You're a Smiler

Illustration: Jen Troyer

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Cucumbers have nothing on your cool facade—even when you're hurt or stressed, your smile doesn't waver. But people-pleasing can be a dead end: Your opponent doesn't know what you truly want, and you're mad at yourself for saying one thing when you mean another.

Rules of Engagement: Stating what you really think may feel abrasive at first, but it grows easier with time. If you're flustered by a request, resist a knee-jerk assent. Instead, use a set answer—"Let me check my calendar first"—so you can respond after giving it some thought. If you feel pressured to bow to someone's opinion, an empathetic statement ("I understand where you're coming from") can placate an opponent without compromising your stance.

This exercise was created by Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7-Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life (Jossey-Bass).

Next: How to solve workplace disagreements