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How to Exit an Abusive Relationship Safely PART ONE

If you're in an abusive relationship and thinking about leaving, it's important that you thoroughly think through how you will protect yourself from additional harm.

 

Depending on your situation, you might be considering leaving—or maybe you're already in the process of leaving. Maybe you haven't even considered the possibility of ending the relationship but you just want more information.

 

Whatever your current situation looks like, safety planning is a very personalized process. After all no two relationships are alike and you know the dynamics of the relationship better than anyone else.

 

Still, there are some basic points that you need to consider as you put your plan into place. Here is an overview of the key points you may want to consider.

 

What Is a Safety Plan?

In general, a safety plan is a personalized and practical plan on how to remain safe in an abusive relationship while preparing to leave when the timing is right and safe to do so.

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Strengthen Friendships With Good Listening Skills

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Good listening skills are vital to healthy relationships. Whether you're strengthening a relationship, resolving a conflict, or offering support to a friend facing a crisis, good listening skills can be a lifeline to peace. Learn how to be a truly supportive listener, and you may find yourself surrounded by others who are able to do the same.

Here are some important steps to developing good listening skills:

Here's How

    1. Listen, Listen, Listen. Ask your friend what’s wrong, and really listen to the answer. Let them vent their fears, frustrations, and other important feelings, maintaining eye contact and showing that you’re interested in what they have to say. Resist the urge to give unsolicited advice, and just let them get it out.
    2. Reframe What You Hear. Summarize and repeat back your understanding of what they’re saying so they know you’re hearing them, and focus on the emotions they might be feeling. For example, if your friend is talking about family problems, you might find yourself saying, “It looks like things are getting pretty hostile. You sound like you’re feeling hurt.”
    3. Ask About Feelings. Ask them to expand on what they’re feeling and why. Asking about their feelings provides a good emotional release and might be more helpful than just focusing on the facts of their situation.
    4. Keep the Focus on Them. Rather than delving into a related story of your own, keep the focus on them until they feel better. You can reference something that happened to you if you bring the focus back to them quickly. They will appreciate the focused attention, and this will help them feel genuinely cared for and understood.
 
  1. Help Brainstorm. Rather than giving advice at the beginning, which cuts off further exploration of feelings and other communication, wait until they’ve gotten their feelings out, and then help them brainstorm solutions. If you help them come up with ideas and look at the pros and cons of each, they’re likely to come up with a solution they feel good about. Or they might feel better after just being able to talk and feel heard.
 

Tips

  1. Stay Present. Sometimes people feign listening, but they’re really just waiting for their friend to stop talking so they can say whatever they’ve been mentally rehearsing while they’ve been pretending to listen. People can usually sense this, and it doesn’t feel good. Also, they tend to miss what’s being said because they’re not focused.
  2. Don’t Give Advice. I've mentioned this a few times already, but it's important because unsolicited advice can actually create stress. It’s common to want to immediately give advice and ‘fix’ your friend’s problem. Unless it's specifically requested, don’t. While you’re trying to help, what would work for you might not work for your friend; also, advice can feel condescending. Unless they ask directly for advice, your friend probably just wants to feel heard and understood, and then find their own solutions.
  3. Trust the Process. It might feel a little scary to listen to feelings before diving into solutions, and hearing your friend talk about upset feelings might even make you feel helpless. But usually offering a supportive ear and sitting with your friend in an uncomfortable place is the most helpful thing you can do, and once the feelings are cleared out, the solutions can start coming.
  4. Let Things Even out Over Time. With all this focus on your friend’s problems, it might be difficult not to focus equal time on your own. Relax in the knowledge that, when you need a friend, your friend will likely be a better listener for you. If you’re consistently doing all the giving, you can re-evaluate the dynamics of the relationship. But being a good listener can make you a stronger, more caring person and bring a more supportive angle to your relationships.

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How to Overcome Eye Contact Anxiety

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Eye contact anxiety can interfere with everyday social interactions. By the same token, the ability to maintain good eye contact is an important aspect of social interaction. People who look others in the eye are perceived as friendly and welcoming. However, many shy and socially anxious people have difficulty with this part of communication. 

