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8 Reasons Why It’s Good To Be Disagreeable

8 Reasons Why It’s Good To Be Disagreeable

If you’re anything like me, you always seem to be upsetting someone and to others you seem to be disagreeable all the time. You probably don’t intend to present yourself as negative; you may just be one of those people who goes against the grain. I certainly am. I’m the type of person who questions everything. I need to understand a concept or situation fully and I need to know the other side of the story. I often find myself playing devil’s advocate in order to experience empathy, not for the thrill of being difficult.

You, like me, may be the kind of person who has very strong opinions about things, especially if you like to think of yourself as broad minded, well informed and open to learning and changing your opinion in the light of new information. I need convincing with evidence and facts and I need to know as much as is available about a subject to truly comprehend it and make an informed opinion about it.

Some people are easily put off by people like this. It makes people uncomfortable to have to think hard and change their minds all the time. Most people like to maintain the status quo and don’t appreciate confrontation. However, truly evolving, growing, experiencing progress and making a difference in the world depends on activity that is dynamic and sometimes contradictory. If you are happy to cruise through life never having anything challenge your thinking or way of doing things; if you are satisfied to just ‘go with the flow’ and prevent any kind of disruption to your safe and stable thoughts and actions, then don’t expect to make a major impact on the world or experience anything profound.

If instead you want to have a meaningful existence and contribute something great to the world and people around you, then continue to be disagreeable, because to be disagreeable is how successful people make their mark.

Here are 8 reasons why it’s good to be disagreeable.

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1. You don’t need others’ approval to do what you think is right

According to best selling author Malcolm Gladwell, psychologists say this about people who have the propensity to be disagreeable:

“…they do not require the approval of their peers in order to do what they think is correct.”

Regardless of what others think about you or say about you; however much they try to dishearten you or place barriers in your way to achieving your goals, when you are disagreeable, you simply don’t care and your indifference is extremely empowering and powerful. Where most people will take on board the opinions and sway of others, you carry on taking steps toward achieving your goals and you continue to stand up and be counted in your chosen endeavors. African American Civil Rights Activist Rosa Parks led the way for equality and justice for African Americans in the United States during the 1950s through a simple act. She refused to give up her seat on a bus that was reserved for whites only and in doing so she inspired an entire movement and a generation of people who sought to fight for the rights of black people in America. When others were afraid to stand up to the unfair laws and treatment, Rosa resisted and her choice to be disagreeable, changed history and began the civil rights movement.

2. You have a can do and will do attitude

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To be disagreeable means that you are a very determined person and once you put your mind to something it is hard to deter you. Even when others try to dishearten you or the odds are stacked against you, you stay focused on your passion and the end goal and you take steps to achieve the desired outcome. Jane Goodall is a perfect example of this. She is a British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace. She is also an animal activist and has worked hard to promote the conservation of both the animals she has studied and their habitat. Jane had a passion for animals from a young age and despite never having formal qualifications she has contributed extensively to the study of primates, namely chimpanzees. She ignored the strict and restrictive procedures that other scientists imposed and maintained confidence in her own instincts to truly connect with the chimpanzee communities she studied. Her results were groundbreaking and her contributions to the subject have been unmatched.

3. You are willing to take risks

When you are prepared to go your own way, you do so knowing that there could be adverse reactions; sometimes even ones that threaten your safety or your life. To be disagreeable is risky behavior because you could be jeopardizing your livelihood, relationships and sometimes your own physical and mental health. It is hard work to stay focused on achieving something that attracts so many obstacles and such derision. However, what keeps you going is the knowledge that the rewards far out weigh the perils and the struggle will be worth it in the end.  A young Pakistani activist for the advancement of female education and the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai almost paid the price for her determination to be disagreeable with her life. She was shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking out in support of the education of girls. She has spoken and written about her experiences and has used her horrendous experience to continue to fight for her cause regardless of the threats and danger she attracts in doing so.

