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10 Questions You Should Never Ask Your Partner

10 Questions You Should Never Ask Your Partner

Most articles on what not to say to your partner circle around avoiding taboo topics and off-limits prodding. While those tips are certainly helpful, there are deeper, more cutting questions that are even more crucial to avoid.

If all you do is steer clear of these 10 questions, your relationship will be dramatically more fulfilling and rewarding than average.

1. “What’s wrong with you? Why are you always doing that?”

It’s never a good idea to make a negative judgment or a blanket condemnation of your partner. All that does is reinforce the exact negative behaviors you’re trying to change because your judgments incentivize them to isolate from you.

Rather than attacking your partner personally for what you don’t like, share what you do like and how you would feel or do feel when they do those things. You might have to get introspective and creative to find out why certain things are so important to you.

For example, let’s say they often leave the cap off the toothpaste. Instead of saying, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you always doing that?” you can say, “Honey, can you please put the cap on the toothpaste more often? It might seem silly, but when you do that, I really feel cared for by you.”

Then, the next time they put the cap on, feel that joy of being cared for, and let it make you happy. Go give them a big hug and kiss. Tell them you know it’s a small thing, but you really appreciate it. When your partner feels appreciated by you, they’ll want to do more and more of what you like to continue the positive vibe between you.

2. “Why do you never do what I want?”

Blaming is not sexy. It creates an atmosphere of hopelessness, resentment, distrust, and separation in the relationship. Not only is it harmful, it’s ineffective as well.

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When have you ever seen someone flip their life and personality around because they felt blamed enough? People sometimes change because they feel bad enough and hit rock bottom. In those moments, they find the inner strength to carry them into a new way of life. Don’t be that catalyst that gets your partner to rock bottom, though. There are other ways to create the same effect that are much more reliable and constructive.

Whenever you’re upset at your partner, focus first on taking responsibility for your own feelings, thoughts, and actions. Take ownership of your part of the equation. Instead of dwelling on what you think your partner is doing wrong, shift your focus to how you might be able to improve the relationship.

Once you’re more solution-minded and you’re clearer on the situation as a whole, approach your partner with open, transparent communication and a collaborative stance so you can find a solution that makes both of you happier.

3. & 4. “Why are you so (annoying, lazy, ungrateful, selfish)?” / “Why aren’t you (better, kinder)?”

When you’re upset, don’t personally attack your partner. It’s just not helpful. You’re with them, the whole package of them. They’re with you, the whole package of you. If you’re together, then you’re a match on some level.

If you want the quality of your relationship to improve, it starts with how you communicate. Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, author of Nonviolent Communication, says that the most helpful way to communicate with your partner is to honestly express and empathetically receive.

Honestly express how you are and what you would like, without using blame, criticism, or demands. When your partner speaks to you, focus on empathetically receiving how they are and what they would like, without hearing blame, criticism, or demands.

This kind of communication is based on openness, honesty, and understanding, which nurtures the relationship. You can learn more about Rosenberg’s simple four-step Nonviolent Communication process here.

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5. “Why can’t you just relax?”

If your partner is in a fight or flight response, they can’t “just relax” on command. If they’re stressed, something is bothering them. Otherwise, they would be relaxed.

There are a myriad of reasons why your partner might be upset, and even though you would naturally want them to be more relaxed, saying that curtly in the heat of the moment is unlikely to get the result you’re going for.

The best way to help them become more relaxed is to seek to understand. You must first understand something before you can go about changing it. Sometimes understanding is all that is needed.

When you are open, curious, and gentle about what is actually going on for your partner, that is a clarifying and helpful step. Once you are talking together in that kind of supportive atmosphere, you’re setting yourselves up for success.

6. “Are you breaking up with me?”

Using this question in everyday conflicts is an unnecessary and emotionally destructive threat.

As Eben Pagan & Annie Lalla said at Burning Man’s Camp Mystic in 2014, oftentimes people ask that question not to gain genuine clarity but to escalate the conversation by introducing the threatening possibility of break-up themselves.

if you actually want to break up right there, then you can say so and follow through with it. Otherwise, ask genuinely clarifying questions of the other person. If it feels too heated right then, take a step back, reevaluate as objectively as possible, and discuss the matter again once the atmosphere has calmed.

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If you really are afraid your partner is breaking up with you, you can say simply, “Honey, I’m afraid. Let’s take a few minutes and come back once I’ve calmed down.” Once you’ve calmed down a bit, you can ask, “What are you feeling right now?” or, “What do you want?” or, “What do you want in our relationship?”

When you ask those questions in a non-threatening way, you give your partner space to think constructively about the answers. The one time, if ever, that your partner actually does want to break up, they will say so. Otherwise, asking these clarifying questions openly and gently strengthens the intimacy in your relationship.

7. “Are you sure you want to be with me?”

While it is important for the health of a relationship for each partner to praise and cherish the other, each partner is responsible for their own basic level of self-respect and self-confidence.

As relationship coach Jordan Gray says, expressing interest in your partner as a person and on a day-to-day level and affirming that you find them attractive is key to a satisfying relationship.

At the same time, Dr. David Scharchauthor of Passionate Marriage, points out that it’s hard to be sexually attracted to someone you constantly have to prop up. If you need constant validation on a basic level, then before long, it will be difficult for your partner to admire or respect you.

The solution is to make sure that you would want to be with you, and that you already enjoy being yourself. When you feel great in your own skin, it’s much easier for you to have the clarity of mind to actually assess whether the person you’re with is a great match for you and genuinely appreciates you.

8. & 9. “Can I trust you?” / “Are you telling me the truth?”

Asking this question point blank is never a good idea. For one thing, it puts your partner on the defensive immediately. For another thing, you can never trust the answer you’re getting.

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This is because if you’re not fundamentally sure you can trust someone, then asking them whether or not you can trust them will only drive you crazier.

When it comes to people getting jealous and possessive in relationships, Mark Manson, author of Models, says,  “It’s really simple: either you trust your partner or you don’t. If you trust your partner, then shut your mouth. If you don’t trust your partner, do everyone a favor and dump them.

“‘Well, what if I trust them but they lie to me anyway?’ Then trust that one day you will find out. Dishonest people cannot hide their dishonesty forever. Eventually it will surface and be obvious. And on that day, dump them.” Kind of harsh, but definitely straightforward.

10. “If you knew it would make me uncomfortable, then why did you bring it up?”

A quality relationship does not settle for the pseudo-comfort of avoidance. It thrives on the genuine comfort of two people who are transparent with each other and themselves for the purpose of deepening intimacy and fulfillment.

In order for your relationship to thrive, you have to be willing to talk about difficult and uncomfortable things and comfort yourself when the topic at hand feels confronting.

As Dr. David Schnarch suggests, in order for an emotionally committed relationship to be fulfilling, we have to be willing and able to soothe ourselves independently within the relationship. 

It is challenging to self-soothe and self-confront at once. That is for sure. It means coming to terms with the parts of us that we may not like to see so much, like our own fears, anxieties, and insecurities.

It is as rewarding as it is difficult, though.

Taking a look at what’s really going on inside with openness and curiosity means an ever-improving relationship and an ever-improving life.

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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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