 

What Is Eye Contact Anxiety?

Eye contact anxiety refers to the discomfort a person feels when looking at someone directly in the eyes. A person with eye contact anxiety may avoid making eye contact when talking to someone. If they do make eye contact, they may feel like they are being judged or scrutinized.

 

Why People Avoid Eye Contact

People have eye contact anxiety for many reasons. For those without a diagnosed mental health condition, avoidance of eye contact could be related to shyness or a lack of confidence. Looking someone in the eye while speaking can feel uncomfortable for those without a lot of practice making conversation or who tend to prefer not being in the spotlight.

 

Eye Contact and Social Anxiety Disorder

Often, people with social anxiety disorder (SAD) describe looking someone in the eyes as anxiety-provoking and uncomfortable. This is likely due, in part, to genetic wiring.

 Research has shown that people diagnosed with SAD have a pronounced fear of direct eye contact.1 If you have SAD, the part of your brain that warns you of danger (your amygdala) can be triggered by eye contact. 
 In addition, the review showed that socially anxious people tend to avoid maintaining eye contact. Again, this is likely due to the fear of being judged.
 
 

Eye Contact and Autism

Research on autism shows that autistic people are hypersensitive to eye contact such that their brains show higher than normal activity in the pathways that process expressions on people's faces. This means that they may avoid eye contact because it can cause extreme discomfort and even pain.3

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How to Improve Your Relationships With Effective Communication Skills

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Conflict in a relationship is virtually inevitable. In itself, conflict isn’t a problem; how it’s handled, however, can bring people together or tear them apart. Poor communication skills, disagreements, and misunderstandings can be a source of anger and distance or a springboard to a stronger relationship and a happier future.

What Is Healthy Communication?

Healthy communication is the effective exchange of thoughts and feelings between people. It often involves people taking turns speaking and listening. Ideally, when you engage in healthy communication, the people involved are devoted to the exchange. Both people are aware of how they are acting during the conversation.

For instance, if you are the speaker, you might be making eye contact or using your body language to express that you are present and engaged. If you are the listener, you are open to hearing what the speaker is saying and not cutting them off from finishing a sentence or focusing your attention on what you're going to say next.1

The Importance of Healthy Communication

Healthy communication is crucial for sustaining long-term relationships. One study found that effective communication increased relationship satisfaction for couples.2 Healthy communication can increase intimacy in relationships as well.

The way you and your partner communicate with each other often determines how you resolve conflicts. If you use healthy methods of communicating, you are likely to find common ground even during a disagreement. This can help strengthen your relationship over time.

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How to Recognize the Signs That Someone Is Lying

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Lying and deception are common human behaviors. Until relatively recently, there has been little actual research into just how often people lie. A 2004 Reader's Digest poll found that as many as 96% of people admit to lying at least sometimes.

One national study published in 2009 surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults and found that 60% of respondents claimed that they did not lie at all. Instead, the researchers found that about half of all lies were told by just 5% of all the subjects.2 The study suggests that while prevalence rates may vary, there likely exists a small group of very prolific liars.

The reality is that most people will probably lie from time to time. Some of these lies are little white lies intended to protect someone else’s feelings (“No, that shirt does not make you look fat!”). In other cases, these lies can be much more serious (like lying on a resume) or even sinister (covering up a crime).​

Lying Can Be Hard to Detect

People are surprisingly bad at detecting lies. One study, for example, found that people were only able to accurately detect lying 54% of the time in a lab setting—hardly impressive when factoring in a 50% detection rate by pure chance alone.3

Clearly, behavioral differences between honest and lying individuals are difficult to discriminate and measure. Researchers have attempted to uncover different ways of detecting lies. While there may not be a simple, tell-tale sign that someone is dishonest (like Pinocchio’s nose), researchers have found a few helpful indicators.​

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How to Talk to Your Partner About Manipulation

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When you decide to approach your partner about the manipulation in your relationship, it is important to have a plan for how this conversation will go. When you confront someone who is manipulating you, there is the risk that they will continue to use the same tactics to try to manipulate you further.

