The way you talk, listen, look, hug, make love, move and react all speak volumes about the state of your emotions and what your body really wants to say. What silent signals are you sending?
Often it’s the things you don’t say that speak louder than what you do say. Most communication that we send and receive is wordlessly spoken through our facial expressions, body positioning, pace, intensity and tone of voice. Sometimes, your body language is quite obvious and conscious, such as when you scowl and/or give the finger to the driver who just cut you off and almost caused an accident.
But then there are those times when you think you’re giving your partner the glowing reassurance he needs and what you get back is “so you don’t really like it.” Huh? Or when you sincerely say “I want us to be closer” and he says “don’t look at me like that!” Like what? What your body language is conveying makes the difference between being heard, known and received or discounted, ignored and disbelieved.
When you improve your own body language awareness, your ability to effectively communicate, hear and be heard and get what you want will multiply tenfold.
Use this 60 second body language check-in to tune in and make sure your verbal and nonverbal signals are in sync:
My body is…
- Stiff, clenched, crossed, tight-fisted
- Swaying, rocking, fidgeting
- Fatigued, sleepy, droopy
- Comfortable and alert. Shoulders and back are relaxed. Body is open, uncrossed, slightly leaning forward.
My facial expression is…
- Angry and annoyed
- Tense and nervous
- Bored and disinterested
- Emotionally present, calm, friendly and interested
My eye contact is…
- Intense and aggressive
- Anxious and shifting
- Unfocused, unresponsive, looking away
- Focused and calm
My breathing is…
- Shallow and rapid
- Stressed and nervous
- Labored and difficult
- Deep, slow, full and relaxed
My tone is…
- Tight, forced or restricted
- Whining, sulking or shrill
- Angry, demanding or frustrated
- Loving, positive, confident and friendly
My reaction is…
- Too fast: I’m defensive and argumentative.
- Too slow: My attention is drifting in and out.
- Deflective: I’m turning away, blaming, not listening.
- Responsive and inquisitive: I’m emotionally available, listening, interested, wanting to understand.
Obviously, number four is the ideal state you want to be in.
Here’s a little secret: The messages your body sends are usually aligned with your emotions. You can begin to make your body and words more congruent by first asking yourself “what is my emotional state right now?” The minute you feel your shoulders tense, jaw tighten or fists clench, it’s time to do an emotional check-in.
And don’t forget to watch your breathing! Breathing deep and comfortably naturally influences your mood and thoughts, how your brain and body function and how sensitive your nerves are. Taking a few deep breaths can give you the pause you need to emotionally check in and purposely coordinate your body language with what your mouth (and heart) wants to say.
Knowing and dealing with your underlying emotions before speaking and reacting will help you avert miscommunication. When you match your body language with your words, you deliver a cohesive, congruent message that says what you mean and means what you say.
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55 Seconds to Better Body Language
Love-In-Action: Attuned Listening
“Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker.
When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging,
intensely interested listening,
our spirits expand.”
~Sue Patton Thoele
Listening is not just about hearing what your partner is saying.
When you truly LISTEN it lets your partner know that you are taking them in and that they are being heard, known, accepted, and understood.
This IS literally love in action.
Wordlessly you communicate “I hear you.” “I get you.” “I receive you as you are.” “I love you.”
Having our words, feelings, and thoughts heard, taken in, and received feels like LOVE on the deepest level of our being.
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Epictetus
Generally speaking, when your lips are moving, you aren’t learning much.
Listening takes work.
Typically, when others are speaking, we are thinking, preparing our response, reacting, not listening.
Our minds tend to wander especially when listening to something uninteresting or uncomfortable.
We have trained ourselves to take in just enough to get by because usually that is all that’s required.
However, when it comes to relationship problems and issues of the heart, sloppy listening just doesn’t cut it. We need to employ a different type of listening.
Call it- Attuned Listening.
Turn in. Tune in. Take it in.
The Attuned Listener’s Body Language
Body language signals show your partner whether or not you are tuned in, present, and listening.
Your eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice and body gestures, demonstrates your interest, attitude, and openness.
Staying mindful of your body and conscious of what its saying is essential to effective listening and communication.
Attuned Listening BIG DO’s
Maintain an open body posture, face your partner, uncross your arms and your heart.
Keep your eyes in contact.
Stay aware of your breathing.
Keep yourself open and receptive by remembering listening is LOVE
Effective Listening is about being open and receptive.
A relaxed body allows for an open mind.
When listening, sit and face your partner maintaining an open body posture.
Keep your eyes in contact and stay aware of your breathing.
Facial expressions tend to convey what we are feeling at the moment.
Be mindful of what your face is saying.
Be prepared to counter expressions of indifference or disagreement by reminding yourself that your job is to listen and support, not to judge or advise.
And don’t forget to watch your breathing! When we are agitated, our breathing becomes quick and shallow.
When you notice this happening, take long deep breaths.
This focuses the mind and relaxes the body allowing you to return to a receptive (instead of reactive) state.
A good first step is to keep in mind that the minute your partner starts saying something you don’t want to hear, your shoulders will tense and your instinct will likely be to leave or end the conversation.
