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10 Relationship Habits You Don’t Realize Are Toxic

10 Relationship Habits You Don’t Realize Are Toxic

Popular culture has created or encouraged a lot of relationship “norms” that shouldn’t exist, but continue on no matter how many episodes of Jerry Springer air. Some of these have become so commonplace that we don’t recognize how damaging they are and continue to use them because we believe it’s the best way to handle the situation. Over time, our habits deteriorate the relationship, and we end up bitter and frustrated.

Below are 10 of the most common counterproductive ways of thinking that sabotage our relationships, and why they’re so toxic:

1. Over-protection and jealousy mean they just love you a lot

Why you think it’s fine: We’re often taught from a young age that being overprotective or displaying jealousy is a result of someone “caring too much” for us. They just can’t help themselves. They love us so much that they act irrational sometimes. These displays show that our partner loves us more than anyone and is only trying to protect us.

Why it’s toxic: Someone’s inability to control their irrational thoughts should never be taken as a sign of true love. Your partner can help themselves, no matter how much they insist that it’s an uncontrollable gut reaction to someone doing something as innocent as having a conversation with you. if you’re the one being overprotective, recognize that it’s not out of love, but out of some other problem that you’re neglecting.

2. Letting them “win” is taking the higher road

Why you think it’s fine: You don’t understand why your partner is so upset, or you don’t get why they can’t see it your way, and it feels like the argument is going nowhere. So you decide to just give it to them, tell them “Okay” or “You’re right” so it can end. You’ve taken the high road here. You think you’re being the bigger man/woman because you’ve “chosen” to concede, thus ending the fight with you supposedly looking like the mature adult.

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Why it’s toxic: The reality is that this tactic is over-used, resulting in a lot of arguments which are never actually resolved because the “high road” party was either a) not genuinely listening to and considering the other person’s words or b) unwilling to compromise if it means something unpleasant for them.

You make the excuse that you have been the better person in the situation by letting your partner think they won — only it’s not about winning, and your partner likely knows that you’re just placating them and silently resents you for it. Use some introspection, actually hear what your partner is saying, and talk about it like grown ups.

3. Putting your partner’s needs way above yours

Why you think it’s fine: You want them to know you treasure them, so you do all you can to show them that you care about their needs a lot more than your own.

Why it’s toxic: The sentiment is lovely, but if you continuously neglect your wants and needs for your partner’s, you’ll end up frustrated or burnt out. It feels good in the moment to sacrifice for them, but it’s hard to maintain that for very long. Your partner will still know you love them if you don’t always put yourself last.

4. Hinting at what you want will eventually teach your partner to be more intuitive

Why you think it’s fine: These things that you hint at seem so obvious to you, your partner should eventually be able to recognize your “signs” and form the logical conclusion if you just keep subtly working at it.

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Why it’s toxic: What’s obvious to you isn’t to everyone else, and this kind of thinking suggests you think it should be. You can’t “teach” intuitiveness, especially when your partner may have different experiences which make it hard to connect or recognize some of the things that you feel are self-evident. Your partner will actually appreciate you giving them direct feedback and suggestions rather than having to guess.

5. Intense or frequent fights are just a side effect of true love

Why you think it’s fine: This trope seems as old as time and has appeared in more movies, TV shows, and books than anyone could count. The couple that’s passionately love fights fiercely or frequently because that’s how much they love each other. All that passion just boils over into rage sometimes, it’s a sign that you’re truly in love.

Why it’s toxic: How this idea came to be I will never no, but there should be nothing romantic about routine and/or spiteful disputes. At best you could be ignoring real problems in your relationship because you think this level of fighting is normal, and at worst it could be the prelude to an abusive relationship.

6. Making offhand comments is nicer than confronting the problem head-on

Why you think it’s fine: You don’t like it when people are mad at you, even for a short time, and the thought of those situations scare you, so the most you do is make snide or passive aggressive remarks. Hopefully the other person will see what the problem is and do all the work of confronting and apologizing.

Why it’s toxic: Dragging on an issue way past its expiration date is far more unpleasant in the end than the brief discomfort of confrontation. In fact, that discomfort will probably lessen as you observe the difference in your stress levels by pushing through and confronting problems rather than hoping the other person will. You’ll also seem more open and level-headed, which might encourage your partner to come to you with problems before they escalate.

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7. Keeping score of the other person’s wrongdoings is just self-protection

Why you think it’s fine: Okay, so you messed up, but your partner totally messed up that one time so they have no right to get mad at you. An eye for an eye, right?

Why it’s toxic: Neither of you end up actually working through anything because you’re too busy playing the Who Messed Up Worse game. If you’re bringing up something that happened a while ago, chances are you aren’t actually over it and that conflict was never resolved, either. Lose-lose.

8. Your relationship is an appropriate bargaining chip

Why you think it’s fine: Ultimatum’s will make your partner really think about the conflict you two are having. It puts their priorities into perspective.

Why it’s toxic: Rather than making the other person think deeply on the value of your relationship, telling someone you can’t or don’t want to be with them if they do XYZ is emotional blackmail and will make them defensive or like they can’t come to you with relationship issues. Learn to address relationship problems without putting the entire relationship on the line.

9. Making up with your partner with a gift or special trip to show you care

Why you think it’s fine: You’re not literally trying to buy their love/forgiveness, you’re showing them how much you care about them. It will let them know that everything is back to normal and that even though you were kind of mean before, you’re going to be really nice and take them out to a fancy restaurant to prove that you care.

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Why it’s toxic: If your partner is still upset with you, no gift or gesture will truly solve the root of the problem if it’s not related. Buying them that thing they need or surprising them with a weekend beach trip sounds like a good idea, but they don’t need to just be put in a good mood, they need the conflict truly resolved.

10. Biting your tongue is always best so as not to hurt their feelings

Why you think it’s fine: You don’t want to hurt the feelings of the person you love, so you tell little white lies or hold your tongue when your opinion of something they say/wear/do is less than positive. That’s the nice thing to do.

Why it’s toxic: You can still treat your partner well without avoiding all disagreement or criticism. There is a zone between overly nice and total jerk, you know. Most people can recognize the difference between a mean or insensitive comment and one that simply doesn’t agree with them 100 percent.

Featured photo credit: I against I/Raul Lieberwirth via flic.kr

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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