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(14) Pearls of Life

Louise Hay - I Can Do It

PL14

Pick Up the Signals

 People don’t always say what they’re thinking-at least not in words. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work it out. We say a lot more with our bodies than we do with our mouths, and if you learn to look for the signs, you will generally have a pretty good idea of how the other person really feels.

Maybe the person you’re talking to is silently angry, or nervous, or just plain uninterested but trying to hide it. Just ignore everything you’ve been told about some people being intuitive and others just not. Anyone can learn to read body language. In fact, if you’re not especially intuitive, you really need to learn how.

It’s just a matter of training yourself to remember to look for signals. If you’re on the lookout, it’s not hard to read body language. And I’ll tell you something else-when it conflicts with the words someone is saying, it will be the body language that’s telling the truth. You can bet on that.

So what are you looking out for? Well, broadly speaking, relaxed confident people look relaxed and confident. I’m sorry if that sounds too simple, but it really is simple. They sit or stand in a relaxed stance, arms by their sides or in their laps (if they’re not holding anything), and they smile readily (and properly, so it reaches their eyes). Tense people (who are angry or anxious or in a hurry, or whatever) are more likely to cross their arms and their legs, fidget, strum their fingers and hold themselves more rigidly.

Angry people sound tense, lean forward, and often clench their fists. Bored people will look over your shoulder or check their watch-even while telling you they’re interested in what you have to say. The only challenge here is looking for the signs. Reading them is honestly simple.

 Sympathize with Other People’s Anger

It’s no fun being angry, and it’s not something to subject anyone else to if you can help it. But sometimes people are justifiably angry, and sometimes you’re in the firing line. If you’re at fault, the only thing to do is fess up and apologizes, and does what you can to put it right. But what if it isn’t your fault? Maybe a customer is angry with your organization, and you just happen to be the person on the end of the phone or across the counter. Or perhaps your neighbor is livid that your tree surgeon cut down the tree on their side of the fence, when actually you’d never asked them to do any such thing. How are you going to deal with that?

The first thing you’re going to do is stay calm. However bad the confrontation, it will get a whole lot worse if you get angry, too. What you need to do is recognize why people get angry-and that’ll be because they don’t think they’ll get the response they want any other way. So show them they don’t need to raise their voice. You can start by listening. If you don’t shout back, or incessantly tell them to “calm down,” they’ll realize you actually want to hear what they have to say. And they’re likely to start calming down quite fast. Now you need to sympathize with them. That doesn’t mean apologizing if it’s not your fault-it just means letting them know you understand why they feel angry, and you consider it justified: “I can see how upsetting that must be.” OK, you’re doing well. Deep breath. Now, don’t waste their time with long explanations-that’s not what they want to hear. Just a quick one-liner will do if it’s really essential: “I certainly never asked them to cut that tree down.”

Nearly there. They should be feeling a lot happier now. But they still want something done, so do whatever you can to help. Give them a refund, or even a gift certificate as well. Offer to replace the tree with a new sapling of their choice. If you can resolve someone’s anger effectively enough, you can actually strengthen your relationship with them.

 Don’t Respond to Tactical Anger

OK, everything I just said about dealing with anger-forget it. At least when the anger you’re dealing with isn’t justified. Some people use anger to manipulate, threaten, bully, intimidate, or bludgeon you into doing what they want. This is completely different from justified anger and needs a totally different response. This is toddler-tantrum world, and should be dealt with just as you’d deal with a toddler.

In case you don’t have children I’ll explain the technique (and possibly put you off ever having kids). First you tell them, calmly, that you’re not prepared to be shouted at/spoken to like this/abused/bullied/intimidated (delete as applicable), and tell them you’ll leave if they don’t calm down. Then you carry out the threat if necessary, and leave if they don’t stop shouting. If they start up again next time they see you, just keep giving them the same response.

I know this is tough if you’re dealing with someone who is-or seems-senior to you. Your boss or your father-in-law or the head of the homeowners’ association. But hey, we’re all equal on a human level, and you deserve respect as much as anyone else. What can they do to you? You can’t discipline someone for refusing to be cowed by your manipulative intimidation. What actually happens is that these people learn fast that their prima donna tactics don’t work on you, and in time they’ll stop trying it because they’ll be the ones who look bad when you don’t react the way they’d planned.

 Give Other People Results

I once had a personal assistant (yes, I used to be the sort of person who had a personal assistant) who was such a hard worker. She came in on time every day and slaved away until going-home time. Whenever I asked her to do anything, she’d be right there, pen in hand, taking notes.

I’ve no idea what she did all day, but she did whatever-it-was diligently. The reason I don’t know what it was she did is that somehow there was never much to show for it. She could place a call for me, or retrieve something from the filing cabinet, but then I could do that for myself. Other than that not a lot seemed to happen unless I was extremely specific about what I wanted and when and how and so on. Then it mostly happened. On a good day. I have a feeling she organized things constantly. Trouble was, I actually wanted things to happen. I wanted my car serviced or a difficult customer sorted out or a meeting with four other busy people fixed, or a train ticket to appear magically on my desk the day before I traveled. Nope. None of that. The filing system was immaculate though.

Your boss wants results. Targets met-or preferably exceeded. Your partner wants that vacation booked, or the lawn mower serviced. Your kids want the cinema tickets arranged. The school committee wants the white elephant booth organized. People want things to happen. Not just to sound cool and look good, but actually to happen. You know what you have to do. Do it.

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