They may respond to this conversation by acting defensive, trying to guilt you into just letting it go, or blaming you for the problems in your relationship. Using some of the following strategies may help this conversation go more smoothly:

  • Be prepared: Before you talk to your partner, list some of the specific ways that you have been manipulated. Concrete examples make it more difficult for the other person to deny the problem.
  • Use "I" statements: Avoid critical or blaming language that is sure to put your partner on the defense. Instead, focus on framing your conversation in terms of "I" statements that discuss your feelings and how you've been affected by these problems.15
  • Listen to your partner: Give your partner the ability to share what they are feeling, but stay objective and don't let them minimize the problem. If your partner is willing to listen to your perspective and discuss ways to change your interactions, consider it an opportunity to mend the relationship and move forward in a healthier way.

If your partner becomes angry, defensive, and unwilling to listen, then it may be time to honestly check in with yourself to decide how and if you want to stay in a relationship with this person. 

A Word From Verywell

Manipulation might seem like an easy or "natural" way to deal with a difficult issue or to get things to go the way you want them to, but it is hurtful and damaging to your relationships. You and your loved ones deserve honest and loving communication.

If you are experiencing manipulation in a relationship, take steps to address the behavior before it becomes worse. Discuss the problem with the other person, establish clear boundaries, and be willing to walk away if they are not willing to change.

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How to Respond to Manipulative Behavior

Manipulation and other forms of emotional abuse that you do not have to tolerate or accept from a romantic partner—or anyone else in your life. It is important to understand that manipulation is a form of emotional blackmail and learn how to respond.

 

Don't Minimize Manipulation

It might take a while to recognize emotional manipulation, but when you do, don't act as if it isn't a big deal. Emotional manipulation needs to be addressed, whether you are the target or the perpetrator.

 

The first step is admitting that you're in an emotionally manipulative relationship.

Consider having an honest and direct conversation with your partner to address the manipulation. If you are being manipulated, you might name specific examples of their behavior and how it affects you. Be specific in describing the forms of manipulation and your feelings in response to them.

 

For instance, you might say, "When you shut down in response to my saying something that you disagree with, I feel sad and discouraged. I'd like to feel connected with you; is this something you are open to talking about?" or "When you tell me that I said something I didn't say, I feel confused and frustrated. Can we have an honest talk about what is happening?"

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Why Manipulators Act the Way They Do

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It's important to follow your gut instinct when it comes to recognizing emotional manipulation. If someone consistently makes you feel emotionally drained, anxious, fearful, or doubtful of your own needs, thoughts, and feelings, it is likely emotional manipulation may be present in the relationship.

You might recognize the signs of emotional manipulation if your partner uses one or more of the following strategies.

Gaslighting

A person who is gaslighting you may lie to you, blame you for things, and minimize what you're feeling. They might say, "You're crazy," or "You're too sensitive." Someone who is gaslighting you tries to make you feel that you aren't worthy of expressing yourself and that your feelings and emotions are not real or valid. People gaslight in order to deny any wrongdoing on their part and to assert control over what you think and what you do.8

If you suspect someone is gaslighting you, pay attention to how you feel after you spend time with them. You might feel confused, disappointed in yourself, inadequate, or like you can't trust yourself.9

Passive-Aggressive Behavior

As opposed to using direct communication, a person who behaves passive-aggressively doesn't express how they're really feeling. Your partner might use avoidance tactics, such as actively dodging you or dodging the discussion of certain topics.10 Sarcasm can be another sign of passive-aggressive communication. 

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How to Recognize and React to Manipulation in Your Relationship

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People who manipulate use mental distortion and emotional exploitation to influence and control others. Their intent is to have power and control over others to get what they want.

Someone who manipulates you knows what your weaknesses are and will use them against you.1 If the person doing the manipulation is getting what they want from you, the manipulation will continue until you decide it has to stop and actively and intentionally put an end to it. This can be challenging and you are encouraged to seek support during this process, especially if you are interacting with a chronically manipulative person.

