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7 Ways To Set Boundaries Without Being Mean

7 Ways To Set Boundaries Without Being Mean

You’re stuck at work during lunch break to finish up tasks for that bossy co-worker in the corner, who does nothing but update his profile on every networking website possible, with his feet up on his desk. Whenever he is given several tasks he will come crying to you for a favor with a lame excuse to why he can’t be the one doing it, like he has to send out an important email and if he doesn’t the world will cease to function. You look at his face, and you know he is being evasive of his responsibilities and you are having a war within yourself to say yes or no. When you open your mouth to say no, something makes you say yes.

Why? It is because you have not learned to say no. This is because you don’t want to seem rude or ill-mannered and you are bothered by the opinion of others, fearing their displeasure. You are afraid of not being accepted by your peers and labeled as someone who is arrogant and selfish. You also consider the fact that saying no can disrupt a harmonious relationship between you and your coworker, and to not disrupt that relationship you are pressurized into saying yes.

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This is harmful behavior as it will cause you excess stress and you may burn-out. You are going to be tired and worn out from fulfilling such requests, so much so, that it can have a negative effect on your health. It is your right to choose, and be vocal about issues that cause you stress that isn’t even yours to deal with in the first place. It is possible to set boundaries without being mean. Here are 7 ways to assert some boundaries without sounding mean:

1. Start saying “No”

To change your ways, you must always start small and in this scenario pick something minor to say no to. This will give you the necessary confidence boost to show you that people can manage without you and that they will not hold it against you.

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2. Trust your body instinct

Your mind and body work very closely together to keep you functioning, trust what it has to say. If a favor makes you uncomfortable and weighty then say no to the request. If the favor asked doesn’t make you uneasy then consider saying yes.

3. Let go of what people will think

People will always have an opinion about you, what should be important is not letting every opinion matter. It is normal to have concerns over what people think about you, you can feel guilty or anxious that people will not trust you or value your opinion if you say no. These feelings will not go away quickly or easily, but you can start by saying “No”.

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4. Stay firm. Don’t be apologetic when your answer is “No”

Don’t apologize if your answer has to be “No.” Rather, start off with appreciation and then end the conversation with saying “No”. This will be an effective way of communication without giving offense. For example, “I appreciate that you trust me enough to confide you problems; however, I am unable to help you in this regard.” Remember, saying no is your right and you have nothing to apologize for as you have not done anything wrong.

5. Be short and confident in your “No”

Be upfront and honest about saying no. Do not doubt yourself, as people will see that doubt as a window of opportunity, which they will eagerly exploit. You also don’t owe people an explanation for saying no. For example, “I cannot finish your report for you this week; please ask someone else.”

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6. Be clear about what “Yes” means

If you know what you want to say yes to it becomes easier to say no. Take a step back and assess what you want and what your priorities; then accept accordingly.

7. Implement ASSA

ASSA stands for:

  • Alert the individual that you need to talk to them.
  • State your issue by revealing to the person what the problem is. Tell them why it’s an issue.
  • Sell the advantages to them for acting better towards you. For example, “you will seem professional”.
  • Agree. Seek agreement for doing things differently in future.

Featured photo credit: happy girl on the road in a wheat field at sunset via shutterstock.com

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Tayyab Babar

Tayyab is a PR/Marketing consultant. He writes about work, productivity and tech tips at Lifehack.

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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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