We were all kids once, right? That means we’re all relative “experts” in conflict management! That’s because at one time or another, we had to own up to a problem at work, confess a mistake to a parent, or iron out an argument with a sibling.
Do you remember how you knew – just from the way your parents walked into your room or their expression when they greeted you at the door – that you were in trouble? Body language can speak volumes – maybe arms-crossed meant they were angry; head in their hands meant they were frustrated and exhausted. Just one look could put us on the defensive, or on the flip side, a certain expression could make us smile.
In fact, body language can diffuse a tough situation. And it’s important to realize the effect your movements have on others. Most statistics point out that nonverbal communication is between 60-75% of all communication.
Kevin Hogan, a motivational speaker and expert in body language, says body language is often misinterpreted. You may not be aware of the signals you are giving off. Kevin writes on his website, “If you have a habit of touching your nose, people could perceive that as a sign of deception. You might simply have that habit even if you’re telling the truth, but people can’t tell the difference. They are unconsciously interpreting your gesture as untrustworthy and judging you based on your actions.”
Knowing what your body language says could go a long way in managing conflict when you’re in a tough situation. Alter how you are saying something and you could change the outcome. That’s why we took the time to find out 7 things about what body language says about us:
1. Threatening eye contact. Managing your eye contact can keep a situation from escalating. In a professional situation, closing the deal is all about good eye contact. But if you are threatened, it’s best not to stare down your opponent, especially if you are concerned for your safety.
2. Fidgeting/rocking or annoying movements. Be aware of any ticks that instantly identify you as nervous or lacking self-confidence, such as pen-clicking, hair-twirling, or jumpy arm motions. These movements can be distracting and could add to frustration during conflict. This can be difficult since you are probably actually nervous, but concentrate on keeping these to a minimum.
3. Remember your posture. When you hunch over or have sagging shoulders, it gives the impression that you are disengaged from a situation and lack authority. Hold your ground by improving your posture.
4. Animate your body. When you move as you speak, it promotes the idea that you are open, welcoming. It shows your dynamic side! (Just watch for the annoying movements mentioned above!) If you simply stand still as you talk, it makes you appear less approachable.
5. Use a side-by-side approach. One of the best ways to build rapport is to stand side-by-side with someone when you speak to them. This promotes a healthy recognition of personal space and helps people feel less threatened in a conflict situation.
6. Be expressive. You can say much through facial expression. Show you are listening by reacting appropriately. Nod, smile, and keep your eyes engaged in the conversation. Many people just want to be heard.
7. Show comfort. Speaker and body language expert, Patti Wood, relates that what most people want is to know someone cares. Hugs and gentle pats on the arm or back show people that you empathize with them. Encouraging words can also help, even if you disagree with the person.
How does the saying go – It’s not what you say but how you say it! Keep that in mind next time you face a tough situation that needs body language management.
What did your parents do when you were children to let them know they were unhappy with you? Or thrilled with you? What body language adjustments have you made over the years to diffuse a situation?