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Real Story: “A Simple Act Of Kindness Changed My Life”

Real Story: “A Simple Act Of Kindness Changed My Life”

What would you do if you are unfairly treated and isolated by people around you?

“Fight or flight” appears to be the most common response. When we believe that injustice has been done on us, it seems natural for us to either retaliate, or to isolate ourselves from the crowd in attempt to avoid the problem. But are they the only options?

Josh has chosen differently. This student was frequently bullied by his fellow classmates, and he made the big decision to move to another school. Yet from day one, he adopted a different approach through which he hoped he would gain acceptance and be noticed for positive reasons. His daily act of kindness became a habit that was noticed, then caught on throughout the school. Not only was Josh’s life changed, but other students also started showing kindness. The result was it changed the tone of the entire school!

It’s Possible to Turn any Unhappy Situation Around.

“Even though I was scared, I took the jump.”

The big “jump” that Josh refers to was his decision to leave the school where he was bullied, and change his attitude towards others to a friendly, positive one. Instead of expecting to be bullied and trying to handle the situation after the event, he chose to be the instigator. He spoke to his fellow students before they approached him.

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When faced with difficult situations, you can also “take the jump” and change the situation into a happier one. Just have a go. You’ll be excited by the result.

It’s Empowering When You Believe in Yourself.

“I wanted to reach out to people and show them who I really was.”

Josh was tired of being a no-one. He believed there were better things in life for him than continually being reactive, unhappy, and unsettled.

Instead of being a target for bullies, Josh wanted to be accepted. His goal was to mix in with the other students and enjoy simple interactive opportunities like playing basketball with them or sitting with a group chatting and laughing.

You can also become empowered by believing you have the strength and talent to achieve whatever you want to in life. Just take the first step (no matter how small) and move on from there.

It’s Empowering to Watch Kindness Spread.

“Opening doors gives people hope. It tells them someone cares.”

People got to know Josh, and he got to know many of the students in the school.

At first, most were shocked; however, as the days and weeks progressed, more and more students spoke to Josh.

Josh referred to it as “a positive event that made them feel comfortable”. You may be wondering if Josh gained anything from this act of kindness? He certainly did. He gained confidence and a happy attitude towards life that weren’t evident previously.

It didn’t stop there. The positivity spread. By setting a good example, other people started doing nice things too. One student commented, “It changed the way I thought about things and the way I felt about myself.”

So, try kindness out. Give and gain at the same time. Your life will change for the better.

It’s Possible for Everyone to Pass on Happiness

What was this one thing that changed Josh’s life – and the lives of many others?

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Every morning, Josh arrived early to school. He stood at the main entrance door and opened it as students arrived, cheerfully greeting them, “Good morning.”

You might be saying, “That’s okay for Josh, but how can I apply this type of situation to my own life?”

Well, here are some ideas. If these don’t touch your life either, at least they might be the catalyst for other ideas that will.

1. Give encouragement.

Tell your teammates that they are doing a great job when they’re on the sporting field. Give your friends supporting words when they do well in some other area of their life. Praise them for their efforts.

2. Stand aside for someone else.

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Let someone go through the supermarket checkout before you. Give your seat on the bus to an elderly person.

3. Give to the homeless

When you’re out shopping, collect a few things (like a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.) and give them to a homeless person.  Maybe you could buy a meal for them as well.

4. Surprise someone

Bake some cookies to share at morning tea with your co-workers. Tell them they are appreciated, particularly if they’ve supported you in a special way.

Now It’s Over to You

REMEMBER: Be kind to others because of who you are not because of who they are.

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Even the smallest acts of kindness can go a long way toward making the world a better place. Do your small part. Start today.

Featured photo credit: Help!/Lydia via flickr.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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