Recognizing manipulation in your own relationship can be difficult because it might have started out subtle. Over time, manipulative behavior in relationships can become the everyday dynamic with your partner.

This article covers how to recognize the signs of emotional manipulation and how to respond to manipulative behavior in relationships.

 

What Is Manipulation?

Manipulation is a tactic someone uses in order to gain control over another person, usually in an attempt to get what they want, and often at the other person's expense.2

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What to Do About Verbal Abuse

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The first step in dealing with verbal abuse is to recognize the abuse. If you were able to identify any type of verbal abuse in your relationship, it's important to acknowledge that first and foremost.

By being honest about what you are experiencing, you can begin to take steps to gain back control. While you need to consider your individual situation and circumstances, these tips can help if you find yourself in a verbally abusive relationship.

Set Boundaries

Firmly tell the verbally abusive person that they may no longer criticize, judge or shame you, name-call, threaten you, and so on. Then, tell them what will happen if they continue this abusive behavior.

For instance, tell them that if they scream or swear at you, the conversation will be over and you will leave the room. The key is to follow through; don't set boundaries you have no intention of keeping.

Limit Exposures

If possible, take time away from the verbally abusive person and spend time with people who love and support you. Limiting exposure with the person can give you space to reevaluate your relationship. Surrounding yourself with a network of friends and family will help you feel less lonely and isolated and remind you of what a healthy relationship should look like.

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Types of Verbal Abuse

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When someone is being verbally abused, the person attacking them may use overt forms of abuse like engaging in name-calling and making threats, but also more insidious methods like gaslighting or constantly correcting, interrupting, putting down, and demeaning them.

Even prolonged silent treatment is a form of verbal abuse. When this happens, the person is attempting to control and punish the victim by refusing to talk to them.

For some people, especially those who either experience verbal abuse in the home or experienced it as a child, it can often be overlooked because the verbal assaults feel like a normal way to communicate. But they are anything but normal and can have lasting consequences.

Verbal abuse can take a number of different forms, including:

  • Blaming: Making the victim believe they are responsible for the abusive behavior or that they bring the verbal abuse upon themselves3
  • Criticism: Harsh and persistent remarks that are meant to make the person feel bad about themselves and are not constructive, but deliberate and hurtful
  • Gaslighting: A type of insidious, and sometimes covert, emotional abuse where the abuser makes the target question their judgments and reality4
  • Judging: Looking down on the victim, not accepting them for who they are, or holding them to unrealistic expectations5
  • Name-calling: Abusive, derogatory language, or insults that chip away at the target’s self-esteem, sense of self-worth, and self-concept
  • Threats: Statements meant to frighten, control, and manipulate the victim into compliance2
  • Withholding: A refusal to give affection or attention, including talking to you, looking at you, or even being in the same room with you6

While not an exhaustive list, these are several examples of the common types of verbal abuse that can occur.

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What Is Verbal Abuse?

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What Is Verbal Abuse?

Most people assume that if they were being verbally abused they would know about it. After all, verbal abuse often involves yelling, put-downs, name-calling, and belittling behaviors. But there is so much more to verbal abuse than people realize. In fact, some people are verbally abused on a regular basis without even recognizing that it’s happening.1

What Is Verbal Abuse?

Verbal abuse—a type of emotional abuse—is when someone uses their words to assault, dominate, ridicule, manipulate, and/or degrade another person and negatively impact this person's psychological health. Verbal abuse is a way for a person to control and maintain power over another person.2

It can occur in any type of relationship, such as romantic relationships, parent-child relationships, family relationships, and co-worker relationships.

Verbal abuse sometimes occurs in relationships before physical abuse; however, this is not always the case. Verbal abuse can exist without the presence of physical abuse. The effects of verbal abuse can be just as damaging as those of physical abuse.2

This article covers the verbal abuse definition, the signs and impact of verbal abuse, as well as how to seek help if you are coping with the effects of verbal abuse.

