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How To Maintain a Connected Relationship

How To Maintain a Connected Relationship

Maintaining a healthy, long-term relationship takes quite a bit of work. Contrary to popular belief, the process of getting to know one another and dating doesn’t end as the years progress. It takes work to maintain a connected relationship. In fact, the longer a relationship lasts, the more important it becomes to put work into staying connected. As the exhilaration of a new relationship wears off and routine sets in, extra effort is required. Here are a few ideas to help you foster that connection in relationships:

Listen actively

Make sure you are really paying attention to what your partner is trying to tell you. Even if you have no interest in fantasy football stats or spring hairdo woes, actively listening will make your partner feel like you care. If you listen and engage, your partner knows he or she is important to you.

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Break down barriers

You will learn new things about your partner for the duration of your relationship. Childhood memories will arise, traumas will unfold, and a shoulder to lean on will be needed. The key to being available for these situations is to stay vulnerable. To stay connected, make sure your partner knows it’s okay to show vulnerability. Continue to break down the barriers between you and your partner, and you will have a steadfast connection.

Set aside your to-do list

The list can wait. We are often so busy that we forget about the person that’s been supporting us all along. Drop your agenda or, better yet, put your relationship at the top of your agenda and leave it there. Set aside time for your partner, and keep your relationship a priority.

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Show affection

At home, in public, or wherever. Physical affection is one of the easiest ways to stay connected, and it doesn’t have to be over the top. Hold hands on your stroll from the grocery store to the car. Give his shoulders a gentle squeeze while he makes dinner. Simple gestures like these go a long way.

Check in with each other

Sometimes we are so busy that we inadvertently neglect our relationships. It’s important to check in with each other every so often. Ask your partner what he or she needs from you. Does she need your support? Does he need you to spend some more time with him? Sometimes, you don’t know until you ask.

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Date each other

Set up weekly dates, just like you did in the beginning. Go to the restaurant where you had your first date and sit at the same table. Recreate some of your favorite dates, or explore new places together. When you set up dates with each other, you have the chance to back away from the day-to-day grind and really spend time connecting with each other.

Consider his or her feelings

Sometimes we make decisions without considering how it will affect our partners. You might say yes to a night out with friends before asking if she wants to make plans together. Sometimes you might decide to make a large purchase without first consulting with your partner. No, you don’t need to ask your partner for permission for your every move, but do consider him when making decisions that could affect him.

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Be supportive of each other

Has your partner decided to eat healthy, or has he or she started a new job? Make sure he knows that he has your support. Maybe you don’t want to go on a clean-eating diet, but if your partner does, encourage him. Try not to tempt him with foods he shouldn’t eat, or diminish what he is doing for himself.

Practice acceptance

Acceptance is one of the keys to maintaining a connected relationship. We cannot change other people, and we cannot control them. If you have the ability to accept your significant other the way he or she is, you are bound for more happiness and less argument.

Stop having to have the last word

Speaking of arguments, it isn’t always necessary to have the last word. A fight can end as quickly as it begins if you choose to let go of being right. You can cultivate understanding and happiness in a relationship if you give up the need to have the last word, even if you think you’re right.

Featured photo credit: Holding Hands/Tim Parkinson via flickr.com

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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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