Conflict Management and Body Language
“The quality of our lives depends not on whether or not we have conflicts, but on how we respond to them.”- Thomas Crum
As a manager, given that you come in contact with a lot of people as part of your work, and given how stressful your job can get, it is only natural to find yourself involved in a conflict every now and then with your subordinates, customers, or other managers in your organization. None of the extreme approaches to negotiation (namely, aggressive and submissive) are helpful.
- Aggressively putting forth your own opinions without even giving a thought to what others have to say involves running the risk of losing out on some innovative ideas that you would have been impressed by only if you would have listened with an open mind.
- On the other hand, submissively letting go of ideas that you really believed in just because your team or the CEO was not as impressed with them means that your convincing powers did not do justice to your ideas, which could have benefitted your organization only if you would have been firm enough. In both these cases, it is an altogether separate (yet worrisome) matter that your image as a charismatic and confident leader is somewhat tarnished.
- While some people have the habit of unconsciously frowning when they are thinking hard, you must avoid it if you can because it may give the other person the impression that you are displeased with them, or it may even make you seem aggressive (Bishop, 2013; Richter, n.d.).
- Letting your emotions show on your face to the extent that they’re respectful and not overly aggressive. When the time is right, the person whom you’re engaged in a conflict with must understand if you’re pleased or not convinced, not just from your words, but also from your facial expressions (Garner, 2012; Pešková, 2011). When your facial expressions match what you’re verbally expressing, it convinces people of your genuineness, and they’re more likely to trust you and accept your counter- arguments sportingly. As mentioned before, the only care you should take is staying respectful and assertive (and not aggressive) with your words and accompanying gestures when you communicate what you think about the other person’s argument.
- Keeping your head upright- neither lowering it nor holding it too high in the air to avoid coming across as either submissive or aggressive respectively. Occasionally nodding and tilting your head to the side helps let the other person know that you are interested in listening to their point of view (Bishop, 2013; Garner, 2012; Richter, n.d.).
- Taking care to not cross your arms or legs, because that can make you appear defensive and closed-off, which is something you would definitely like to avoid especially when involved in a disagreement (Bishop, 2013; Loo, 2006; Richter, n.d.).
- When you are putting forth your point, you should avoid holding your arms in front of your upper body, or touching your neck or face, as these mannerisms make you look like you’re trying to hide behind a shield because you are not confident about what you’re proposing (Burnard, 1997; Gray, 1988; Richter, n.d.).
- Speaking in a clear voice which is just loud enough for the person to hear without raising your voice during an argument may take some practice, but it works wonders. It keeps the argument from getting sidetracked, and allows you to put across your point as well as hear what the other person has to say (Burnard, 1997; Edmondson, 1993; Pešková, 2011; Richter, n.d.).
- Maintaining respectable distance from the other person is important, even when you are not engaged in an argument. Standing too close may not only make the other person uncomfortable, but would also make you seem aggressive (Bishop, 2013; Pešková, 2011).
Thus, although conflicts might sometimes be inevitable, embracing the correct verbal and non-verbal approach towards negotiating and reaching a common ground can help you keep things from getting ugly, and you might rather find yourself thinking that mild conflicts allow you and your team to think better and come up with great ideas in the end!