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One Question to Make Saying No Easier Than Ever

One Question to Make Saying No Easier Than Ever

When you ask someone for help, it’s tough to hear “No.” Those two little letters can hurt our ego. We start to wonder whether the other person cares about us, and we feel embarrassed for making ourselves vulnerable by asking for help. Because we know how much “No” can hurt, we can fall into the trap of saying “Yes” to someone just to avoid hurting their feelings.

For example, let’s suppose you are having a busy day at the office. There’s a knock on your door; it’s a colleague who needs someone to help them finish an urgent report that’s due by the end of the afternoon. They ask, “Would you help me?” You don’t really have time – you have a lot of your own work to get done – but because you know what it’s like to need help yet not receive it, you tell them that yes, of course you’ll lend them a hand.

Why is it so hard to say “no”?

Even the most independent among us have a natural desire for acceptance. It all stems back to our survival instincts. Early in our evolutionary history, it was important that everyone in a group had each others’ backs. Hence it was better for people to say “Yes, I’ll help you!” or “Yes, I’ll defend you!” This “Yes” habit helped both individual and group survival.

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We can live more independent lives these days, but this old instinct is still strong. In addition, we have a desire for social status and belonging. We form attachments to other people, and often want to say “Yes” to others in a bid to win their love and favor.[1]

And when you really manage to say no, the other person feels bad about it (and about you). This is not the result you really hope for.

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    One question that makes all the difference

    So what can you do in situations like this? You don’t want to say “no,” but you don’t want to trample on the other person’s feelings. Luckily, there’s a solution.

    Quite simply, when someone asks you for help, ask “How?”

    This is less confrontational than “no.” It does not threaten their ego, and it places the ball in their court. “How?” holds them accountable for their role in the transaction. It forces them to spell out precisely what they want and need. If they are not able to willing to step up and engage with you, it’s easier to say “No.”

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      Asking “how” instead of giving a straight “no” protects the other person’s ego, and respects their need for belonging, self-esteem, popularity, and love. It isn’t a rejection; rather, it will be interpreted as a question and an attempt to solicit feedback.

      When you ask “how,” you are encouraging the other person to take charge of the situation by specifying what they require. Even if they aren’t quite sure yet what it is that they need, asking them exactly how you can help will force them to think about the steps that need to be taken in order to complete a task. You will soon be able to tell whether they are in genuine need, or are just looking for someone else to complete their mundane tasks.

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      Value your time, turn people down

      If done in the right way, turning someone down can make others respect you. If you draw firm boundaries, the other person will realize that you are not someone they can push around. Instead, they will see you as someone who holds themselves in high regard.

      When you give an impression of confidence, others will pick up on that. In a business setting, marking yourself out as someone who is willing to say “no” to arrogant individuals may increase demand for your services.

      The next time someone asks you for help and you don’t want to say “yes,” just ask “how” instead. It’s incredibly simple, yet very effective. It works with colleagues, friends, and relatives. Just think of all the time you’ll save when you stop saying “yes!” to everyone.

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      Anna Chui

      Anna is a communication expert and a life enthusiast. She's the Content Strategist of Lifehack and loves to write about love, life, and passion.

      It’s Okay To Be Envious As Long As You’re Not Jealous The Jeopardy of Taking Others’ Opinions Seriously life is pain Life Is Pain: Why a Life Without Pain Guarantees True Suffering Why the Conscientious Mind Is a Successful Mind What Is The Secret To Convincing Someone To Change Their Minds?

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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

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