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How to Say More by Talking Less

How to Say More by Talking Less

He who does not know how to be silent will not know how to speak. – Ausonius

Talking less has always been a struggle for me. As a child, those close to me constantly chastised me for my need to stir the air with incessant chatter. As I grew older, their comments made me feel as though none of my words were worthy of being heard. Ironically, one of the people who made those comments the most is someone who, to this day, is incapable of sitting in silence with others. That individual must fill the void of silence with the most arbitrary (and oftentimes, annoying) nervous banter. To the point where I would wince with each word.

Talking less can bring you closer to those you love

When my daughter was very small, I was a single mother and worked multiple jobs to support us. Some days, my daily responsibilities left me both emotionally and physically exhausted, and I just wanted to sit in silence. (Two decades later, I still have those days.) My sweet little angel would sit beside me and chatter at a mile-a-minute pace, excitedly telling me about her day—or even what Barney The Dinosaur did to inspire her. Although I loved my alone time with her, and adored hearing her stories, there were some days that I was on overload. Since I knew how I was stung by people’s words when I was a child, I did not want to do the same to her; so instead of telling her to be quiet, I simply said, “Sweetheart, mommy’s ears are tired tonight.”

My vivacious little girl would then turn to me and say, “Okay mommy. We can just sit and ‘nuggle.” And with that, we sat in silence and cuddled on the couch or worked on a coloring book together. Even at a young age, my daughter was not intimidated by talking less.

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Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. – Max Ehrmann

Talking less is how leaders are made

I am certainly guilty of being a talker. I am also guilty of not being the best listener. I recognize those traits in me, and do my best, on a daily basis, to be better balanced in those areas. I was always the person who only half listened, as I waited for my chance to throw in my two cents. From time to time, I still catch myself doing it, but have learned to recognize my anxious inner voice and cast it away.

One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. – Bryant H. McGill

Parents and supervisors are some of the biggest offenders of not recognizing the strength of talking less. I’m sure everyone has either done this, or experienced it. The person asks a question and, if the reply does not occur almost immediately, they begin feeding the answer to the other. Here are a couple examples:

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  • Parent to child: “Billy, why did you cry when grandpa touched your teddy bear?” Insert momentary pause. “Is it because you thought he hurt Mr. Bear? Or because you don’t like sharing? Is it because grandpa smells funny?”
  • Employer to staff: “I’d like to know why no one made contact with our supplier regarding the discrepancy in the order.” Insert five seconds of silence. “Did everyone think someone else was going to do it? Did you think that it was an insignificant loss? Do you just not care about this company’s success?”

In both of those examples, they should have asked the question and then sat silently, rather than feed their audience a selection of multiple-choice answers from which to choose.

A silent mind is a productive and healthy mind

Luminita Saviuc at Purpose Fairy wrote an article about the positive results that come with talking less. She confirms in The Wisdom of Silence: Learning to Talk Less and Say More that we have permission to just breathe. She reminds us that in the wake of our silence, we will not find ourselves in danger, but might actually experience clarity. When our mind is still, we can help our body purge itself of the stress of our day.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something. – Plato

I want to be a wise woman. I am learning more and more how to be that wise woman.

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Fear not the silence around you

As technology takes a stronghold on us, we now replace our silence with the “noise” of turning to our mobile devices. I have witnessed many couples or groups in public, whose devices appear the moment there is a pause in conversation. The only sounds you hear are their fingers tapping on tiny keyboards. Why are we so afraid to be still?

Let’s not misunderstand this focus on talking less though—excited chatter, banter, and conversation have a place in all of our lives.

Talking less does not mean that there is nothing left to say

My husband and I carpool to work each day, and a couple years ago, the silence in the car was almost deafening for me after we had finished exchanging our anecdotes of our workday. I thought, “Have we run out of things to talk about? Do we know everything we know need to know about each other?”

I was panicking as I thought of all the years we talked endlessly about anything and everything while on our path of getting to know one another. Instead of sounding my emotional alarms, I should have been appreciative to simply share that space with him, and realize how comfortable we both are just being together—even in silence.

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Although, my genetic circuitry still pushes me to the chatter zone, as I grow, and learn, I do my best to circumvent those urges and let my mind and soul be still.

Featured photo credit: Shh/Amickman via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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