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How to Make the Right Decision Every Single Time

How to Make the Right Decision Every Single Time

When’s the last time you had an important decision to make? How’d it go? If you’re like most people, you probably relied heavily on logic and reasoning. Maybe you wrote a pro’s-and-con’s list or consulted with your friends. I know that’s what I did.

So much advice is based on reasoning and why not? Most of us still think that intellect trumps all when it comes to decision making, and while this rational approach isn’t bad, it’s just not the most reliable method. And who would have thought that the one thing we can trust is the same thing we often dismiss and suppress?

Are Emotions Trustworthy?

And this one thing is nothing more and nothing less than our emotions. We should pay closer attention to them, because as leading neurologist and author, Antonio Damasio states, “feelings are not just the shady side of reason… they help us to reach decisions as well.”

That’s right, feelings play an integral role in every decision we make, according to growing research in neuroscience. Damasio’s discovered that if damage occurred in the area of the brain where emotions are produced, not only did people lose their ability to feel emotions, but they also lost their ability to make decisions; even something as simple as choosing between restaurants. Logically, they could distinguish the pro’s and con’s between different diners, but they couldn’t nail down a decision without the support of emotions.

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That’s because there’s a “sort of lift that comes from emotions…which allow you to mark things as good, bad or different,” Damasio found. These people couldn’t “conjure up an emotional state” for the choices in front of them and so they got stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Don’t Leave Home Without Them

This information relates to you and me, too. Just as these people were handicapped because they were unable to feel emotions, you handicap yourself whenever you ignore and suppress emotions and make decisions without consulting them. Decisions and emotions go together like bread and butter.

Here’s a real life example: Recently, I had to decide whether I would actually take a trip I had booked months before. My gut was telling me “No”, but instead of listening to it, I came up with lots of “good” reasons for why I should stick with the original plan. Even with a list of good reasons, I still felt stressed and agitated. This is what happens when we try to align ourselves with a decision that our body rejects (via emotions and feelings).

When I finally realized that my decision wasn’t actually a decision, but rather unfinished business between my body and mind, I stopped. I listened to my emotions and finally canceled my trip. What came then was an immediate feeling of peace and rightness. If I had continued to ignore my agitation and restlessness, I’d have ended up on what would’ve been a miserable get-away, thanks to all of those “good reasons”.

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Why weren’t my good reasons good enough? It’s because they were just one aspect of my intelligence and what’s more, they were ignoring my body’s response to them. Author Mary Lamia PhD explains that emotions “attempt to tell you if a situation is optimal, or not aligned with your goal.”  The key word here, is “attempt” and that’s exactly what my emotions were trying to do.

They’re like blunt messages (not very subtle!) but they inform us in ways that data and facts never could. Eckhart Tolle teaches that “the body has its own intelligence and this intelligence reacts to your thoughts and what your mind is saying. Emotion is the body’s reaction to your mind.” Feelings are your body’s voice and they say something meaningful and valuable. When I ignored my own feelings, they didn’t go away. Instead, they intensified, because they still had something to say.

The Problem with Emotion?

Emotions (especially negative emotions) speak up loud and clear, when the intellect is too busy thinking. Emotions, on the other hand, don’t think. They just show up.

And this is the problem with them, too. They don’t think; you have to do that for them. They don’t differentiate between real and imaginary threats. That’s your job.

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For example, your body might feel fear (shaking, nervousness, perspiration, etc.) when you think about getting on that stage and giving your first TED Talk. (Hey, we can dream, can’t we?) However, your body will also feel that emotion if a tiger’s chasing you. Obviously, one is real danger, the other is imaginary.

How to Make the Most of Your Emotions

So, if we need emotions to make decisions, how are we supposed to rely on them, if they’re really just blunt and nondiscriminating messengers? You could say, “Listen, I’m afraid of getting on that stage, just like I’m afraid of that tiger, so in both cases, my feelings must be trying to protect me from something legit, right?”

Wrong. And here’s the solution. It’s true that every emotion is equal and valuable, but according to Eckhart Tolle, “emotion is the body’s response to a thought” and thoughts are not always reliable.

If you’re scared of stepping onto that stage (or anxious, happy, sad or confused) it’s because both your intellect and emotions are saying something.  Obviously, you already know that the stage is tiger-free, but your emotions rage on. How do we know what they’re saying?

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The real way to think for your emotions is to stop thinking and pay them some much needed attention. Your fear isn’t really telling you that the stage is dangerous. It’s telling you that there’s something deeper you need to address (Maybe it’s something like fear of failure, judgement, disappointing, etc.)

The next time you’re feeling indecisive, go straight to your feelings and pay attention to them and ask yourself these simple questions:

  1. How am I feeling? (Remember, don’t judge your feelings. Just let them be.)
  2. Do I like feeling this way?
  3. What thought is this feeling responding to?
  4. Can I change my thoughts to change my emotions?

By adjusting your thoughts to create better emotions, you’ll be able to make decisions that align with your goals and serve your body and mind. Remember, your emotions are always telling you something, bluntly but truthfully.

Featured photo credit: Photo: Victor Bezrukov 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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