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Why You Should Praise Your Children’s Effort But Not Their Innate Qualities

Why You Should Praise Your Children’s Effort But Not Their Innate Qualities

“Wow, you’re a really great artist!” “You’re so smart!” “You were born to sing!”

At first glance, you’d think these compliments would serve to motivate children as they complete whatever task they’ve set out to do. And, as far as the short-term is concerned, you’d be right. It’s definitely easier to get something done when you have others reinforcing the notion that you’re completely able to do it.

But what are these statements really praising?

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Compare them to the following:

“I like how you used different sized brushes in this painting!” “You figured out how to solve that problem, that was tough!” “Your voice sounds better and better every day!”

The difference is obvious: The first set of compliments simply serves to tell children that they’re “good at” something, while the second set actually praises their hard work and learned skills. Being told you have a gift certainly helps drive children to complete a specific task, but applauding their work ethic will keep them motivated throughout their lives.

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Praising Talent

Though it may seem counterintuitive, praising a child’s natural talents can actually lead to low self-esteem in the future. The child who’s been told time and time again what a great musician he is will become disheartened when he inevitably meets a peer who is a more accomplished musician than him. The so-called “gifted” child doesn’t take into consideration the fact that his peer may spend countless hours practicing multiple instruments on a nightly basis, but will rather just assume “he’s better than me.”

Discovering that he’s not the best will make this child afraid to try harder. Since he’s always “been good” at playing music, he’s never experienced failure. This unknown entity will ultimately block him from improving his talents any further, and he may end up quitting altogether. Despite having the talent to actually be the best musician around, his sudden lack of self-confidence hinders his ability to work hard to improve, leaving his actual abilities stagnant.

Praising Hard Work

On the other hand, imagine the parents of the other child. It’s likely they consistently praise their son not because he’s a “naturally-born musician,” but because he’s dedicated himself every day to becoming better at each instrument he plays. While he might have been born with a knack for playing music, it’s been instilled in him that talent only gets you so far – it’s your drive to do better that earns you true success.

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A child who grows up understanding the value of hard work and dedication won’t shut the door on trying things he’s “not good at.” He knows that practice makes perfect, and the only way to get better at something is to keep at it. Unfortunately, many children, and even adults, don’t understand this concept. So many otherwise intelligent people shrug certain things off by saying they’re “not good at it” (How many times have you heard an adult say they “aren’t a math person”?).

Those who understand the importance of hard work also aren’t afraid of failure. They don’t see failure as a roadblock; rather they see if as a bump in the road on the way to success. These children have been told over and over how amazing it is that they persevered through a difficult situation and came out on top. They also learn from the mistakes they’ve made, rather than let their mistakes define their entire being.

Lastly, those who are constantly driven to do better end up learning more than just enough to “get by.” While naturally-talented children may skate by on their God-given gifts by doing the bare minimum, those who work hard will gain more than just surface-level abilities. By raising the bar each time they reach a certain goal, they’ll continue to use their talents in conjunction with their efforts in order to reach incredible heights.

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Featured photo credit: First Kid’s 2012 Christmas Party and Talent Show / First Baptist Nashville via farm9.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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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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