Dealing with Negative Conversations using Nonverbal Communication
Do you sometimes feel that you are stuck in a conversation that does not seem energetic, enthusiastic, or even neutral? Sometimes a difference of opinion, the baggage of previous conversations, or anticipation of stress can cause people to become less receptive or defensive. Such conversations might seem “negative”. Well, here are a few tips one can try using nonverbal communication so that the unapproachability or negativity in the conversation can be reduced. They are arranged in the order of immediate requirement for action
As humans, we naturally tend to mirror those around us in order to fit in. While this helps to build rapport with family and clients, if we copy the signs of stress, it would take the conversation or relationship nowhere. Thus being aware of how you are yourself reacting emotionally (referred to as emotional intelligence) can help you not mirror the negative emotions and hence mood of the person.
When we are stressed, the pitch of our voice tends to become sharper. Subliminally we humans understand this stress even if we are unable to pick up the change in voice pitch. When someone is being negative, being conscious of not raising your own vocal pitch can help sound more grounded and not add to the tension in the room.
- increasing our body frame and thus appearing more dominant or (by spreading out, standing up etc)
- reducing our body frame and relaxing thus looking less dominant and more open or submissive.
The above strategy can be used depending on your position in the conversation. For example, with a long term client or family member acting negatively, lowering your status can help them recover from the negative zone quicker since somewhere they already know they can trust you. During those times when you are dealing with negative juniors, you could use the opposite strategy and make yourself more dominant and commanding, thus compelling the junior to take you seriously.
Even the choice of seating can play a role in how much the person is able to open up to you. You might have often observed in psychologists' rooms there are open sofa seatings. This is because having no barriers helps increase trust in each other and thus create a better bond. The same strategy is widely used in the corporate world as well, where there are seating options planned in offices, and depending on what type of person you are meeting, you can decide on the type of seating to go for. Sitting on opposite ends of large tables can work to close people up, and increase friction in the conversation.