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5 Unexpected Ways Punctuation Affects Our Relationships That You Aren’t Aware Of

5 Unexpected Ways Punctuation Affects Our Relationships That You Aren’t Aware Of

How can something like punctuation affect your relationships?

Punctuation may be having more of an impact on your relationships now than at any previous point in human history.

At no other time have we communicated on such a broad scale through written communication.

When you combine emails, instant messaging, online chatting, and text messaging, not to mention snail mail, post cards, and handwritten notes, the communication of most of your thoughts comes in writing.

Punctuation marks have developed to help capture the meaning conveyed through the inflection of the voice. Without your voice to accompany the text, sometimes it can be difficult to understand the intended meaning. Because you are not there to witness the impact of your words and clarify any miscommunication, something as simple as punctuation may greatly impact how people “see” you.

We’re not going to get bogged down in rules here.  If you want grammar lessons, look elsewhere.  And you should, because grammar mistakes can demolish what you’re trying to say.

For now, let’s look at some common punctuation habits that could be affecting your relationships that you aren’t aware of. By breaking these bad habits, you can communicate better with others and improve your relationships.

1. Are your parentheses passive-aggressive?

When I taught English, my students learned that parentheses convey ideas that you would say with your hands cupped around your mouth to share a secret.

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We’re going to Disney World for vacation again this year (because Mom has to have her way).

Parentheses can come across as tongue-in-cheek, playful, j/k.  If you’re not careful, though, parentheses come out as claws, sharing information that draws blood.

It takes skill to use parenthetical phrases for humor without coming across as passive-aggressive.

If you find that people are taking offense to your asides, try leaving them out, especially in work-related messages.  Here’s a chance to keep your foot out of your mouth.

2. Are you over-using exclamation marks?

Hey! Exclamation marks are great! They tell you that I am excited! Or I am outraged! Or I stubbed my toe!

When you use exclamation marks too frequently, though, you can come across like a chihuahua. While chihuahuas are lovely creatures, I have a difficult time taking them seriously. Chances are, if you overly-use exclamation marks, people have come to think of you as overly-excited, overly-dramatic, or insincere.

Aim to use exclamations when you truly want to convey intense feelings or opinion.  Or, if you truly are that indefatigable spirit or want to be the Cranky Old Man, keep using those exclamations! Just make sure you mean it!

3. Are your texts inadvertently angry?

The period can make you seem pissed. Ben Crair at “The New Republic” suggests that short texts ending in periods can come across as short-tempered.

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The first rule of punctation is that all sentences should end in a punctuation mark, yes? But maybe this could change for texts.  When I’m speaking, I don’t say “period” at the end of each sentence. There is a tonal implication of the end.

In texting, try using line breaks to convey thoughts without seeming to make statements with finality. Consider the meaning sent by this text:

I’d like to go see a movie.

How does that compare with the meaning sent by this text:

I’d like to go see a movie

Which one means, “I’m open to seeing a movie but I could do whatever” versus “The only thing I want to do is see a movie”?

If your texts are short and direct, but you don’t want to convey that you are short-tempered and bossy, try cutting out periods and use line breaks instead.

4. Are you too passive and unsure?

At the other extreme, some folks can communicate a lack of confidence.

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The over-use of questions and lack of punctuation signals that you don’t know what you want.  Look at these examples:

After reviewing the report’s findings, option C seems to have more benefits?

get some things from the store for me?

you room should be clean when I get home

People feel secure in relationships that have clear boundaries. If you communicate with too many question marks or consistently without punctuation, people may see you as uncertain.

Assertive communication, however, is clear with no room for confusion.

The report will be on your desk by 3.

When you want to come across with more authority, use periods at the end of non-negotiable statements.

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5. Are you too aggressive?

WHILE NOT PUNCTUATION, CONSTANT CAPITALIZATION HAS A MAJOR AFFECT ON WRITTEN TEXT.

IT CAN COME ACROSS AS LAZY.  IS IT REALLY THAT DIFFICULT TO TURN OFF THE CAPS LOCK?

IT CAN COME ACROSS AS IGNORANT. DO YOU NOT KNOW THE RULES SO YOU JUST CAPITALIZE EVERYTHING?

IT CAN COME ACROSS AS POMPOUS. DO YOU THINK EVERYTHING YOU HAVE TO SAY IS THAT IMPORTANT?

IT CAN COME ACROSS AS AGGRESSIVE.  I FEEL LIKE I’M BEING YELLED AT.

If you have been a caps lock addict, it’s time to get some help. (Ah, doesn’t that feel better?) You may make some mistakes as you go through withdrawal, but in the long-run you will connect with others.

Are there other ways punctuation can rub you the wrong way? Got any real-life examples?  Please share them in the comments below.

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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