4. You are not deterred by failure; it fuels your determination

It is not easy to be disagreeable in the face of tyranny and resistance. Nobody wants to be the odd one out or the person who is constantly told they stand alone and are not supported for ‘rocking the boat’. Facing failure and disappointment will become commonplace when you are a person who is committed to change among people who want things to remain the same. However, your determination is fueled by opposition, not diminished. Aung Sang Suu Kyi has spent many years under house arrest for her peaceful fight for justice in her country Myanmar (Burma). Despite being consistently prevented from having influence and contact with her supporters, she continued to resist oppression. Using your disasters as means to obtain lessons and learn new skills and harnessing the disappointments in order to fuel your determination will ensure that you grow more resilient and ultimately more successful.

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5. You see the bigger picture and can think outside the square

In order to get a different result, you must do things differently. If you continue to do things in exactly the same way you will keep getting the same result. Sometimes thinking in broader terms and looking at a subject philosophically will yield more positive results. There is nothing broader than existential philosophy. French philosopher Simone De Beauvoir wrote extensively about the meaning of life and existence, especially for women in society. She was a pioneering feminist and lay the foundation for thinkers and writers to come.

By delving deeply into the subject matter of her interest and questioning what most people of her time took for granted, she was able to influence many generations of thinkers. She challenged the role that society imposed on women as a given and gave women the framework to reclaim their freedom and independence from oppression that was considered the norm. She didn’t just comment about the way women were unequal to men by for example being the primary carers of children, not having the right to vote or not having control over their reproductive bodies, she asked why this was the case and commented on how men defined themselves and women. She questioned the very core of human existence from a gendered perspective.

6. You can reframe the problem in a new way

“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

To be disagreeable doesn’t necessarily mean being negative or mean. Sometimes being disagreeable in the face of tyranny means to insist on being positive and kind in the face of hatred. It is the ultimate act of rebellion to continue to be optimistic when confronted by tragedy. Anne Frank is the perfect example and inspiration. A Jewish child forced into hiding in Nazi occupied Holland, Anne wrote in her diary to pass the time and stay cheerful in the darkest of times. Although she demonstrated the innocence and naivety of a child, she was an example in her relentless insistence to be disagreeable by maintaining her hope and love for humanity. While watching the adults around her no doubt traumatized by their experiences, she continue to dwell in happiness and found a way to look at the calamity they faced with new eyes. Her legacy has lived on and she is the ultimate symbol of someone who refused to surrender to persecution.

7. You do the hard work instead of avoiding it

If you happen to be married to one of the most successful and wealthiest men on earth most people would think that meant a life of absolute luxury and leisure. This is not the case for the wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Melinda Gates has used her wealth and privilege to pursue philanthropy and contribute to making the world a more equal and better place for millions of people. She started the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and their achievements are impressive. Hard work and the endeavor to contribute is a common trait in people who most consider to be disagreeable. Despite resistance, Melinda has persisted with projects that provide women with access to contraception. She has also been instrumental in organizing the vaccinations of millions of people worldwide who otherwise would not have access to life saving preventative medicine. Her foundation works tirelessly to fund research and projects to ensure all people have the opportunity to live a healthy and safe life.

8. You have an active imagination

When you have a vivid and active imagination you consider things that others may not. When you put your musings out there, they may not be popular or conventional, but they can help you to achieve success by allowing a perspective that is beyond the mundane. Often your influence may not be acknowledged or discovered at the time, but appreciated in retrospect. Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter who focused on self portraiture. Her paintings were mostly about herself and reflected her Mexican indigenous heritage as well as her own emotional and psychological experiences. She also participated in revolutionary politics with her husband Communist Diego Rivera and despite illness and setbacks continued to paint until her death. Her work was vibrant and distinctive and challenge both gender and heterosexual stereotypes. She lived a volatile and eccentric life, but that was what eventually made her an icon.

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Diane Koopman

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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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