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12 Behaviors that Destroy Relationships, and How to Fix Them

12 Behaviors that Destroy Relationships, and How to Fix Them

Relationships are destroyed when communication breaks down. Communication involves transmitting and receiving, so when you are being receptive to someone, send the other person signals that what they are saying and showing is being received. It’s even better if you can send them signals that their words are being valued. Remember that you communicate with more than just words: your actions and body language say a lot to the other person.

The behaviors listed below tend to poison relationships. Are you doing any of these?

1. No eye contact.

Eye contact is basic. If you don’t make eye contact with the person speaking, you aren’t giving them 100% of your attention. Be sure to hold their gaze as they speak.

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2. Frowning.

Look in the mirror: are the corners of your mouth turned down? For many people, what they believe is a neutral expression is actually a frown. A person on the receiving end of that frown will interpret it as though you are not happy with her. Interrupting. When you interrupt someone, you tell them, “What I have to say is more important than what you are saying.” If you think you know what people are going to say, don’t say it for them; just let them say it. If you want to offer a counterpoint to the discussion, bookmark it in your brain and offer it when there is a pause.

3. Drumming fingers or toes.

Drumming creates an audible interruption which tells the speaker that you want them to hurry up and that you are getting impatient with them. Keep your hands still and in a receptive position, such as with your palms facing upward and in your lap.

4. Crossed arms or hugging knees.

This says to the other person, “I need to protect my heart from you. I don’t trust you.” Instead, uncoil and relax.

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5. Rolling eyes.

When you do this, you tell the other person, “Here we go again with this foolishness”. Instead, soften your gaze and turn on your peripheral vision.

6. A rapid exhale.

This type of exhale sounds exasperated—yet another sign of impatience. Instead, keep your breathing slow and even.

7. Flicking a wrist.

If you are making a “shoo-fly” motion with your hand, you are dismissing the speaker like a pesky insect. Basically, you are telling them, “You annoy me. Go away.” If you need to retrain this habit, hold your hands.

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8. Showing them the palm.

“Talk to the hand” puts a physical wall between you and the speaker. If you do this, you are telling them, “Stop speaking. I’ve had enough of you.” Keep your arms at your sides as the other one speaks.

9. Reading or texting.

If you think you are doing this surreptitiously, you’re not. People can tell, and it’s offensive. The signals you are sending the other person are, “I would rather be doing this than listening to you. I merely tolerate what you say.” Instead, stop what you are doing and give the person your full attention.

10. Walking out of the room.

This is the epitome of dismissal. What you are saying is, “I don’t value what you are saying, and I would rather be somewhere else.” Instead, hold still and receive what the other is saying—however uncomfortable. The other thing you have to do can wait a little bit. If you must leave urgently, wait for a pause, and explain to the other why you must leave now.

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11. Saying, “Well, you do it” when someone give constructive criticism.

That doesn’t give the impression that you value their feedback. Rather, it sounds like you are justifying your behavior. Instead, thank them for their feedback and tell them that things will change in the future (or that you will weigh their comments carefully).

If you are doing any of these behaviors, you have an opportunity to receive more out of life.

As you practice the art of listening, observe your posture, your facial expressions, your breathing, and your movements.

Remember that everyone wants to feel valued, and one way to let them feel valued is to receive and acknowledge what they say. Give them the gift of being heard.

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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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