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8 Mistakes That are Costing You Your Friendships

8 Mistakes That are Costing You Your Friendships

Maintaining friendships is one the most important and fulfilling things we do. But it’s also hard work. Here are eight mistakes we make that threaten our valuable friendships, along with ways to overcome them.

1. You don’t listen.

In familiar friendships, it is easy to fall into this trap. You’ve known this person for so long that you know what they are going to say before they say it. So, you interrupt constantly and miss important communication cues because of your assumptions. Over time, opportunities for misunderstandings and communication breakdowns will increase.

The solution: Don’t assume you know what your friend is going to say. Contrary to popular practice, listening is not passive but active. Develop active listening skills by learning to remove or ignore distractions. Great active listeners are also excellent observers of other communication cues, such as tone of voice and body language. Another good active listening technique is to ask as many follow-up questions as you can before you offer your own input. The truth is that your friend may not be seeking your advice, but simply your sympathetic ear.

Developing your active listening skills will revolutionize your friendships and other important relationships in your life.

2. You don’t keep your word.

This mistake is often subtle. Most of us don’t lie outright to our friends. Instead, you may find yourself saying yes to a request when you should say no. This is usually driven by fear of offending a friend or jeopardizing a relationship. The unhappy irony, of course, is that saying yes and not following through can be more harmful to the relationship than saying no upfront.

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The solution: Don’t agree to do something if you are unlikely to follow through. It is hard to turn your friends down. The key to doing it well is to simply be upfront and explain why you cannot commit to the request. True friends will respect you for your honesty and will stick around.

3. You take more than give in the relationship.

Again, most of us don’t consciously scheme on how to leverage a friend’s position, status, or personality traits for personal gain. We don’t think, “How can I take advantage of John’s generosity today?”

We exploit our relationships, often without being aware, in less obvious ways. You may find yourself constantly offloading your burdens to a friend while taking very little time to listen to his. You may get upset when he don’t call as often as you’d like, but never pick up the phone yourself. When you go out for lunch dates, you seldom offer to pay for the meal. In these and other little ways, you are in danger of overdrawing what Stephen Covey calls your “Emotional Bank Account.”

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey describes the Emotional Bank Account as “a metaphor that describes the amount of trust that’s been built up in a relationship.” You make emotional deposits through kindness, courtesy, honesty, and keeping your commitments. You make emotional withdrawals when you disrespect, ignore, threaten, and overreact. This perspective may sound cold and transactional, but Covey argues that awareness of this reality can lead to positive transformation within relationships.

Your average bank account cannot survive constant withdrawals with no deposits. Neither can your friendships.

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The solution: Begin to embrace the Emotional Bank Account model. Try to visualize where your account currently stands with your relationship. This is by no means scientific, but if you are honest with yourself you will get a sense of whether you have built up a surplus or are in the deficit zone. If you are in the red, start making deposits by becoming more proactive.

4. You’re not vulnerable enough.

Being vulnerable is hard, even among close friends. It means letting go of outward appearances and going deeper. It’s risky but it’s the only path to deepening our friendships.

The solution: Don’t hide weaknesses and struggles. Learn to talk about them freely with your inner circle. Often your ability to open gives the other person permission to be more open himself. People feel privileged when you trust them enough to be vulnerable and will likely treat these moments with utmost respect. Trust and intimacy will skyrocket.

5. You don’t stay in touch.

This one happens more easily and frequently than we care to admit. The days and months effortlessly become years. Eventually, we become afraid to get in touch due to fears of being rejected.

The solution: The truth is that most of us are busy. Our friends are more forgiving than we think. They may even be struggling with similar fears. End the standoff. Just pick up the phone and call. Send a text. You might be amazed at how quickly they respond.

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6. You’re more concerned about keeping up appearances rather than developing the relationship.

We all compare ourselves to others naturally, even subconsciously. This is true among good friends. We compare our jobs, clothes, cars, income, significant others, and the list goes on. This is natural and expected, to some extent. The problem arises when we are constantly chasing our friends who always seem to have more of what we have.

The solution: Go back to basics. What common values brought you together? What do you value most about this person? You were likely drawn to this person for who they are rather than what they do or what they have.

7. Your expectations for the other person are too high.

We often have to adjust our expectations of our friends as our relationships progress due to life changes. Still, we struggle to adjust to new realities and can make the mistake of expecting the same level of commitment from our friends after major life changes. This can lead to misunderstandings and may cause one or both parties to simply walk away from the relationship.

The solution: Prepare yourself for the fact that things will change and that your expectations will need to be adjusted over time. This does not mean that your friendships will be diminished. Approach this reality from a positive viewpoint. Be realistic about what this person can and cannot do for you.

8. You don’t apologize (sincerely).

We’re all familiar with the insincere apology. We see it in the media among celebrities and politicians caught in wrongdoing. We experience it in our own relationships. You may even practice it yourself.

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Here it is in two forms: “I’m sorry if you were hurt by X or Y” or “I’m sorry but you never told me Z.” The key words that make these examples insincere are “if” and “but.” These words shift responsibility from you to the person you are apologizing to. It’s not a true apology and will do little to repair relationships.

If you hurt someone close to you, you’ve withdrawn a sizable amount of goodwill and trust from your Emotional Bank Account. You must apologize sincerely in order to make a deposit equal to or greater than what you withdrew. You must take full responsibility.

The solution: Commit to eliminating the words “if” and “but” when making an apology. Make this your apology template instead: “I’m sorry for what I did and for hurting you in the process. Will you forgive me?”

None of us are perfect at maintaining our relationships. The key is to become more aware and correct ourselves when we make mistakes. Your most important friendships are worth the effort.

Featured photo credit: Argument Conflict Controversy Dispute Contention/RyanMcGuire via pixabay.com

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Cylon George

A spiritual chaplain and blogger who writes about practical spiritual tips for busy people.

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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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