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8 Lessons Learned from Failed Relationships That No One Will Tell You, so I Will

8 Lessons Learned from Failed Relationships That No One Will Tell You, so I Will

When relationships end with significant others or friends, we are often left wondering how to pick up the pieces. We turn to friends and family who offer kind messages and sage advice on how to move on with our lives, but there are overlooked lessons we forget about as we process our breakups. Below are key lessons about failed relationships that no one will tell you about.

1. Over analysis is the enemy of progress.

When a relationship ends, we may spend countless hours dissecting countless situations in an attempt to discover what went wrong. Our minds act like detectives, revisiting scenes and hypothetical situations to find clues and witnesses that attest to what caused the relationship’s end. We recruit friends to become therapists, as we relentlessly analyze our feelings about the one who is no longer a part of our lives. The hours we spend examining and re-examining the past are part of the healing process, but overdoing it can prevent us from living in the present and moving toward the future. Instead of spending hours trying to understand why a relationship ended, we can spend some of that time better understanding who we are without that person in our lives.

2. Treat yourself how you want others to treat you.

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    If we leave a failed relationship feeling demoralized, disheartened and undervalued, we may also question if anyone will ever love and value our qualities, quirks and specialness (of course the answer to that is yes, someone will). Rather than looking to others to validate what makes us lovable and unique, we have to look in the mirror and start with ourselves. Treating ourselves the way we want others treat us means that we give ourselves compassion, love, patience and care. It also means that we create moments and experiences where we are able to shine and be our best selves.

    3. Don’t fall into the blame game trap.

    When we end a relationship with someone, we may try to assign blame by pointing fingers at ourselves or the other person involved. When we blame the other person, we can find ourselves getting angry or feeling justified for our own mistakes and transgressions. When the finger is pointed at ourselves, we feel guilt and shame, wondering if it was our own doing that caused the breakup. Yet, each perspective prevents us from understanding the key factors that contributed to a relationship ending, and from learning important lesson that can be used to strengthen current and future relationships.

    4. Healing is not a linear process.

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      The end of a relationship brings with it a spectrum of feelings where our emotions go from grief to relief, sadness to joy, and anger to excitement. As we travel along those spectrums, we may find that one day we feel like we’re on top of the world, to then feel instantly distressed when we see reminders of a past relationship. In that moment, we feel as if all of the progress we’ve made has gone down the drain, which is further from the truth. The healing process does not follow a straight line. Instead, it is more like a roller coaster where we can experience a multitude of feelings all at once.

      5. You may relapse, and that is okay.

      After we break off a relationship, we may vow to never see the other person again, and throw away mementos and keepsakes that remind us of him or her. However, a situation may occur within our lives that only that person will understand, or a holiday arrives where we feel compelled to see how he or she is doing. Infrequent text messages turn into phone calls, which become coffee dates, which lead to hanging out on a regular basis. Then old harmful issues arise, which cause us to feel so naïve, guilty, and ashamed for trying to rekindle something that should’ve remained in the past. When beat ourselves up over our relapses into old relationships, we should remind ourselves that each step back teaches us about recovery, as they give us the opportunity to know better in case there is a next time.

      6. Remember the good, and not just the bad and ugly.

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        Thinking about a failed relationship often causes us to recall how it ended and not how it began, or we focus on the other person’s negative qualities rather than appreciating the good ones. Sometimes, even if we have something more positive to say about our former friend or partner, we add a qualifier to our statement—“Marsha is a so creative, but was a horrible listener.” Focusing on someone’s negative qualities shows that we are still holding onto the anger and hurt that the relationship caused. Remembering the good allows us to keep a healthier perspective about the relationship. It also indicates that we’ve truly moved on from our failed relationship because we are no longer holding on to those negative feelings.

        7. Forgiveness is the greatest gift to give yourself.

        True forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to ourselves because it means that we can let go of past hurts that impact the potential for present happiness. In forgiving ourselves for our mistakes or perceived transgressions, we give ourselves permission to recognize our humanity. We realize that life goes on, and that tomorrow is another day to learn a brand new lesson. In forgiving others we are able to release the power they have within our hearts and minds. That is not to say that we should try to be best friends with someone that’s done something hurtful to us. However, it means that we should let the anger, hurt, and disappointment be transformed into something brighter, lighter, and more meaningful so we do not carry that pain within us.

        8. Happy diversions are great, until they are not.

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          When a relationship ends, we may immerse ourselves in work, household projects, or hobbies. We become more social, trying to find new experiences, activities and people to fill the space in our lives left empty by the person we lost. In those moments we feel happy and excited to explore our interests and undertake new ventures. However, if we have not coped with the pain of a failed relationship, these happy diversions can bury feelings of hurt and sadness, until the day comes when they rise to the surface, putting us in a place of despair. Therefore, we should do those things that make us feel good about ourselves, while also processing the pain of a failed relationship.

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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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