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How to Read People’s Minds During a Conflict (At Work or Home)

How to Read People’s Minds During a Conflict (At Work or Home)

Let’s face it. Conflict is inevitable. We’ve all had our fair share of arguments or fights, be it with a colleague, family member or friend. However, you’ll also notice that one person in your life that can easily diffuse a conflict just as it had started.

You wonder, what’s their secret? It’s like they know what the other party is thinking and with a snap of their fingers, they’ve deescalated the situation.

Unfortunately, not everyone automatically becomes an expert in handling conflicts. Furthermore, the people we encounter are all diverse – not one are the same. What could be offensive to a person may not be to another.

To truly get to the bottom of the issue and resolve the conflict, you need to read between the lines, observe their actions, behaviours and listen more than you talk. In short, you need to read people’s minds.

However, this is easier said than done. More than often, people let their emotions get the better of them, making the conflict bigger than it should’ve been.

Here’s a simple guide on how to read the minds of others during a conflict and how to resolve it.

Identifying different types of anger that lead to conflict

Firstly, it’s important to take note of the type of angry people during a conflict. Once you identify where he or she falls in the category, it’s easier to read their thoughts through their behaviours and wants. Only then can you work on how to approach them and come to a solution.

1. Behavioural anger

This type of anger is unpredictable, expressed physically and directly. It can be so overwhelming, he or she may lash out angrily at the target. This person may resort to breaking or throwing things around in a fit of rage.

How to deal with them:

Let go of your ego and pride.

Although it’s tempting, don’t fight fire with fire.

It’s extremely important to not push their buttons. Instead, find a way to calm them down. This is because they’re at an extremely vulnerable state, sensitive to everything that’s being said to them. One wrong word will only make them defensive and lash out, making the situation worse.

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Do not fight with them about who is to blame, who is right or who is wrong. Instead, ask how they propose on solving the problem.

Let them cool down.

If your attempt to talk calmly and rationally fails, let them be. There’s no point trying to talk sense into them as all logic flies out of their brain once they are mad.

2. Verbal anger

This type of anger is a form of emotional and psychological abuse that deeply hurts the target via words. The person expresses their anger through shouting, insulting, threatening, sarcasm and criticising.

These people lash out their anger with the intention to hurt the other individual. Afterwards, it’s common they feel ashamed and regretful after they’ve calmed down.

How to deal with them:

Don’t take it to heart.

Verbally aggressive people speak to hurt. Rather than taking their words to heart, understand that words cannot hurt you if you choose not to. You have a choice to respond. You can either get hurt over what they’ve said or brush it off.

Not only that, avoid saying things out of anger just because the other person did. Do not stoop to their level. What these people often say are mostly driven by their emotions than facts, hinting at their fears, frustrations and bruised ego.

Remember, once this person has calmed down, they’ll most likely regret what they’ve said to you. If you do take their words to heart, it doesn’t help them – or you – feel better. If anything, it’ll just cause more tension.

Respond with humour.

If you cannot resist snaking up a comment or two back to the person, try joking with them. Although no one likes to be made fun of, cracking up a joke or two will help loosen the tension in the air between you and this person – the joke can even be one at your own expense.

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Set limits when they’ve crossed the line.

Sometimes, these people who lash out at you tend to say things that cross the line. These people who are verbally aggressive may not necessarily be angry with you but they may be angry at others and are unconsciously venting it out on you.

If you feel like they’ve gone too far, tell them in a non-accusing but firm manner that they have crossed the line and you won’t take any of it.

Another option is to say in a calm tone that although you understand why they’re mad, they should not take it out on you.

If neither of the options worked, it’s totally okay to stop the conversation and let the person cool down. Always remember to stay in control of the conversation.

3. Assertive anger

This is the most constructive and healthy way to manage anger. These individuals make use of their feelings of anger and channel it to drive positive change. They openly communicate the problems they have with others in a calm and logical manner while still being firm and objective over the situation. Then, they discuss ways to resolve the problems with the other party.

In summary, they don’t avoid confrontation, keep their anger in or resort to physical and/or verbal insults to get their message across. They drive for positive change in the world and in others – without causing tension or destruction.

How to deal with them:

Express your understanding.

People with assertive anger do not come with the intention to hurt you but to resolve an issue rationally. However, this does not mean they will sugar coat their words either.

Listen sincerely to how they feel about the situation and empathise with them.

For example:

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If a person is telling you they don’t like how you don’t adhere to the deadlines of a project at work, show that you understand by saying you know the consequences of being late with submissions and you’ll work to improve it.

Avoid saying you know exactly how the other person is feeling because you don’t know all of that for sure.

Give them what they want.

Find out what they want from you. These people are seeking change and usually it’s for the better. Hence, find out what you can do to help them or fulfil their needs after they’ve addressed the issue.

Once they have brought up the issue, discuss with them what you can do about it to improve from there.

4. Passive aggressiveness

A person who is passive aggressive avoids confrontations and represses any feelings of anger with the other party. As a result, these people express their negative feelings subtly through their actions instead of handling them directly. This creates a blurring line between what they say and what they actually mean.

For example:

Let’s say you propose a vacation plan in Hawaii. A person with passive-aggressive behaviour may disagree with the plan secretly but instead of saying so, they agree with you. Since they’re actually against it, their actions show through. This can mean lack of participation in the discussion, purposely making errors or backing out of the vacation at the last minute.

In short, they find ways to undermine the plan.

How to deal with them:

Be assertive when talking.

Just as mentioned, the passive-aggressive person avoids their negative feelings, not addressing them head on. Therefore, it is up to you to confront them about it.

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Address the issue and animosity surrounding the both of you. Tell him or her how you feel about how they’re acting around you to let them understand where you’re coming from. Then try to clarify if they’re mad at you and then get them to tell you about it.

Don’t entertain them.

Sometimes, the passive-aggressive individual may say something but their intention may mean another.

Here’s an example:

You took a little more time to return a book you’ve borrowed from them and when you finally got the chance to return it, they say, “Wow took you a month to return the book but it’s okay, thanks!”

Instead of falling for the bait and asking what they really meant, do not think too hard about it and reply back to the content of the situation – not the context.

Hence, you can say, “you’re welcome!” meets the person where they’re at, but doesn’t take their bait, which is a great way to disarm them.

Renowned psychologist Robert Cialdini also shares a similar concept of Reciprocity in his book: ‘Influence’ that can be used in this circumstance.[1] By giving something, expecting nothing in return to the person, you’re leaving room for the person to return the favour.

Summing it up

And there you have it, if you’re able to identify the type of angry people, you’ll be able to understand how to appropriately deal with them and resolve the conflict just as fast as it started.

Remember to:

  1. Identify the type of angry people
  2. Understand their behaviour, patterns and thought process
  3. Approach and react accordingly

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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Reference

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Eugene Cheng

Eugene is Lifehack's Entrepreneurship Expert. He is the co-founder and creative lead of HighSpark, offering presentation training for companies.

Why Leadership and Management Are Two Sides of a Coin How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide) How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs How to Learn Business as an Aspiring Entrepreneur 10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs (And What to Learn from Them)

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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