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The Reasons Why You Feel It’s Difficult To Forgive

The Reasons Why You Feel It’s Difficult To Forgive

If you heard that it was possible to forgive someone in an instant and let go of long-held anger and resentment, you would probably be skeptical. It would be hard to believe because you’ve dealt with those feelings all of your life and you know how long they can linger. But what you may not realize is that there are reliable, predictable and teachable components to the forgiveness process–and they have nothing to do with the person who hurt you. They’re all about you and the story you tell yourself.

Let’s try an experiment. Think of two people in your life: Someone who made you angry but you’ve since forgiven and still like and someone who has hurt you that you don’t like and haven’t forgiven.  After identifying these two people, think of them at the same time.  As you see them in your mind’s eye, notice how you represent them differently.

First, look at your mental pictures. One image might be larger, brighter, farther away, or in a different location, etc.

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Second, take note of any sounds associated with these two people. Are there voices with one image and not with the other? Do you notice a difference in volume or quality of sound?

Lastly, notice the differences in your feelings as you think about these two people. Do you have a hot or cold sensation with one or both of them? Do you notice a smoothness or roughness associated with either person?

After you have made a mental note of the differences in how you represent each person, swap the locations and pictures of these two people and notice how your feelings change in response to this.

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People who have done the above experiment often report feeling uncomfortable, unsafe and want to rearrange the images and sounds back to their original locations. The reasons for this response are the same reasons people find it difficult to forgive quickly. You have legitimate objections that must be satisfied before you would be willing to forgive the offending person and you would need to feel safe and comfortable with your decision to forgive.  

Here are some common objections to forgiving others and a “hack” to get around them.

They don’t deserve to be forgiven! This may be true but forgiveness is not for the other person, it’s for you, so that you can live in your body comfortably and according to your highest values.

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Revenge is sweet! Some people feel that when they get hurt they become less of who they once were.  It’s assumed that getting even will build them back up again, both in their eyes and the eyes of their friends and family. Simply put, people want revenge so they can feel good about themselves again. But getting even every time someone hurts you keeps you enslaved to other people’s whims and bad behaviors. There are many more powerful ways of feeling good about yourself that’s not dependent on hurting other people who’ve hurt you.

I can’t forgive or I’ll be unsafe. Forgive and remember. Remember what happened to you, so that you remain alert to similar situations in the future in order to keep yourself safe. Instead of feeling angry and resentful, forgive the person so that you can focus on being strong and staying in touch with your choices and resources.

Forgiving them means giving permission to keep doing it.  Yes, the offender needs to know what they did was wrong. That message needs to be clear but anger tends to muddy that message. When we speak with anger, the other person we’re trying to relay the message to becomes defensive and stops listening.  Being able to communicate calmly and effectively puts you in the driver’s seat, enabling you to deliver a powerful message.

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After dealing with your objections to forgiving someone who hurt you, try swapping the mental images of the two people again. How do you feel about the person who hurt you this time? If something still isn’t quite right, you may have more objections that need to be dealt with.

Feelings like anger and resentment become our allies when we pay attention to the message they are sending us; to value ourselves by stopping mistreatment and setting clear boundaries. Once we realize that forgiving others really depends on satisfying our objections, we can easily and safely let go of the “negative” emotions and realign with our values and resources.

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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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