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How to Know What We Really Want

How to Know What We Really Want

Ever spend ages trying to make a choice, only to get even more confused the more you think about it? Don’t worry, you aren’t the only one. We all suffer from prolonged indecision from time to time. When the answer isn’t clear to a choice, we start off by analyzing the costs and benefits, only to end up more lost and undecided. Then, there may be other people in your life who make decisions almost instantaneously, appear sure of themselves and hardly ever regret their choice afterwards.

So what is it that helps be so sure of their decisions? The secret of this confidence and decisiveness comes from knowing what you truly want. Life blesses us with unique and individual talents, likes and dislikes. Our intuition, a.k.a. gut feeling, guides us by taking these internal factors as well as external circumstances into account when we have to make choices. The more we are in touch with our intuition, the more we understand about what we really want, and the more clear a decision will become. In order to seek answers that come from within and not from others, start off by considering the following:

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Is it purely fantasy?

Understanding the difference between what appears attractive to you and what really attracts you can be enlightening. If you asked me what kind of life I wanted, it would go something like this: To live in a spacious two bed apartment that overlooks Central Park in NYC, cab downtown in a Chanel suit whilst fielding calls from clients who pay me several million a year to deal with high profile litigation cases. And to hang out at the cafe just downstairs with a group of close friends who happen to live nearby after work.

Hold on. How much of that resembled a scene from the TV series Friends, or Suits? We have fantasies that can include being international pop stars, billionaire inventors or famous housewives of reality TV, but these can be due to the external influences such as social media, parents and friends rather than what we genuinely want. People often chase after things that appear attractive, but discover afterwards that they don’t want it at all.

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To figure this one out, see what you spend time doing on a daily basis, and how you feel about it. You can dream about being a killer attorney but if the thought of law school hasn’t crossed your mind, or you shudder at the thought of sitting in the library working through complicated legal jargon from morning to evening, then this may be fantasy rather than genuine desire.

What kind of fear am I feeling?

When you cannot decide on something because you feel scared, this can be very telling about what you really want. Human beings are born to be instinctive, and fear could be your intuition’s way of telling you that it is a bad idea to go ahead with a decision, especially if you don’t want it. However, there is another type of fear that can come out choosing, when we think something is too much for us to handle, despite wanting it. This usually represents a foreseeable challenge from the choice that we want, but we lack the confidence in ourselves to handle it.

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How do you tell if it is a good or bad fear, and thus figure out if you really want something or not? Look at the way your body reacts as you think and talk about it. When you find positive body cues such as being eager to talk about it with friends, looking up or leaning forwards, this could indicate that you really want something despite being apprehensive about the risks and challenges involved.

On the other hand, should you find yourself stressed out whenever you project yourself into the choice, such as shoulders constricting, frowning or feeling downcast when talking about it, this could be your intuition warning you against it. By understanding which type of fear you are feeling, this can help you decide if the choice is something you really want to go after.

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What are my friends like?

It is uncanny how quickly we can click with new friends in life, but still feel like strangers to other people that we’ve known for many years. Regardless of how long you’ve known someone, we are more drawn to some people than others. Revealing indicators of who these people are include the time you choose to spend with them, as well as those you genuinely respect. More often than not, they share common values with yourself, as this facilitates a mutual and deep understanding that helps you ‘click’ with each other. By observing the values and interests of those closest to you, this can shed light on your own character, likes and values as well.

Am I willing to accept the costs?

If you are unsure whether you truly want something or not, think about whether you would be willing to put up with the hardships that come along with the choice. Most people analyze choices in terms of the benefits, such as what they gain from choosing something over another. Whilst this method can work well in situations where one choice clearly offers much more objective benefits than others, such as choosing the job that pays the most money, it may not reflect what you truly and subjectively prefer.

One way to decide is to look at the costs of each decision instead. For example, many people would love to lose weight, but not many want it enough to put up with the hardships of feeling hungry at night, going without dessert and going to the gym even when tired or unmotivated. When you truly want something, you will be much more willing to endure the side discomforts and challenges that arise from the journey to the goal. It also helps to remember that ultimately, there are no wrong choices in life. As the saying goes, “if you don’t make the right decision, you can make the decision right.”

Featured photo credit: Man Standing On Top Of Mountains After Adventure Hike by Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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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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