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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

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.

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) Why Leadership and Management Are Two Sides of a Coin 12 Foolproof Tips for Entrepreneurs to Be Successful in a New Venture

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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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