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What an Intimate, Loving Relationship Looks Like vs. Love Bombing

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With closeness, respect, and consideration, healthy couples can be vulnerable, trust and care for each other. Those who have been diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, according to the Cleveland Clinic, lack empathy.2 They’re self-centered and demand admiration. They also have an outsized sense of entitlement.

 

Dr. Keller notes, “In a loving partnership, one is allowed to have discussions about changing their mind, ask for time, and confide in their partner their fears and concerns. Then hopefully, they can subsequently come up with solutions together.”

What to Do After You’ve Been Love Bombed 

Know that you’re not alone. A study3on living with pathological narcissism found difficulties within the context of their close relationships.

 

Researchers found that not only was the grandiosity detrimental to partners and relatives, but the vulnerable aspect of pathological narcissism which includes instability, insecurity, and rage affected their partners in an insidious way.

 

If you’ve expressed discomfort and were unable to draw boundaries with this love bomber, connect with friends and loved ones. It’s never too early to seek out help from a mental health counselor to guide you. Remember to give yourself kindness and forgiveness, too.

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Can Love Bombing Ever Be a Good Thing?

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Can Love Bombing Ever Be a Good Thing?

In fewer cases, love bombing can be a positive experience. Someone eager to find the right person might be elated when they find that special one and shower the other in lots of gifts.

 

While overly generous, it occurs over time. It feels natural compared to the controlling ways of a typical love bomber.

Depending on the culture and family background, extensive gift-giving and being expressive through compliments and such might also be an inherited way for your significant other to express closeness and love.

 

What to Do If You Realize You're Smothering Someone With Too Much Affection?

In other cases, you might be love bombing and not even know it. If you're feeling insecure or have a desperate need to shower someone with attention and gifts, it's important to figure out why:

 
  • Are your smothering actions due to clinging to the relationship?
  • Are you compensating for poor treatment of your partner in the past?
  • Do you fear your partner will break up with you?
  • Do you fear abandonment?
  • Do you want to be viewed as a hero?
 

Take some time to assess your behavior. After you figure out what is driving you to act this way, consider your goal and how this is impacting the person you love.

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What Is Love Bombing?

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Love bombing occurs when someone “bombs” you with extreme displays of attention and affection.

Although it can be a positive aspect at the beginning of a romantic relationship, it can lead to gaslighting and abuse. Psychologists caution it might be a manipulative tactic by a narcissist or sociopath in an attempt to control you.

Why Love Bombing May Become Dangerous

Love bombing often takes place at the onset of a relationship. At the beginning of getting to know each other, you might view this person as charming and especially attentive. This person will praise you effusively, tell you they adore you, and often seem to emotionally attach way too quickly.

If you find yourself telling your friends your partner seems too good to be true, they just might be.

Love bombing also happens with couples after they have a big fight or break up. There’s nothing wrong with giving someone a second chance, but if someone belittles you, then begs for forgiveness, promises it will never happen again and offers overly-grand gestures, like sending you five dozen roses to show how sorry they are, be cautious.

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How to Know If Your Relationship Is Worth Saving

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Relationships can be tricky. One moment you can be on the highest euphoria cloud, and the next second it can feel like you're alone in the relationship. However, when you're in a relationship and questioning staying, there are some key things to consider before calling it quits.

 

Does this person add value to your life? How long have you been together? Have you been through hard times and made it out together? These types of things will factor into your decision.

 

In this article, you'll learn what you should consider before breaking up with your current partner. It also provides some questions you should ask yourself during the decision-making process and urges you to reflect on how your actions may have affected the relationship. Additionally, you'll learn what makes a relationship worth saving and ways to rekindle the spark that once was.

 

Questions to Ask Yourself

Before you decide to end your relationship completely, it's a good idea to take a step back to reflect on what's working and what is hindering the relationship. Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help determine if you're going to stay on the boat or swim to shore.

