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Connect and communicate with eye contact

Filed under: Communication
Look into my eyes! Eye contact plays an important role in starting your conversations and maintaining social connections.

Eye contact is your first step in initiating communication, and your eye gaze conveys what’s important to you. Eye contact can draw in people’s attention. As humans, we’re attracted to faces and particularly other people’s eyes. Looking at someone’s eyes reveals information you automatically decode. You might perceive some eye gazes as welcoming and inviting, while others can seem uncomfortable or perhaps threatening.

Eye contact influences social exchanges and your body’s reaction to those exchanges. And what’s considered “normal” can depend on your culture and location. You might judge other people based on their eye contact, and they might react similarly to you. In North America, for example, direct eye contact tends to signal your intention to engage in an interaction. Prolonged eye contact can activate your nervous system, making you more excited and alert as well. Your eye contact also can influence how others judge your truthfulness and persuasive abilities during discussions. In the U.S., if you avoid eye contact, it might be interpreted as a lack of interest in talking or even that you’re trying to hide something. However, in East Asian cultures, it’s typical to make and sustain eye contact less frequently.

Where you focus your eyes tells others about your interests, intentions, and goals. People are more likely to look each other in the eyes or at each other’s faces when they feel love, respect, or admiration towards each other. In comparison, eye gazes towards someone’s body are more likely to indicate lust or sexual attraction.

Eye contact is part of communicating and connecting with others. For example, initiating eye contact can help make your apology more effective. And it’s a part of confirming your partner’s consent during sex. Eye contact with parents also helps newborns’ brains develop, and it helps them feel comforted and attached to their moms and dads. Use eye contact to connect with someone you care about and further communication with those around you.

Posted 26 June 2017

Use assertive communication and be heard

Practice assertive communication in your relationships to express your opinions, convey respect, and be heard.

“How” you say something is as important as “what” you say when it comes to communication. Being assertive means you express your opinion and stand up for yourself in an honest and respectful way while also maintaining consideration for others’ thoughts and feelings. When expressing yourself, it’s important to be assertive—that is, neither aggressive nor passive.

Assertive people offer up their perspectives, are able to say “no” without feeling guilty, and ask for what they need. Assertive communication gives you the best chance at effectively conveying your message, and it’s a way to further build your self-confidence. Being assertive and a good listener leads to healthy, productive communication. Read more...

How to build intimacy in your relationship

Intimacy is essential to your healthy romantic relationship. Learn how to connect with your partner.

Intimacy is your sense of closeness with your partner, and it’s a key component of successful romantic relationships. You can build it by sharing thoughts, ideas, experiences, and emotions, and through physical touch. The level of shared intimacy in your romantic relationship makes it different from other relationships too. Many couples report greater relationship satisfaction when they share intimacy, while others tend to seek therapy when they lack intimacy.

So, how do you build intimacy in your relationship?

  • Communicate with your partner. Positive communication leads to higher levels of intimacy. It builds when you discuss your own vulnerabilities, and your partner listens and strives to understand your experiences. This can be challenging for Warfighters who train to not share information. To work through this, practice being assertive and a good listener. Intimacy builds when you share things that are deeply personal and your partner listens, honors, and respects what you’re saying.
  • Choose the “right” time to talk. An important piece of good communication is timing—and knowing when your partner is able to fully listen. Asking your partner, “Do you have some time to talk?” can help you determine that “right” time to talk things over. If distance makes it hard to find time to talk, written communication can be very effective if it’s assertive and received with respect.
  • Enjoy time together. You also can build intimacy by spending time doing mutually enjoyable activities. Experiencing new things with your partner can create a shared sense of intimacy as you encounter obstacles and solve problems together.
  • Explore physical touch. Sex and physical touch make your romantic relationship unique. To build intimacy, talk about your sex needs and listen to your partner as well. Sharing physical intimacy helps couples feel close and connected.

Intimacy builds over time and through multiple experiences, so it requires an ongoing investment from you. And remember it’s common for couples to experience peaks and valleys of intimacy levels in their long-term relationships. Visit HPRC’s Sex, Sexuality, & Intimacy section for more information on how to build intimacy in your relationship.

Posted 29 May 2017

Help your military kids make new friends

During Military Children’s Health Month, HPRC takes a look at how military parents can help their kids make new friends.

Making and sustaining friendships is an important part of children’s growth and development. But military kids, who move often, might have to make new friends several times throughout childhood and adolescence. The ability to engage in conversations and openness towards others helps kids develop friendships.

What can you do to help your military kids make new friends?

