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How Being Independent Can Keep You From Breaking Up

How Being Independent Can Keep You From Breaking Up

People in relationships tend to view themselves as part of something greater than themselves or the sum of its constituent parts. This tendency is reinforced by others outside the relationship who realize it would be impolitic to invite one without the other. However, it is important for both parties in a relationship to maintain some level of autonomy and independence. Not only is this crucial to maintaining a sense of self, but it also helps create more diverse experiences for both parties. Here are seven ways being independent improves your long-term relationship.

1. Not everything needs to be shared.

It is natural to want to share as much with your significant other as possible, especially in the beginning of a relationship. Call it hormones, desire, joy, or the first stirrings of love, but it’s normal and typical. However, if you share everything about yourself right at the beginning, what else is there to learn? Love should be an ongoing process of discovery, and it’s simply not possible to do that if your significant other knows everything there is to know about you by the end of your third date.

Part of being independent is to keep something of yourself for yourself. This is not the same as lying. If you feel you need to lie to your significant other about anything (of greater import than where you went when you bought his or her birthday present), it is time to take a long, hard look at your relationship and why you’re in it.  But you should feel free not to explain everything about yourself all at once, and your significant other should not feel this pressure either. Cataloging every last move each person makes and regurgitating it borders on stalkerish and certainly is not conducive to a sense of independence on either side.

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2. Get a hobby that requires at least a little time away from your significant other.

Hobbies are good for us. They give us a chance to get away from the quotidian cares of our regular lives, to indulge our creativity and to do something that’s just fun. Studies indicate that finding a hobby such as painting, writing or even hiking offers health and mental benefits such as reduced blood pressure, enhanced creative problem solving ability, and a greater sense of satisfaction and independence. To get the maximum benefit, find something you like that doesn’t particularly interest your significant other and is uniquely your own. This is a great way to affirm your independence while doing something your lover will be able to appreciate once it is done. Getting a hobby is not a one-way street. Both parties should feel free to find new ways to express themselves.

3. Take a relationship break.

This does not mean you should “see other people” or engage in any of the other signs that your relationship is effectively over. However, there is nothing wrong with wanting a little space from time to time. Take a mini-vacation by yourself. Go camping, fishing or just go to the beach and unwind. A couple of days apart can give you new perspective on your relationship, as well as making the other person’s company more attractive. As the old saying goes, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Learn to appreciate the other person’s company by getting away from it for a little while. Being independent means being willing to stand alone as well as with someone else and can increase your sense of self-worth, even when your other half isn’t there.

4. Have some separate friends and experiences.

This ties in with No. 3 to some extent, because a couple whose component parts cannot have separate experiences may be dangerously unbalanced. Depending upon one another is fine, but codependency is often the first sign of an incipient abusive relationship for both genders. Because of this, each person should have a unique identity with his or her own friends and experiences outside the relationship. Again, this has to be a two-way street. If either party says “It’s okay for me to have friends, go bowling or go hang out and play poker, but you have to stay home,” this is grossly unfair and a clear warning sign of a controlling, unhealthy relationship. When both parties are free to come and go as they please without suspicion or concern about when they’ll be home or what they are doing, this builds trust and allows both parties to celebrate being independent of each other while still choosing to be together.

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5. Learn to say and accept “no.”

“Can I come too?” There are times and situations where this is fine and others where it is simply not appropriate. One crucial key to being independent is the ability to say and accept “no” as an answer without inflicting or getting unduly hurt. This kind of dialogue may go something like:

“I’d love you to come tonight, but we’re going to be watching The Empire Strikes Back and then talking about the latest Jim Butcher book while we play D&D, and you don’t like any of that. You’d just be bored.”

“Oh, okay.” [pause] “Well, maybe I can see what the folks from the erotic book club are up to tonight and we can go out for cocktails.”

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“That sounds like a good idea. Call me if you’re going to be out too late so I don’t worry, okay?”

“I will.” [smiles] “Have fun tonight!”

This is a healthy means of dealing with this situation without hurt feelings. The rejection here has nothing to do with wanting the person there and everything to do with knowing the other person’s tastes well enough to understand they won’t enjoy themselves. Of course, it relies on both parties being completely truthful about their intentions. However, we can safely assume here that both sides are speaking from an honest place. The person who asked may not be entirely happy about the answer, but accepts the refusal and the implicit need to assert independence on his or her partner’s part. Because of this, this person thinks of a way in which the partner can do something as well. There is an underlying assumption that the evening will end with both of them home and in each others’ arms and neither feels chained to their partner’s side. Being independent sometimes means being able to reject the other person’s company gracefully and accepting that rejection with equal grace.

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6. Don’t lose sight of your dreams.

Dreams define us. They make us what we are and give us something to strive for. Just because you enter a relationship with someone does not mean you should sacrifice your dreams for them. In fact, the exact opposite is true. A truly good, loving relationship is based upon both parties having dreams and desires within and outside the relationship. Conversely, a good partner is someone who is willing to allow his or her partner their dreams without nay-saying or ridiculing them. Knowing mutual support is available if it is needed and the understanding that both partners need space to strive for their dreams is the hallmark of a strong relationship. Ultimately, your dreams are an integral part of who you are. If your partner insists that your dream should take a back-seat to what they want, it is time to reevaluate whether this person is really someone you want to be with.

7. Be who you are.

Being independent means being who and what you are, not someone else’s version of what you should be. If your partner insists you change your hairstyle, wardrobe or friends and interests to better suit their vision of who you are, something clearly is amiss. In the same way, love your partner for all they are and not in spite of it. No two people are the same, and trying to force someone into a narrow mold is unfair to both sides in the relationship. Be willing to stand up for yourself when necessary, and never be afraid to ask “Why?” You cannot be yourself and someone else’s version of yourself at the same time. As Shakespeare put it: “This above all: To thine own self be true; it then follows thou canst not be false to any man.”

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J.S. Wayne

J.S. Wayne is a passionate writer who shares lifestyle inspirations and tips on Lifehack.

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

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Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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