What is your body telling people that you’re not?
Did you realize that only a SMALL percentage of communication actually occurs with our words? The rest is communicated with para-linguistic (non-verbal) cues, like facial expressions, posture, eye movements, etc. It is postulated that as much as 93% of communication happens non-verbally.
WHAT??? 93%??? That’s almost the WHOLE enchilada, peeps!
So – it seems that we should be paying attention to how we’re using our bodies/faces to ‘talk’ to others –
and no time is more important than when conflict is on the line.
SO – for today’s continuation of our series on conflict – we’re talking about bodies. Mmm…. 🙂
I could fill hundreds of posts talking about all the facets of non-verbal language, but for today’s purposes, I’m just going to highlight some tips to consider when in a conflictual situation. Without talking at all, you can use your body to soften the other person.
This is so simple. If you use your body to send the message that you’re NOT on the defensive, or NOT angry, but are open to resolution, the other person will pick up on it and hopefully mirror that attitude. This includes:
– NOT crossing your arms. I know that sometimes this is just a comfortable position. But, it sends a message of being guarded. The crossed arms are a natural “wall.” Take it down. Force yourself to put your arms by your side. NOT on your hips – that’s confrontational. By your side or on a table or something. Or you can clasp your hands in front of you, but loosely. Tight fingers, tightly clasped hands and (obviously) fists send another message!
– Turning TOWARD the other person. We’ll talk later about emotional ways to ‘turn toward,’ but for now I mean LITERALLY – turn toward them. If you turn you’re back, you’re telling them that either you’re not interested in resolving things, or that you’re afraid, or that you don’t think they have ANY validity – all of which get in the way of restoration.
– Consciously relaxing the muscles in your face/shoulders. Especially for men. That clenched jaw sends a thousand-word message to the other person – and it’s not a nice message. Force yourself to think about your jaw, your neck, your shoulders and relax them. Seems small, but it can make all the difference.
– That whole deep breath thing? Yeah… it’s legit. By taking a deep breath or two and breathing them out slowly, you’re actually bringing down your blood pressure, lowering your heart rate and relaxing muscles – all of which SHOW.
– Eyebrows up! A furrowed brow speaks of anger. I realize that often, we furrow our brows out of frustration or even innocent concentration – especially those analytical thinkers out there – you know who you are. But, if you’ll make yourself relax those muscles and raise your eyebrows slightly – it communicates openness and kindness.
– Eye contact. Alright – personal disclosure time – I have a really hard time with this and I have to force myself to do it. If I can do it, though… you can too.
Make eye contact often. It makes a connection. Now, I realize that in the heat of anger, you don’t really WANT to make a connection with someone who doesn’t feel ‘safe,’ but remember the end-game… the goal is to be happy again and to be restored with that person. And connecting with their eyes is a way to tell them that you are in this, and on their side.
– Sex. Have lots of sex. What? Ok…I was just seeing if anyone was still reading. I’m just kidding………we save that for later. Ok – back to the list.
– Use your body to show you’re really listening – a simple head nod can make someone feel so validated in a time of frustration.
– Read the other person and use proximity or even touch to show your intentions of resolve. Now, this only works if the other person isn’t afraid. Only you can be the judge of that. But, if they’re merely hurt or angry/frustrated… a slow and gentle approach into their space and then a kind touch to the arm or hand (or in the cases of intimate relationships, even the face or hair) can be EVERYTHING. I’m telling you… sometimes you can solve an entire argument by making eye contact, softening the eyebrows and touching the face in just the right way to let the other person know, “regardless of where we stand on this issue, I love you.” That can MELT a person. Use it carefully, obviously… if someone’s in a scared/vulnerable place, they’ll need more space.
Again…there is SO much more to say on this topic. We didn’t even get into tone, rhythm/speed of conversation, types of touch, strategies for using paradox to break the conflict cycle (like taking the fight to the bathtub or switching languages…).
But for now, perhaps this gets the ball rolling in your mind so that the next time there’s friction with someone you care about, you can take a minute to relax, breathe and use an open posture to move things along toward restoration – which is really what everyone wants.