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Scientists Find Socially Anxious People Are Highly Intelligent

Scientists Find Socially Anxious People Are Highly Intelligent

While it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that most people of high intelligence are usually socially awkward in some respect, most people don’t realize it’s not because they’re “dorks” or whatever high school stereotype you care to use. Rather, it’s because highly intelligent people see the world on an entirely different level than the rest of us. Because of this, become incredibly anxious in seemingly normal situations. It’s not that they don’t know how to function at parties and social gatherings; it’s that their mind is constantly working on overdrive, which makes them incredibly anxious about any and everything around them. The following explains why being super-smart is both a blessing and a curse:

1. They have high sentinel intelligence

Highly intelligent people are much more in tune with the world around them than most other individuals. They are highly sensitive to threats of any kind, to the point that they have a hard time relaxing. Sudden loud noises can be enough to send them into a panic. They are so quick that while everyone else is processing the noise they just heard, the quick-thinker has already moved on to the “what if it was a gun or bomb or…” cycle of thought. Rethink this the next time you call your friend a “nervous Nellie.”

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2. They are highly self-aware

Intelligent people are constantly thinking about how they are being perceived, and will change their behavior when in a public place to attempt to blend in as much as possible. They’re constantly plagued with thoughts of “What if everyone saw me just sneeze all over my hand? They’re all gonna laugh at me.” While people may have seen it happen, chances are they didn’t care enough to make a big deal about it. Oddly enough, it’s tough for intelligent people to realize most of their thoughts are only in their head, and they’re being too self-aware.

3. They over-analyze events

Highly intelligent people constantly look for deeper meaning in conversations and regular life occurrences. This can lead to them getting lost in their own train of thought and losing their place in the conversation at hand. By over-analyzing things, intelligent people often distance themselves from mainstream conversations, finding it better to be an outside observer of goings-on than actively partaking in interactions with little face value.

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4. They over-analyze words

Intelligent people are constantly wondering “What did he mean by that?” This can cause social anxiety in the most innocuous of situations. A simple compliment from a boss could lead to a string of worries, such as “Was he being sarcastic? Did I really do a good job? Have I not been doing a good job, and he felt the need to tell me I was today?” and so forth. Of course, their boss most likely meant to give a quick compliment; but the over-thinker is left worrying about the simple interaction for the rest of the day.

5. They’re overly aware of other’s states of mind

Let’s go back to the last example, imagine the boss had said “Great job today” with anything less than enthusiasm and exuberance. You can be sure the socially anxious person would have picked up on his boss’ body language and lack of excitement. A boss could be having a bad day which has nothing to do with the highly intelligent person, but being aware of someone else’s state of mind makes you want to find the problem and fix it. A socially anxious person will spend the rest of the day wondering if he did something to offend the other party.

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6. They’re empathetic

Along with being overly sensitive to how other people present themselves, highly intelligent people are also highly empathetic. Unfortunately, this causes them to take on their friends’ burdens and problems as their own. Since they overanalyze every situation they encounter, highly intelligent people will stop at nothing until they’ve solved their friends issues; of course, this leads to even more anxiety, as they are dealing with not only their own problems, but the problems of a person they care for deeply.

7. They’re incredibly logical

Highly intelligent people are incredibly logical, which sounds like it should be a good thing. However, working with people who don’t think the same way can be incredibly frustrating. Many people operate off of emotions, so when a logical (and correct) conclusion is reached by a person with higher intelligence, there are usually some who will oppose the idea because it does not align with their train of thought. No matter how fool-proof a logical plan may be, it can be thwarted by those who fail to acknowledge the logical process behind it.

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8. They extrapolate past experiences

Being logical thinkers, highly intelligent people use past experiences to predict future outcomes. This can lead to high levels of social anxiety, as any possible negative outcome will certainly cross their mind along the way. Socially anxious people avoid getting themselves into situations in which they’ve embarrassed themselves or otherwise failed in the past. While weighing possible outcomes, it becomes difficult to avoid thinking of worst-case scenarios, and doing so can potentially derail an anxious person’s drive to complete a task.

9. They’re aware of ulterior motives

As mentioned before, intelligent people often overthink off-the-cuff, innocuous remarks made by others. So when someone acts generously, a socially anxious person may get caught up wondering if there was some reason the other person was being so nice. This leads to a mistrust of the general public, regardless of people’s actual intentions. Again, socially anxious people think of worst case scenarios, and often let these scenes blind them from reality.

10. They get no rest

Since they tend to overthink every little situation they face, intelligent people’s minds are constantly working. This leads to burnout, insomnia, and undue stress that could have long-lasting negative effects on a person’s health and overall well-being. Although people with higher than average intelligence are overall grateful for the gift they’ve been given, I’m sure they’d like nothing better than to be able to take a few minutes each day and tune everything out.

Featured photo credit: Backlight of a teenager depressed sitting inside a dirty tunnel via shutterstock.com

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Matt Duczeminski

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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