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How Not To Turn Meaningful Discussions Into Arguments By Keeping This 1 Thing In Mind.

How Not To Turn Meaningful Discussions Into Arguments By Keeping This 1 Thing In Mind.

When in the midst of a discussion, all we really want is to be heard, and for our point of view to be considered. But sometimes in the heat of the moment if a conversation isn’t going our way, we can get defensive; escalating a friendly discussion into a full blown argument.

A lot of the time this happens without us even meaning to, and we lose control of the situation. We want our views to be understood. But sometimes while explaining our stance we might not realize that we are offending the other people involved in the discussion, turning it into something ugly and running away from the initial point.

Exhibition 1. Times We Mess Up in a Discussion: Workplace

The most volatile environment that this could happen is in the work place. You want to appear to be informed and articulate, so you engage with your coworkers about a politically inspired debate. This is an incredibly touchy subject regardless, so approach with caution when flinging your hard-pressed beliefs out in the open. (I don’t agree with the following example but bear with me for a moment). Say that you don’t believe that women should get equal pay in the workplace, because men have to spend more money to please their women. You could have been half-joking when you said it, but now every woman in the office probably hates you, along with many feminist empathizing men. There’s nothing wrong with shaking things up a bit, but think before you speak.

Exhibition 2. Times We Mess Up in a Discussion: Family

The same goes for friends and family. You don’t need to be as cautious because it’s not going to affect your professional career, but you also don’t want to offend those closest to you. Let’s suppose that you came from a small town, but moved to the big city to find your place in the rat race. When you return home, you view everyone as just doing the same old thing. While that may be true, be careful on how you word things if you decide to bring this up. Don’t use words like, “towny,” because now you’re offending even the people you returned home to see.

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A Careless Mistake That Escalates the Original Issue into a Huge Conflict

Now not only do you need to backtrack to get your original point across, but you have to do some damage control to alleviate the situation that is now getting blown out of proportion. The original issue is now no longer relevant, and what should have been a friendly discussion is turning into a huge mess.

When people feel that they are being attacked or judged, they will immediately become defensive and retaliate. The conversation will shift into justifications for their behavior or beliefs that they feel you have been insensitive to, and the remainder of the discussion will consist of you trying to calm them down to realize what you actually meant, and return to your initial point.

It’s not a very good look for you, coming across as judgmental and not accepting of other’s point of view. That may have not been your intent at all, but because of poor word choices, you appear to be that way. Now others are judging you for being judgmental. Exhausting, isn’t it?

Emotions are on the rise and have taken control of the situation. Now all of your efforts are directed at diffusing the situation, and you may not ever get a chance to explain yourself.

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Why Do We Sometimes Get Defensive Even Without Our Notice?

I think we all know that one person that is next to impossible to speak to, because we know that any little thing will put them on the defensive and shut you out. If you don’t know anyone like this, then maybe it’s you. But why does it happen?

1. We Do Not Feel Respected or Being Heard.

Sometimes we react impulsively, or don’t realize the weight of our words until we’ve already said them. Then the recipient of our comments doesn’t exactly take it so well, and the original point has been lost.

Example: You’re unhappy with your boyfriend because he doesn’t seem to have any time for you. You try to talk it out with him, but your first point is that he makes you feel like he doesn’t care. Now, all of his efforts have been belittled, and he feels like you don’t appreciate all that he does for you. It blows up into an argument of accusing each other of not caring, and the original issue doesn’t get resolved.

2. It Is How Our Brains Are Wired.

Our brains are hard-wired to switch gears into our Self Protective System if we feel that we are being attacked verbally, physically, or mentally. Our brains don’t only react to situations instinctively, but reasonably as well to preserve our physical and psychological well-being. What’s interesting about our self-protective systems is that they are not learned. They are genetically manufactured, along with the other facets of our DNA and personality traits. From early childhood we will exhibit this instinct to protect ourselves.

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Example: As a small child, you are trying to finish a puzzle before the end of playtime. Now the teacher is saying playtime is over, and you need to put the puzzle away even though you haven’t finished it. In your small developing mind, you feel that the teacher is undermining your ability to finish the puzzle, so you throw a temper tantrum that will nearly drive the teacher to tears.

How to Diffuse an Issue Before It Escalates

1. Mirror the other person after they speak, to let them know that you are listening.

If you’re in the workplace and your coworker suggests an action that you don’t agree with, you can respond by saying that you understand their idea to (reiteration of suggestion) although you think it might be helpful to look at it from another perspective as well, and perhaps find a solution that encompasses both.

2. Avoid using the word “but”.

The word just has a negative ring to it in the midst of a discussion. For example: “I hear what you’re saying, but-“ with just that one word, you have completely undermined the other person. By adding the word but, you are saying that what you are about to say next is more important than the point that they already made.

3. Don’t make judgments or express your emotions without explanation.

Which of these sentences sounds better to you?

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“You never take my suggestions seriously.”

“I feel frustrated because you haven’t responded to few of my previous emails, is it because you don’t find my comments to be useful?”

The first sentence is incredibly accusing, and will immediately put the recipient on the defensive. In the second example, the sender fully explains their feelings on the matter, and give the recipient a chance to explain themselves as well.

4. Invite them to give comments so they feel respected.

After voicing your opinion, ask the other person or people in the discussion to voice their opinions on the matter as well, so they know that their thoughts are valued.

Featured photo credit: criticallyrated via google.com

More by this author

Jenn Beach

Traveling vagabond, writer, & plant-based food enthusiast.

How Traveling Can Drastically Improve Your Interpersonal Skills How We Are Confusing Self-Love with Narcissism In This Generation One Small Action Separates Success From Mediocrity. How Not To Turn Meaningful Discussions Into Arguments By Keeping This 1 Thing In Mind. How We Are Attracting Fake News and False Information to Our Lives

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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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