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7 Things That Might Be Killing Your Relationship

7 Things That Might Be Killing Your Relationship

Relationships don’t go bad overnight. There are subtle and destructive behavior patterns which erode the bond between spouses or partners. These toxic attitudes can turn a fairytale relationship into an MMA Super Fight.

But not all is lost. When particular destructive patterns of behavior are identified and addressed, a relationship on life support can become healthy again.

Know how to identify these 7 things that might be killing your relationship, so you can catch trouble before it starts.

1. Mind reading

The easiest way to set a relationship on a death spiral is to play armchair psychic. Mind reading takes a posture of assumption instead of listening, judgment instead of compassion.

When we try and read the thoughts, motives, and intentions of another person, their voice is taken away. It dehumanizes the partner and does not give them room for explanation. We all struggle with this one because it’s easier to play “mind reader” than listen to your partner.

If you say, I know why you did this… there’s a possibility mind reading has entered the relationship.

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2. Criticism

Relationship expert John Gottman, who wrote The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, is known for determining the success of a marriage within five minutes of meeting the couple. One of the deciding factors is evidence of criticism.

Gottman knows couples will complain in their relationships. But he differentiates complaining from criticism. Criticism is more “global” because it attacks the person and not their behavior.

So, how do we know if criticism has crept in? An example would be, “The reason you didn’t pick up the kids is not because you forgot. It’s because you are a terrible father.”

Know how to spot criticism, because it could be killing your relationship.

3. Unrealistic expectations

When you begin a relationship there are certain underlying expectations. These boundaries get wrapped up in behavior and action. This might be particular chores around the house, how money is spent, or how children are disciplined.

Problems emerge when these expectations become unrealistic and the partner feels crushed under the weight of their failing behavior. Most likely this will lead to an unhealthy relationship.

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As explained in the article “5 Rules for a More Trustworthy Relationship”, setting unrealistic rules on a spouse or partner is guaranteed to build distrust into the relationship. Healthy and agreed-upon rules and boundaries should free the other person, not enslave them. They should allow the partner to flourish, not flounder.

When you constantly criticize and remind the other person about the “rules,” you are not loving them. When you attack their behavior, never leaving room for grace and correction, this relationship killer might rear its ugly head.

4. Control

The desire to control your partner, according to “5 Relationship Killers,” is rooted in fear and insecurity. A controlling attitude has more to do with us, and less with the partner.

When control enters a relationship, an underlying fear is buzzing behind the surface. It may be fear of not knowing the future. Fear of abandonment. Fear of being seen as a terrible spouse.

Until we get a handle on our own insecurities the partner will suffer.

If we constantly say “Don’t do that,” or “Stop doing this,” we might be a control freak.

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5. Comparison

With the ease of staying in touch with past relationships through Facebook, text messages, and other social media, the temptation of comparison is great.

Comparing your current partner with a former relationship is a guaranteed disaster. The comparison is unfair. No one person is the standard for all relationships. If they were so great why did the relationship not work out?

Testing your current relationship, based on a prior one, is a good way to kill your relationship before it begins. Relationships are complex because of timing, maturity of the partner, and emotional stability. These factors change over time.

If you find yourself searching Facebook or daydreaming about past partners you might need to address this relationship killer.

6. Routine

All relationships get stale. When partners get comfortable with one another they stop doing the little things. According to “5 Most Overlooked Relationship Killers”, boredom and disinterest set in.

But this is normal. It just means we need to mix it up. Maybe we need a new routine. A date night every Friday night. A vacation to an exotic locale. Taking up a hobby together. Or finding different ways to communicate with one another.

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Routine doesn’t need to have the last say in a relationship. Identify it. Mix it up. Watch your relationship come back to life.

7. Stonewalling

Gottman says, “Stonewalling is about putting up defenses”, and “emotionally disengaging” from the relationship. Every relationship will have conflict and strife on different levels. But, if we stonewall, we are emotionally removing ourselves from the other person.

When conflict arises in the relationship, do we walk away, try to change the subject, or go to the bar? Or, do we allow ourselves to be present in the disagreement?
The greatest gift we can give our partner is to be present emotionally.

Are these relationship killers present in your life? If so, acknowledge them, and set a time to discuss with your partner. This will ensure long-term health, happiness, and stability in all your relationships.

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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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