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    De-stressing Relationships in a Fast-Paced World

    How to get a higher EQ -- emotional quotient -- to keep the lines of communication open.

    Five Basic Nonverbal Warning Cues

    1. Lack of eye contact
    2. There is no soft, just-for-the-fun-of-it touching
    3. The tone of voice is shrill or in a higher register
    4. Shifting from foot to foot or stepping backward
    5. An absence of either nodding in agreement or some "mmm" sounds to let them know you're really listening to them

    The trick here is to recognize body language for what it truly is and to take a good hard look at your own nonverbal cues. The best way to do this is to use any of several methods. Let's take the five cues above one at a time and see how you can sharpen your skills in terms of the cues you're sending out. Remember, people are influenced by what you do and don't say, so practice and you will notice a change in how someone relates to you.

    Lack of Eye Contact

    Eye contact is probably most difficult for people because it does establish a certain intimacy. Solid relationships, therefore, should be ones where there's lots of eye contact with appropriate smiling. Make it a point to look at someone when you're talking to them or vice versa. Some people actually develop a habit of closing their eyes when talking to someone and that's usually interpreted to mean you're shutting them out or you are terribly anxious. So practice in front of a mirror or with people in the bank or market.

    Practice Reassuring Touch

    Touch is something that has to be handled with tact. Make it a point to softly brush the back of the other person's hand or arm as you pass. Or you can provide a reassuring hand when opening a door or walking up stairs. The thing to remember is that it should be done gently, and almost go unnoticed.

    Tune Into Your Tone

    Your voice and how you project your feelings and interest (or lack thereof) can be quickly handled with some self-study at home. You can check and learn to modulate your tone by using a tape recorder or even a home video camera. Remember that the room in which you record may bounce the sound around, so pick a room with lots of dampening rugs, furniture, drapes, etc. Record yourself first as you normally talk. Next, do some relaxation breathing and then relax your throat as you speak; speak in your normal, more throaty voice, not the one that sounds uneasy and anxious. Sound better? More inviting?

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