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The Downsides of Having a Poker Face

The Downsides of Having a Poker Face

It’s tough when everyone knows what you’re thinking, but some of the best things about people that wear their heart on their sleeves is that they are approachable, transparent, and perceived as authentic. But what if you don’t easily share your emotions? Many people would say maintaining a poker face is an enviable skill, but it’s not always an asset. Here’s why:

People will continually ask you if everything is “OK.”

It’s common to look for or observe visual feedback from someone when you’re in a conversation.  A poker face may be helpful if your reaction to the discussion is negative, however it could be extremely misleading if your reaction is positive. When there is no reaction, or even no change in expression, its natural to wonder if there is something wrong with person to whom you’re speaking. And with no additional social queues, the inevitable question that follows is “Are you OK?”f

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You may have a hard time gaining credibility as a leader.

A stoic countenance can be a huge asset in the business world, particularly if you regularly engage in negotiations or sales, but it’s not a great thing to have if you’re trying to lead an organization. Why? People may think you are uncaring or uninterested. Leaders need to appear motivated and inspirational. Someone who doesn’t openly show their emotion or excitement around ideas or isn’t able to openly empathize with their constituency will struggle to appear authentic. It’s hard to get people to follow you if you don’t seem invested in your cause.

A monotonic expression implies that you’re not engaged in whatever is going on around you and such an apathetic stance can be really damaging to those that need to interact with you on a daily basis, especially those that look to you for leadership. Everyone wants to feel connected to the leader and their mission and your poker face makes it hard to break through.

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Your emotional health and job performance may suffer.

Controlling your emotions is stressful.  It takes a lot of energy and attention that you could be dedicating to other pursuits. A study out of Rice University, University of Toronto, and Purdue University showed that employees that maintain a neutral stance at work are much more likely to show symptoms of distress and burnout. Staying stoic can even affect your job performance; the study further showed that neutral employees were rated lower for customer service and lowered the external perception of their organization more than positive employees.

Your dating life may struggle.

Emotional detachment can be helpful in many situations, but it’s usually a downside when trying to find a romantic life partner. This effect could be even worse if you’re a man – women have a harder time interpreting single note facial expressions, and many women perceive them to be negative.

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What’s tough about this one is that you may actually not be emotionally detached; you may actually care for your significant other very much. But without the ability to show that emotion in a meaningful way through your facial expressions, it could leave your partner second-guessing your intentions.

So, how do you overcome these challenges? Firstly, figure out when and how to use your poker face. A neutral stance is helpful in negotiations, and to help maintain a sense of calm in stressful situations. Then, find ways to bring emotion into your life. Spend some time practicing different faces and expressions in the mirror. While this may seem odd, particularly to someone who is not used to showing emotion, this exact technique is used by people who show too much emotion – it helps them better understand how they react to situations an how they can fine tune their reactions so they don’t come across as overly enthusiastic. Be happy – at least you don’t have that problem.

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Featured photo credit: Abraham Lincoln Memorial / Gage Skidmore via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 18, 2019

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

Some people will have a rain cloud hanging over them, no matter what the weather is outside. Their negative attitude is toxic to your own moods, and you probably feel like there is little you can do about it.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If you want to effectively deal with negative people and be a champion of positivity, then your best route is to take definite action through some of the steps below.

1. Limit the time you spend with them.

First, let’s get this out of the way. You can be more positive than a cartoon sponge, but even your enthusiasm has a chance of being afflicted by the constant negativity of a friend.

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In fact, negativity has been proven to damage your health physically, making you vulnerable to high levels of stress and even cardiac disease. There’s no reason to get hurt because of someone else’s bad mood.

Though this may be a little tricky depending on your situation, working to spend slightly less time around negative people will keep your own spirits from slipping as well.

2. Speak up for yourself.

Don’t just absorb the comments that you are being bombarded with, especially if they are about you. It’s wise to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but being too quiet can give the person the impression that you are accepting what’s being said.

3. Don’t pretend that their behavior is “OK.”

This is an easy trap to fall into. Point out to the person that their constant negativity isn’t a good thing. We don’t want to do this because it’s far easier to let someone sit in their woes, and we’d rather just stay out of it.

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But if you want the best for this person, avoid giving the false impression that their negativity is normal.

4. Don’t make their problems your problems.

Though I consider empathy a gift, it can be a dangerous thing. When we hear the complaints of a friend or family member, we typically start to take on their burdens with them.

This is a bad habit to get into, especially if this is a person who is almost exclusively negative. These types of people are prone to embellishing and altering a story in order to gain sympathy.

Why else would they be sharing this with you?

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5. Change the subject.

When you suspect that a conversation is starting to take a turn for the negative, be a champion of positivity by changing the subject. Of course, you have to do this without ignoring what the other person said.

Acknowledge their comment, but move the conversation forward before the euphoric pleasure gained from complaining takes hold of either of you.

6. Talk about solutions, not problems.

Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t an option if you want to deal with negative people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be positive.

I know that when someone begins dumping complaints on me, I have a hard time knowing exactly what to say. The key is to measure your responses as solution-based.

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You can do this by asking questions like, “Well, how could this be resolved?” or, “How do you think they feel about it?”

Use discernment to find an appropriate response that will help your friend manage their perspectives.

7. Leave them behind.

Sadly, there are times when we have to move on without these friends, especially if you have exhausted your best efforts toward building a positive relationship.

If this person is a family member, you can still have a functioning relationship with them, of course, but you may still have to limit the influence they have over your wellbeing.

That being said, what are some steps you’ve taken to deal with negative people? Let us know in the comments.

You may also want to read: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.

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