Have you ever cried after feeling rejected?

Psychology: Reading the partner's emotions correctly

A satisfied smile on the lips and a gentle touch or crossed arms and a mocking twisted mouth - facial expressions and body language often say more about your own emotional state than words can.

Recognizing emotions correctly is an important building block for human communication - especially in a partnership. A new study by psychologists from the University of Rochester and the University of Toronto shows how important this is.

The aim of the study: to find out under what circumstances a relationship benefits from correctly recognizing the partner's emotions and when it suffers from them.

The result: couples who are able to correctly recognize the so-called appeasement emotions of their partner are generally happier.

Appreciate your partner's feelings

The term appeasement emotions conceals feelings such as shame or a sense of guilt. Two self-reflective emotions that humans develop in the first two years of life.

"Anyone who tries to appease or admit shame is signaling to their partner that they care about each other's feelings," says Bonnie Le, study author and assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Rochester.

More: Too much empathy makes you sick

The social status

Even the happiest partnership cannot do without conflict. There are two options in a dispute with your partner: claiming high social status or low status for yourself.

High status means signaling to your partner through anger and contempt that you feel you are right. On the other hand, those who show shame or a sense of guilt go into a low social status and start what the facial expressions and body language expert Dirk Eilert calls a "non-verbal attempt at repair".

Communicate emotionally

And that in turn is an indication of a functioning relationship. "Empathy is very important. If I interpret my partner's emotions correctly, then I can choose my words wisely," says Eilert. But it's not just about the right words, but also about the right moment.

"Communicating in an emotion-oriented way works so well because the partner can then follow our words more easily and digest information better. Our counterpart also feels seen as a human being," says Eilert. After all, communication is not just about sending a message, but also about receiving and perceiving the reaction of the other person.

More on this: Radicalization: How empathy fuels conflicts

Contempt is especially dangerous

Another result of the study surprised the psychologists. The mere feeling of negative feelings such as anger or contempt is destructive for the relationship.

"If you perceive threatening gestures from your partner, it can shake your trust in the relationship," says Bonnie Le. As a result, couples who have one partner experiencing these feelings are generally more unhappy. It doesn't matter whether this emotion was recognized correctly or not.

"Disgust and contempt serve as a demarcation in conflict. They are our psychological immune system," says Eilert. If they establish themselves as a pattern in communication, then that can be an indication that the relationship is nearing its end.

Honey, please change that!

In addition, the psychologists wanted to find out more about whether the correct perception of emotions has a positive effect on wanting to meet the wishes of the partner.

To do this, they let the couples formulate a change request for their treasure in a controlled environment - for example, to abandon certain behavior patterns or to curb their own temperament.

The participants then had to describe their own perception of the partner's emotions, as well as the quality of the relationship, and say whether they are motivated to follow the desire.

More on this: Controversy in a partnership: Who fights, loses

It pays to be embarrassed

The result: if you can interpret your partner's emotions well, you are still not more motivated to change your behavior for the person. However, if you garnish said change requests with a dose of embarrassment, you have an advantage.

"One signals: I am aware that my desire for change may hurt you. But I am ready to have these conversations with you and I want to invest in our relationship," says Le.

Recognizing emotions is not that easy

According to Eilert, the emotion recognition rate in the population is just under 60 percent. This is the result of an experiment in which 2000 test subjects were shown 49 images of cross-cultural facial expressions and emotions. "More than every second facial expression is misinterpreted," says Eilert.

There are many reasons for the relatively low value. On the one hand, the ever increasing media consumption has a negative effect. "It is now normal in society to look more at the cell phone than the other person's face," says Eilert.

More: Be ashamed of yourself!

The problem with this is that the brain is less and less concerned with the correct interpretation of facial expressions and emotions and forgets them - according to the motto: "Use it or lose it".

Words are more important

Upbringing in childhood is also a factor. "Upbringing spoils our perception in a certain way. As a child in particular, people have a good grasp of emotions in the form of facial expressions and body language," says Eilert.

A classic situation: the parents argue, the child asks why. "Instead of answering honestly, parents often say, 'We don't argue, we discuss,'" says Eilert. The actually correct interpretation is sold to the child as wrong.

The third cause is the importance of language in society. "As we become more fluent in language, we forget that we are actually non-verbal beings. As a toddler, people orient themselves very much towards body language. That goes by and one trusts more in words," says the facial expressions and body language expert.

At the next meeting with friends or the rendezvous with your partner, simply leaving your mobile phone in your pocket and looking carefully at the other person's face is worthwhile in two ways.

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    Butterflies in the stomach

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    Author: Alexander Freund