 
  • Why did you get into the relationship to begin with?
  • How does this person make you feel? How did they make you feel in the past?
  • What's changed to even make you question if the relationship is worth saving?
  • What are your deal breakers?
  • What aren't you doing enough of?
  • Are you worth saving or fighting for?
  • Are both you and your partner making sincere and sustainable efforts to hear and understand the other's needs and feelings, repair from disconnect and conflict, and do your best to meet each other's needs?
 

You and your partner need to be able to honestly answer these questions separately. Though relationships are about being a pair, true fulfillment and happiness start with oneself. Therefore, taking a look at your own actions and facing your contribution to the relationship will help you both get closer to a final decision.

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10 Red Flags in Relationships

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If your partner displays any of the following red flags, it’s time to have a conversation with yourself, and them, about the future of your relationship. While all scenarios are different and there’s always room for nuance, a red flag indicates a deep problem that the other person must address to have a healthy relationship with you, themselves, and anyone else.

Alcoholism & Drug Addiction

“Drinking daily or drinking until inebriation a few times a week can be a red flag for a drinking problem," says Amber Trueblood, LMFT. Reliance on drugs to get through the day, the week, or through tough spots in life is also concerning.

If alcohol or drugs are impacting your partner’s life in a negative way—be it their work, health, or relationships—that is a sign of addiction. Similarly, if your partner relies on substances to get through the day, week, or a tough situation then that's indicative of addiction and signifies they haven't yet figured out how to cope without altering their mental state.

 Lastly, if substance use ever leads your partner to harm you physically or emotionally, that is a clear sign to walk away.

Violent Displays

Someone who demonstrates violence toward you, loved ones, strangers, and even animals is a serious red flag. It indicates they haven’t developed a healthy way to properly channel their emotions. In some cases, it could also be indicative they lack empathy for others.

 

If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates.

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GASLIGHTING

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What Is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that often occurs in abusive relationships. It is a covert type of emotional abuse where the bully or abuser misleads the target, creating a false narrative and making them question their judgments and reality.1 Ultimately, the victim of gaslighting starts to feel unsure about their perceptions of the world and even wonder if they are losing their sanity.

 

Gaslighting primarily occurs in romantic relationships, but it's not uncommon for it to occur in controlling friendships or among family members as well. People who gaslight others may have mental health disorders, such as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD). They use this type of emotional abuse to exert power over others in order to manipulate friends, family members, or even co-workers.

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Understanding Body Language and Facial Expressions PART TWO

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Gestures

Gestures can be some of the most direct and obvious body language signals. Waving, pointing, and using the fingers to indicate numerical amounts are all very common and easy to understand gestures.

Some gestures may be cultural, however, so giving a thumbs-up or a peace sign in another country might have a completely different meaning than it does in the United States.

The following examples are just a few common gestures and their possible meanings:

  • A clenched fist can indicate anger in some situations or solidarity in others.
  • A thumbs up and thumbs down are often used as gestures of approval and disapproval.10
  • The "okay" gesture, made by touching together the thumb and index finger in a circle while extending the other three fingers can be used to mean "okay" or "all right."10 In some parts of Europe, however, the same signal is used to imply you are nothing. In some South American countries, the symbol is actually a vulgar gesture.
  • The V sign, created by lifting the index and middle finger and separating them to create a V-shape, means peace or victory in some countries. In the United Kingdom and Australia, the symbol takes on an offensive meaning when the back of the hand is facing outward.

The Arms and Legs

The arms and legs can also be useful in conveying nonverbal information. Crossing the arms can indicate defensiveness. Crossing legs away from another person may indicate dislike or discomfort with that individual.

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Understanding Body Language and Facial Expressions PART ONE

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Body language refers to the nonverbal signals that we use to communicate. According to experts, these nonverbal signals make up a huge part of daily communication.

From our facial expressions to our body movements, the things we don't say can still convey volumes of information.1

It has been suggested that body language may account for between 60 to 65% of all communication.2

Understanding body language is important, but it is also essential to pay attention to other cues such as context. In many cases, you should look at signals as a group rather than focusing on a single action.

Here's what to look for when you're trying to interpret body languag

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