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6 Ways Poker Can Help Build Your Confidence

6 Ways Poker Can Help Build Your Confidence

Poker today is a global phenomenon and the figures are rising all the time. According to research commissioned by the non-profit PPA (Poker Players Alliance) around 70 million Americans play poker live and/or online – that’s more than 20% of the population. Another 100 million are thought to play the game worldwide.

Why then, is poker so popular? There must be more to poker’s attraction than its showbiz allure. On one thing, enthusiasts of all levels tend to agree: poker can build self-confidence, which might be the single most transferable skill of them all… Here then, are some suggestions as to why this might be so:

Conquer Maths Anxiety!

Maths anxiety, first identified in the 1950s, is the chronic fear of maths. If the prospect of doing maths brings you out in a cold sweat, the chances are that you too suffer from maths anxiety.

Maths anxiety is a fear of numbers. It’s surprisingly common – in the UK for instance, it affects some 16 million people; about a quarter of the population. It’s also surprisingly well-studied psychological condition, with research indicating that the panic induced by having to do math is so intense for some people that sometimes it even activates your brain’s “pain matrix.”

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For sufferers, grappling with a maths problem releases stress hormones associated with the fight/flight reflex you could expect from confronting, say, a hungry tiger. Imagine the selfsame response, but provoked by something as banal as having to measure a carpet or decode a phone bill. Relax though, for help may be at hand.

As with any skill, mathematics gets easier, the more of it you do. The trick is to practise without at any point thinking of it as doing maths. And that’s where a game like poker comes in. The very mechanics of the game, the calculation of ever-shifting odds, is maths in motion. It may not feel like it, but during the course of play, your brain is making hundreds of percentage-based computations. At the green felt table, your brain can crunch all those numbers naturally and fearlessly, because it thinks it’s just playing a game.

Know The Measure Of Your Hand

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    Confidence is, in many ways, tied to competence. As you amass knowledge in a subject, confidence in your abilities grows proportionately. When you first begin to play poker, you’ll be either timid or reckless. But you will certainly not be good. You’ll make beginner’s mistakes. As you get a feel for the game, your play will become more assertive (perhaps overly so). Eventually a player reaches the enlightened state of knowing just what it is they know, and what they have yet to learn. And there’s always something. So, be confident in your abilities, and learn to recognise your limitations. This applies to all walks of life. Unless you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing, in which case…

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    Learn How To Bluff!

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      Poor Le Chiffre, betrayed in the ultimate high-stakes game by the shedding of a single ruby tear at a critical moment. Oh, the heavy hand of irony. A fictional playboy villain is hardly representative, but everyone, player or not, has a “tell”, a visual or verbal tic or cue that signals the onset of a sudden anxiety, a spasm of nerves or excitement. Some of these tells fall into what science calls microexpressions – incredibly brief in duration movements of the facial muscles, lasting only 1/25th to 1/15th of a second.

      In poker, it is as crucial to successfully conceal your tell as it is to read that of another. If you find your opponent’s tells, you can spot when they’re bluffing. And vice versa. As each round progresses, you are called to check, bet, fold, call or raise, according to standard poker rules. Each of these actions are expected to show what you believe about your hand. Is it good or are you bluffing? What about your opponents?

      The ability to spot a tell has a range of applications that go way beyond poker. On any given day you can expect to be lied to from 10 to 200 times, and more than 82% of these lies will slip by undetected, so learning how to spot a lie or a bluff is a useful skill in its own regard. Unconvinced? Just ask Pinocchio – who would have made for a much worse poker player than Le Chiffre.

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      The Importance Of Eye Contact

      Eyes are the proverbial “windows to the soul.” A steady gaze appears to denote frankness and confidence. The key word here is appears.

      Failure to maintain eye contact is perceived as weakness, unreliability. Doubtlessly, the other extreme is equally unwelcome – everyone must surely feel the need to blink occasionally. In fact, the average person will blink 6-10 times per minute – less than this is just plain scary, whilst a higher blink rate tends to signal attraction, anxiety or excitement. Or possibly a slipped contact lens. Maintaining good eye contact is a crucial skill – especially for salespeople, managers and pretty much everyone, when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

      Dress To Impress?

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        Professional poker players are often snappy dressers. Picture the archetypal riverboat gambler, suited in linen and silks. Compare this image with a modern-day celebrity player – fashions have changed of course, but still the poker player is, more often than not, impeccably tailored.

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        His/her image is a projection, the physical manifestation of ‘confidence’ – and in poker, confidence born from skill translates as wealth, to be measured in winnings. A “good” player may dress expensively (not necessarily ostentatiously); it’s part of their bluff, they are dressing to impress. Often, to intimidate. At the same time, you may notice a lot of poker pros do the exact opposite: they choose generic getups. This way, their opponents will possibly underestimate them, which in effect gives them an advantage. There’s also something to be said about comfortable clothes – being physically comfortable allows you to be more efficient in any situation. A 2012 Northwestern University study confirms all this: “enclothed cognition” is the influence that your clothes have on your psychology and mood, and it was proven to make a huge difference.

        What can we get out of all this? Simply taking a moment to think about what your attire conveys about your personality is enough to help you make better choices. Let’s not forget, if your clothes make you feel confident, you move in an all-together more attractive manner. Which by happy coincidence makes you appear more confident than perhaps you really are. A virtuous circle.

        Sharpen Up Your Conversational Skills

        Poker is a social game. Other players are involved. You’ll have to sit near them and everything, there’s really no avoiding it. At semi-regular intervals, you’re going to have to talk to them; unless you’re actually playing a robot, conversation will be exchanged.

        You may be the shyest person in the world, a wilting violet in a dark and shadowy corner, but through playing poker, a veritable spotlight will freeze you in its beam each and every round, and you’ll have to learn to deal with it. That’s not bad at all. Even if you choose not to put them to use very often, social skills are very important in life and can make all the difference when you’re trying to land that dream job or even get a date.

        There are indeed many social, mental and psychological benefits to playing a simple, enjoyable game like poker. But perhaps the biggest one of all is the card game’s capacity to help you strengthen your self-confidence. So unwind a little, smile, crack a joke as you play; after all, if you play your cards right, you could be sitting at that table for a long time…

        References & Sources for Further Reading:

        1. mathgoodies.com – Understanding and Overcoming Anxiety
        2. impactfactory.com – Use Eye Contact to Create better Relationships
        3. phoenixcounsellingnw.co.uk – Building Self Confidence
        4. pokerstars.com – Understanding the Rules of Poker
        5. careerproinc.com – How to sharpen Your Communication Skills

        Featured photo credit: Entrepreneur via entrepreneur.com

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        Last Updated on May 21, 2019

        How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

        How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

        For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

        If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

        Example 1

        You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

        You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

        In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

        Example 2

        You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

        People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

        You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

        Example 3

        You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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        The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

        Example 4

        You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

        Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

        If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

        Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

        • Understand your own communication style
        • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
        • Communicate with precision and care
        • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

        1. Understand Your Communication Style

        To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

        In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

        Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

        2. Learn Others Communication Styles

        Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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        If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

        “How do you prefer to receive information?”

        This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

        To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

        3. Exercise Precision and Care

        A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

        On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

        Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

        I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

        I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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        In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

        The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

        Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

        4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

        Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

        In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

        “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

        Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

        Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

        It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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        It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

        It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

        Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

        Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

        The Bottom Line

        When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

        I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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        Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

        Reference

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