  • Model friendly behaviors such as greeting new people, asking questions to encourage conversation, and treating others with respect. Be open to making new friends yourself when you move to a new location.
  • Emphasize the qualities that make someone a good friend. Encourage your kids to share and take turns. Children who are cooperative, helpful, and considerate tend to be more liked by their peers.
  • Talk openly about what it means to be someone’s friend. Friends are honest, supportive, and fun to be with. They share common interests and don’t bully or make you feel left out.
  • When your kids are younger, organize play dates with kids you think will complement your child’s personality. Before the play date, brainstorm with your child how to spend the time doing fun games and activities your child enjoys that will help build friendship.
  • Allow your school-age kids to choose their own friends while passively supervising the interactions.
  • Practice conversations your kids could have with new friends. Sharing thoughts and ideas is basic to any relationship, but especially friendships. Get your kids comfortable with telling others what’s on their mind and asking what their peers are thinking.
  • Discuss with your kids how to effectively manage through conflicts to sustain their friendships. Encourage them to be assertive and considerate.

Helping your kids make friends can impact them in the short and long term. Acceptance by peers can affect children’s self-esteem. As kids get older, friendships provide a sense of security and an outlet to relieve stress. Having good-quality friendships in childhood has long-term consequences, too. Having few or no friends in childhood has been linked to worse health in adulthood. As a parent, you can guide your kids toward making healthy friendships today.

Posted 03 April 2017

How to plan your family meetings

Family meetings can build cohesion and improve communication with your loved ones. Learn how to get started!

Family meetings help streamline communication and increase closeness with your loved ones. Use these times to get together, discuss important topics, and listen to each other. These meetings can be helpful if you need to talk about an upcoming problem or situation your family is facing. Your family also can discuss upcoming events, decide on any preventative actions you’ll take, and agree on how you’ll manage things. In addition, the meetings can clear up confusion and ensure everyone understands expectations and action plans.

During family meetings, you might talk about house rules, upcoming family vacations, or changes to your family structure. Or you might settle ongoing disputes between siblings. Invite all family members to participate and gently encourage them to come, but don’t demand attendance. Establish a productive meeting space and consider the following tips to make sure your family meetings are effective.

  • Set a specific time and location. The time should work for everyone, and the location should be convenient and conducive to good conversations.
  • Establish an agenda. Ask family members in advance what they’d like to cover during the meeting. As you identify topics for discussion, remember your agenda will drive the length of your meeting. Hold shorter meetings—about 10–20 minutes—when younger kids are present too.
  • Get everyone involved. All members should take on a role, even little kids. Decide who will be the leader, note taker, and timekeeper. Rotate responsibilities at each meeting.
  • Take turns talking and listening. Set some guidelines for how the meeting will run, including how everyone will communicate. Speak one at a time, use “I” statements, and practice good listening skills.
  • Encourage participation. Ask for everyone’s opinions and ideas when problem-solving or brainstorming. Enabling all family members’ voices to be heard helps build cohesion in your family unit.
  • Write down your plan of action. Once your family decides how you’ll work towards achieving your joint goal, write things down and post the information where everyone can see it.

Family meetings are successful when kids learn effective problem-solving skills and everyone in the family feels heard. Get your loved ones together for your first family meeting this week!

Posted 13 March 2017

Create a productive space for family meetings

Filed under: Communication, Family
Optimize your family meeting time by creating a positive space to share thoughts, feelings, and concerns.

Family meetings are important for maintaining communication and cohesive relationships with your loved ones. The environment in which you hold these meetings is just as important as what you talk about. Creating a safe, comfortable, and productive space will help your family get the most out of your meeting times. Just like office meetings, everyone should pay attention, stay involved, feel included, and be respectful too. Before you call your next family meeting, consider these tips to set up a productive meeting space.

  • Minimize distractions and ban devices. While some people think they’re good at multitasking, research suggests otherwise. So, turn the TV and other devices off. That includes phones, tablets, and video games. This will help ensure that everyone is focused on the issues at hand.
  • Set a comfortable room temperature. A room that’s too hot or too cold can be a distraction. And it can take away from the focus of your meeting.
  • Make sure everyone has eaten. It’s difficult to focus when your stomach is growling. Hold family meetings after mealtimes or eat snacks beforehand, so your loved ones don’t get hungry when it’s time to talk.
  • Set up effective seating arrangements. Make sure that everyone has “a seat at the table.” Everyone should be visible—not sitting off in a corner or behind other family members. This will help ensure that people are engaged and involved in your conversations.

It might take a few tries to figure out the best environment for your family meetings. Still, be flexible and open to trying new things to get the most out of your time together.

Create healthy team environments

Learn how creating healthy team environments can foster performance, well-being, and morale.

Healthy environments create high-performing teams, which makes a big difference in how productive and fulfilled Warfighters feel on a daily basis. Winning teams don’t happen by chance. As leaders, parents, and partners, there are a few ways you can work toward building strong, cohesive, and effective teams at home or in uniform.

