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When Good Dates Go Bad: 6 Interventions To Rescue Your Relationship

When Good Dates Go Bad: 6 Interventions To Rescue Your Relationship
    From Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/papazimouris/

    Relationship Hell. We’ve all been there; you’re doing the same things with the same person that once made you so happy but now cloud 9 has inexplicably morphed into planet misery. Why does it happen? How can you avoid it and how the heck do you get out of it once you’re in it?

    The number one cause of a good date gone bad, is our dangerous tendency to become focused or even obsessed with the imaginary ideal of a relationship that we create in our minds. We can devote so much energy towards this fantasy that it takes on a life of its own.

    If we get really carried away, longing for the relationship we would like to be having mutates into resentment about the one we are actually in. We start to project blame on the other person, righteously indignant that they are somehow depriving us of the relationship we “ought” to be having. We fall into the trap of constantly measuring our experience against the standards of this imaginary relationship and making ourselves miserable when it falls short.

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    We start noticing how much (fill in the blank) we are getting, weighing it up against how things are in the imaginary relationship. Then we start to question whether the person deserves what we’ve been giving- and begin to hold back. The other person reacts to the withdrawal and so the vicious cycle begins- “you’re not meeting my needs, so I’m not going to meet yours”.

    Dead-lock. So what can you do?

    First of all, when you’re in the thick of things, try to resist the urge to react impulsively, no matter how many buttons are being pushed. Start agreeing to use time outs with each other or at a minimum, slow things down with a couple of deep breaths. Acknowledging – even to yourself- the deeper feelings below the anger – which is usually some kind of fear, can really help to de-escalate.

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    Next, here is a list of 6 interventions to try in the case of a relationship emergency.

    #1 Let go of your expectations

    That relationship you think you ought to be having isn’t real. Resist the urge to compare and despair. Ask yourself if you didn’t have an idea that things should be different, how would it change how you feel right now?

    #2 Be present

    How much of the “problem” is to do with either things that happened in the past or your fears about what might happen in the future? See that living, breathing person in front of you? The one that is actually here, right now? Give them some attention. Not just some in fact, give them one hundred percent of your undivided attention. Really look at them – with eye contact!

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    #3 Be honest

    With yourself and with your beloved. Radical Honesty is the key. Give up the denial and stop trying to manipulate the situation. The truth will set you free – but please remember to tell it kindly.

    #4 Listen

    Tell them that you want to really listen and then shut up and do it. Bite your tongue if necessary. No interrupting. Give them the gift of being willing to hear whatever they want to say without repercussions. No responding, defending or justifying allowed.

    #5 Give what you’d like to receive

    All the time. Especially when you are mad. That’s the time to make the extra effort. It’s easy to be loving when it’s easy. The tough get loving when the loving gets tough. Buy flowers when you are furious. Get out the lingerie when you least feel like wearing it. Offer a foot rub when you want to run away. You’ll be amazed at the results.

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    #6 Be vulnerable

    Instead trying desperately to avoid the pain you think is coming, decide to face it and stay open in spite of it. Stop defending yourself, stop trying to get your point across and most importantly, stop trying to be right.

    Each of these interventions can be very powerful by themself. Start to combine them and you have quite an impressive tool-kit to bring to the table. Maybe even more importantly, is that regardless of the outcome, practicing these techniques will help you feel better and feel better about yourself during the process.

    Share this list with your beloved. Since what you are doing isn’t working anyway, why not suggest something different? Above all, always remember that the only person actually under your control is you.

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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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