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How to End Any Argument Immediately

How to End Any Argument Immediately

“You are an arrogant prick, and I can’t stand having to work with you!”

Not the best way to start an impromptu business meeting, but that’s what I got.

I was working for Dell as a sales rep—part of a three-person team chosen to manage a group of mid-sized business clients.  The guy yelling, we’ll call him Jeb (not his real name), was on the same team, and we disagreed on how we should be dealing with a particular customer. Normally, a disagreement about something sales-related is an easy problem to solve, unless the two people absolutely can’t stand each other.

Such was my case with this particular co-worker.

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As soon as the door to our small conference room closed, I was assaulted with a barrage of insults: my sales skills were terrible, my attitude was horrible, customers didn’t like me at all, and I was ruining everyone’s chances of hitting quota.

I knew these were mostly false charges.  I had been a sales trainer for 7 years and ended the last quarter as the #1 rep in my division.  I walked in every day with a smile and generally got along well with people.  Some new customers didn’t care for me very much, but some of the customers who didn’t like the previous rep liked me much more; not everyone connects with their sales rep.  We were exceeding our quota expectations and looked like we would hit it early.

In the split-second before I threw all of these brilliant facts in Jeb’s face, I made a fascinating, and long overdu, realization: pointing out how he was wrong about everything would simply lead us into another long and unfruitful argument, leaving us both angry and less productive. Instead, I found myself saying “You know, I’ve never really thought of it that way.  Can you explain it to me a little more?”

It took every ounce of will power and happy thoughts I had to say these words without clenching my teeth.  I smiled a genuine smile and listened politely.

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The results amazed me.

Jeb started pointing out exactly what I had done wrong with all of my interactions, explaining in great detail my many poor decisions and statements.  He gave sort of a musical quality to his speech, starting off high on tempo and excitement, fading down to low notes, then rising to new vocal heights as he really thought about what was pissing him off. Through it all, I looked him in the eye and didn’t say a word. After about three minutes, the speech changed.  He started saying things like “I know you don’t mean anything by…” and “I think you’re a good salesman, but with some of these customers, you rub them wrong when you say…”

Eventually, I went from “arrogant prick” to “new guy on the team still learning where he fits in.”  Granted, this wasn’t the best outcome I could have hoped for (Jeb deciding he was absolutely wrong and I had been right about everything) but it was a far cry better than what he and I usually left the conference room with. Since that fateful day, I’ve reused this exact sentence over and over, and the results are always the same: angry details followed by understanding, then a willingness to work together on the issue.

Why does this sentence work?

The answer is simple: you can’t argue with someone who doesn’t argue back.

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The moment you ask someone to clarify, and then let them talk, you are actually taking away their ability to argue with you.  The person can’t respond to “can you explain that a little more?” with “No!” without sounding and feeling like an idiot.  Even if they do, they will probably be embarrassed enough to leave the room anyway (which I suppose is another way to end the argument.)

There is a second, more powerful reason this technique is so effective: our natural desire for attention. One of the biggest reasons arguments get so out of hand is because each person is trying to be heard OVER the other person.  When we satisfy this desire, we tend to calm down.  We have no need to raise our voice if the other person is being calm.

Lastly, and the best reason why this technique works so well, is that you will actually look stronger and smarter after using it.  Weak and scared people always seek to defend themselves, while strong, confident people seek feedback and criticism in order to improve.  Whether it’s just the two of you, or a group of people watching, you will look cool and collected—always a good choice.

A final note: this technique only works if you respectfully listen to the other person and DO NOT interrupt.  Wait until they feel obligated to ask you for a response before speaking, and don’t sulk or get upset with the person talking; they are being honest with you and you should be grateful this conversation is happening in your presence instead of behind your back.

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Jeb and I never became friends.  He isn’t a bad guy, just someone with a very different view on a lot of things.  We WERE able to work together until I left the company, and we closed some pretty nice deals together—sometimes acceptance is all we can achieve, and that’s okay.

Now, let me ask you a question: what’s a situation in which you feel this technique wouldn’t work?  Please leave a comment below; I’d love to hear a little more about it.

Trent

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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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