to pile up.

What exactly is relationship counseling (and how does it work)?

Relationship counseling is an opportunity for a couple to examine why their communication is blocked. Now, sometimes the content, or what the couple is fighting about, is the problem.

For example, a couple might disagree about whether to have a child. In this case, couples therapy can be helpful for the basic reason that it represents a space where the conversation can take place.

More often than not, however, the process — or how the couple is fighting — is the important consideration. It does not matter what the issue is if the pattern of discussing it is one person yelling and the other person crying.

Advertising

Couples therapy, then, is where these patterns can be noticed by the therapist and presented to the couple as something that needs changing. Of course, this is hopefully done in a space that is comfortable, safe, and neutral.

Here’s a basic four-step process:

  1. Couple is introduced to the therapist. Each person is given an opportunity to tell their story. Therapist explains the rules of the therapy, emphasizing that this is a safe place for exploration and healing.
  2. As couple begins to discuss some of the issues they have been experiencing, therapist takes note of how they communicate. He/she eventually brings their communication patterns into the work, asking whether these patterns are bringing about the results the couple wants.
  3. Assuming the patterns are not ideal, therapist begins to explore each person’s motivation or willingness, to change their pattern. Any resistances to changing are explored.
  4. The therapist helps the couple brainstorm new ways of communicating with each other. It is important that the couple have an active hand in this, otherwise it will seem forced from the outside. Therapy now becomes a place where this new style of communicating can be practiced.

Benefits to you and your partner

On a relationship level, couples counseling provides, in many cases, the best chance you and your partner have for reversing destructive communication patterns or making big, life-altering decisions.

On an individual level, couples counseling can help each of you become a better communicator. What does this mean, exactly? In session, you will learn that healthy communication takes practice. It is not easy to place ourselves in the shoes of another person and feel what they are feeling.

Advertising

Good communication also takes awareness. Your therapist will work with each of you to uncover your attachment modes — in other words, the way you communicate based on early life experiences.

How to make relationship counselling work for you (step-by-step)

Now that you understand the benefits of relationship counselling, what should you do to make it work for you and your partner? Here’re the steps:

  1. Be honest about your motivation. You may be going to find a way to break up. You might be going to receive confirmation that you are right and your partner is wrong.
  2. Discuss what you want to accomplish beforehand.
  3. Try to procure a referral; otherwise, choose a profile together. I have seen too many couples choose separately and then fight. If you cannot come to a decision together, that is a data point. It may be worthwhile to try individual therapy first, in that case.
  4. Be honest. There’s no point in going to couples counselling and not being honest. This does not mean you spill everything all at once. But it does mean that being untruthful is not going to help your therapist help you. If there are certain things that are important, but you are not sure if you are comfortable sharing with your partner, most couples therapists will have individual sessions within the first five sessions: try bringing it up then.
  5. Discuss what is said in your sessions outside of your sessions. Not at first, necessarily, and not always, but if things get better, recognize that couples counselling (unlike individual therapy) is supposed to be temporary: you want to move it outside the room.

Final thoughts

Though many people have heard about relationship counselling, not so many couples are willing to try it even if they have relationship problems.

Many couples have the question “Is relationship counselling for me/us?” Hopefully, this article has answered all the common questions people have about relationship counselling – When should they consider it? How does it work? Does it really work? How to utilize it for their best benefits?

You don’t need to reach the saddest point in your relationship to reach out for relationship counselling. Just take relationship counselling as an opportunity to help your relationship grow and better you and your partner’s communication patterns!

Featured photo credit: Rainier Ridao via unsplash.com

More by this author

Josh Zlatkus

Mental Health Therapist in Private Practice

Is Relationship Counselling for You? Find Your Answer Here 11 Characteristics of a Happy and Healthy Relationship

Trending in Social Animal

1 How to Use the Law of Reciprocity for Effective Persuasion 2 What Will Happen When You Surround Yourself With Positive People? 3 How to Surround Yourself With Positive People 4 How to Create Social Goals to Make an Impact in the World 5 The Lifehack Show: Improving Social Skills with Dr. Daniel Wendler

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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]

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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]

Advertising

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

Read Next