One of the most basic building blocks of good teams is a sense of trust and dependability among its members. High-quality connections with others at work and home can be cultivated by creating forums for open, honest, and assertive communication (about both the positive and negative). Encourage transparency and frequent communication about issues that impact daily operations. And remember that communication styles vary from person to person.

Although teams and families operate in units, find ways to identify and support individual strengths and attributes. Individual traits can help build or break down a team. Be proactive about getting to know what each person brings to the table and provide opportunities for them to utilize their strengths.

Create uniform standards of respect among teammates and family members to help boost healthy team environments too. When you identify negative dynamics within your group, openly address them and hold everyone accountable to the same expectations. Be on the lookout for group aggression and hazing. Although some people believe that these behaviors can lead to increased group identification, they actually can tear down morale and cohesion.

The teams that work within our Armed Forces are constantly in a state of flux. Crafting healthy team environments can create stability and security amid an ever-changing military landscape.

Boost communication with “I” statements

This Valentine’s Day, take a deeper look at what it means to use “I” statements when communicating with your loved ones. Learn about the “I” statement basics.

Healthy communication requires a balance between being a speaker and a listener. When you’re the speaker, express yourself clearly and concisely with “I” statements.

An “I” statement requires you to start a conversation with “I” instead of “you,” but that’s not where it ends. “I” statements also challenge you to think about why a certain situation matters. What’s bothering you about the events that occurred? Try to connect your feelings to those thoughts and events. And phrase your “I” statement as follows:

  • “I feel (describe your emotions) when (describe event) happens.”

Explore the following examples. Read more...

Talk about sex before tying the knot

Healthy communication about sex increases relationship satisfaction. Start these discussions early to create a common understanding about your sex life with your partner.

Honest, forthcoming conversations about sex should start early in your relationship—before you tie the knot—to establish a strong foundation. Good communication about sex in a romantic partnership can lead to greater sexual satisfaction and a more fulfilling relationship.

Physical affection and sex are important parts of developing and sustaining a romantic connection. Intimacy builds through both communication and sex—and partners who talk often about sex are more satisfied in their relationship and sex life. Talking early during your relationship, whether you already have an active sex life or you’re waiting for marriage, establishes a mutual understanding of expectations. When couples struggle with sex and intimacy, relationship satisfaction can decline and partners might opt to go their separate ways.

Physically satisfying sex requires coordination and communication between partners. Talking with your significant other about sex enables you to plan sexual encounters and explore how your partner likes sex to be initiated. As you grow as a couple, you create a shared meaning about your joint sex life. Open discussions ensure you both remain engaged and content. Disclosing your desires and fantasies with your partner and listening in return is an opportunity for connection. When a relationship develops into marriage and then possibly parenthood, a couple’s sex and sexuality are likely impacted. Having a strong foundation of healthy communication about sex from the beginning can help you persevere through relationship transitions.

Talking about sex early also enables you and your partner to establish the mutual value of sexual health and discuss any sexual health risks you might experience. Begin by being forthcoming about your sexuality and sexual history. If you have concerns about sexually transmitted diseases, know the signs, prevention and risk factors, and treatment options.

HPRC offers concrete skills to help you talk about your sex needs. Check out our FAQ section for more about sex, intimacy, and sexuality. If you’re unsure how to have these conversations with your partner, consider seeking premarital education or counseling.

Communicate with curiosity

You probably work and interact with people who are different from you. Approaching conversations with curiosity can improve those relationships.

People you work or interact with might differ from you in age, ethnicity, ideology, or a number of other ways. In conversations with individuals you perceive to be different from you, strive to come from a place of curiosity.

Being curious means entering conversations and relationships assuming only that you have something to learn. What’s more, people who are curious are more likely to feel better about themselves and their lives. They experience more positive emotions such as joy and surprise.

Ask yourself: Am I willing to learn about the lives of people who are different from me? Can I ask more questions? How might I benefit from learning more? Do I communicate with a willingness to learn?

Being curious requires being a good listener, which means being aware of the assumptions you bring to conversations. When you hear or read something someone said, it arrives after being screened through your own personal filter. You might draw what appear to be “logical” inferences, but these might not be accurate at all.

Before you act on your assumptions, ask open-ended, curiosity-driven questions such as:

  • What was that like?
  • How did that feel?
  • What did you think when that happened?
  • How did you end up making that decision?
  • Tell me more.

Healthy communication means listening, accepting, respecting, and negotiating differences. Note your body language, too. If your arms are crossed, muscles tense, and your face in a grimace, you’re not conveying curiosity. Approaching conversations with anger or blame or intent to criticize, threaten, or punish leads to communication breakdowns and strained relationships.

The U.S. Armed Forces celebrates diversity and encourages inclusion. When you communicate with others—whether the conversation is in person, on the phone, or over social media—be driven by curiosity. Being curious can benefit you and your improve relationships with others. In the end, you might find out you’re more alike than you are different.

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