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Communication 101: If You Try to Win the Battle, You Might Lose the War

Communication 101:  If You Try to Win the Battle, You Might Lose the War

     “You might say, a focus on being right is actually “wrong!”

    Do you ever have an argument, and end up feeling badly even if you “win?” Winning and being “right” does not ensure that things will end well. In fact, if your sense of victory is dependent on another person’s defeat, the victory might be hollow, indeed. Being “right” is over-rated. When people are in an argument – what really are they doing? They want to defend themselves!  In an argument, each person is trying to change the other.  And who is really the only one we can change?  We all know the answer: ourselves! 

    Although most of us know better, we give it a valiant try to change others anyway, because we are just so convinced that if they saw it our way, things would be better. All too often well meaning souls think they know what is best for others, and want to tweak someone else’s mind or convince them why they need to change. That is called Aggressive BehaviorAggressive Behavior is characterized by “YOU” statements, and focuses on how the other person “should be.”  Many times aggressive communication is designed to “get back” at someone else or control how they behave or think.  An example of an aggressive statement is “You have no right to say that to me!” Many people think that aggression is okay if the end justifies the means, but really anything short of physical danger does not merit aggression, because by definition the behavior is authoritarian and judgmental.

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    Of course, children need parents to set guidelines, limits and consequences, and it is the logical consequences that help children to learn from their mistakes.  but they don’t need scolding and yelling to learn, and in fact they learn to be fearful and inhibited rather than learning the lesson at hand.   The emotional consequences of power struggles, fear and anger lead to a lot of negativity, guilt and low self esteem. Healthy communication in parenting and otherwise is focused on self-expression without the goal of changing someone else. That is called authoritative parenting, which is differentiated from authoritarian parenting which relies on anger, negative emotions and criticalness.

    Authoritative, assertive communication uses “I” statements.  “I” statements are meant to be honest, but uses tact.  It is not judgmental and expresses personal feelings without trying to change the way someone else sees things.  An assertive statement is “I felt angry when you raised your voice at me and called me names”  in contrast to the victim-like “You make me so mad!”

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    Communication Takeaways 

    • Strive to use assertive behavior and remind yourself that your goal is to express yourself rather than change someone’s mind. The motto of assertive behavior is like the popular 70’s Psychology book, “I’m Okay, You’re Okay.”
    • Aggressive Behavior is characterized by “You” statements and the focus is on controlling and being right over another person. That type of behavior erodes relationships. The motto here is: “I’m Okay – You’re Not!”  
    • Very few relationships flourish with the type of attitude that you want to achieve superiority in an argument, rather than seeking a “win-win’ solution.  
    • Instead of striving to “win”  seek to be assertive, show empathy, and work on validating others without putting them down. 
    • Ask yourself – “Would I rather “judge” or show someone that I care?”  Love wins over teaching hands down! 
    • Victories become empty over time if your need to be right becomes a pattern. Others might distance form you, or feel tense in your presence.  It’s lonely out there!
    • Don’t pull!  Trying to be right is like putting your fingers in the Chinese Finger Trap carnival you are stuck. The more you try to prove you are right, and the more the other person pulls, your relationship suffers.

    So think of the most recent conflict you had with someone close to you.  Were you focusing on proving how you were right?  If so, how would it had gone differently if you focused instead on validating and empathizing with how they felt rather than setting them straight?     So next time you are close to getting  in an argument and want to prove you are right, just imagine or pull out the carnival toy, the Chinese Finger Trap, and remind yourself not to get stuck in it!

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    How can you listen and really understand when you are too busy defending yourself and trying to change their mind? Remember that a focus on being right ends up making you wrong!  

    (Photo credit: Tin Can Phones via Shutterstock)

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    Judy Belmont

    Mental health author, motivational speaker and psychotherapist

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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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