Breathe and say,
“I’m staying here.
I love my partner.
I’m going to take deep breaths and listen.”
Repeat as needed.
We all need to be listened to and understood. Most of us grew up without enough focused attention. This is one of the kindest, most loving things you can do for and with your partner.
…from Dr. Sheri’s Prescriptions for Partners-
Blueprint for Successful Conversations
The message sent IS the message being received!
“The single biggest problem in communication
is the illusion that it has taken place.”
~George Bernard Shaw
We spend far more time communicating with each other than we do having sex. Communication is the process of exchanging information with one another. Everything we do and say, as well as, what we don’t do nor say, transmits information. What and how we communicate is the way we know and are known by each other. Few experiences are more gratifying than expressing yourself, saying something that is deep and personal and having it heard, received, and understood by your partner. Learning the necessary skills for effective communication is the basic foundation of true intimacy and vital to a healthy relationship.
What is effective communication in a relationship?
It’s very simple. Your message sent is the message received.
What you say to your partner is actually heard by your partner.
Is the message you’re sending being received?
Take this Quick Communication Quiz to find out.
When I express myself, I know I am heard.
I feel comfortable sharing with my partner.
When issues arise, we face them as a team.
We both actively seek to understand each other.
We are open to each other’s thoughts and feelings.
-If you answered no to any of these questions, you and your partner can communicate more effectively.
Get Heard! Easy Communication Tips
“Behind the need to communicate is the need to share.
Behind the need to share is the need to be understood.”
A common question that I’m frequently asked: “How can I get my partner to listen to me?” My simple answer often is: it’s all in your delivery and your presentation. It’s not ONLY what you say, it’s also how you say it. HOW you express your needs, desires, and requests for change can mean the difference between finding resolution or starting a fight. Here are some quick tips for how to have your say and have what you say, heard.
Dr.Sheri’s 4 Tips for Peaceful, Cooperative, Skillful Conversing
“I”-Speak: Use I statements such as “I need, I feel, I want, I desire.” Avoid blame filled “You’s” such as “You need to… Your problem is… You’re just…” The key is to make your partner aware, not wrong. “This issue is important to me. I would like to talk to you about it. I promise not to yell or get upset.” Practice using “I” statements and you’ll notice an immediate improvement in your dialogue.
Tone: If you’re talking calmly and lovingly, you have a far better chance of keeping your partner’s attention on what you are saying. When someone starts talking really loudly or aggressively, the receiver instinctively goes on the defensive and puts protective walls up. You can’t expect anyone to listen fully when they feel they are being laid into.
When you hold an attitude of cooperation vs. competition, ‘we’re in this together’ ‘we’re a team’ your tone automatically becomes kinder, gentler, and calmer.
Ask for Feedback/Invite Discussion: One surefire way of knowing you are being heard is asking for feedback. What do you think of this? Do you understand where I’m coming from? Feedback also allows you to reaffirm (or resend) any important messages that may have been overlooked or missed.
Each Partner has a Turn saying their say and being heard, feeling openly received without interruption.
Here’s a simple exercise that will help you improve your ability to stay focused, say what you mean, and get what you feel and want expressed in a constructive and caring way. It eliminates the blame filled, character assassination that usually pushes the other away and gets us into trouble.
Remember to use I language.
State your positive intention (i.e. I feel like this issue is coming between us and getting in the way. I hope that by sharing this information with you that we can work together in resolving it. I want to feel closer to you again.
Describe the situation and the behavior that upsets you: Be as specific and objective as possible. “When you come home, walk right past me, and go to our room to without speaking, saying hello or giving me a kiss…” This specifically describes the behavior which is bothering you vs. “when you come home and ignore me” which would usually create an immediate defensive reaction.
Express your feelings and thoughts: (I feel…) (I think, believe, expect…)
Most feelings we experience are a combination of the following: anger, sadness, guilt, happiness, excitement, tenderness. It is important to own your feelings and acknowledge the fact that your partner did not make you feel a certain way.
I feel ___________________ because I think/believe/expect _______________
(e.g. I feel hurt because I think you don’t love me anymore).
Our thoughts about a situation are what creates and stimulates the feelings we are having. In other words, our feelings are a direct result of how we see and interpret the meaning of our partner’s behavior. (e.g. When our partner doesn’t greet us at the door when we come home, the reality might be he or she is busy, but our thoughts and expectations may say that their action is unloving, and then our feelings and responses are off and running!) When you can make the association between what you think and what you feel, everything begins to change for the better.
Specify your wants and what you’d like to change (I would like…) (Are you willing?)
Ask very specifically for an observable change. (e.g. When you come home I’d like it if, before going upstairs, you’d come and find me, give me a hug, and say hi. Are you willing to do that?)
Successful conversations do not necessarily mean getting your way. It means that you have expressed your thoughts, feelings, and/or concerns in a way that is heard and understood. It also means consciously listening and seeking to understand what is being said to you. This kind of communicating can take a little practice but you’ll find the results are well worth it!
Want to know more? Click here.
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