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7 Life Lessons from Sherlock

7 Life Lessons from Sherlock

We still have a few days until series four of Sherlock starts on New Year’s Day. But while we wait for the return of our dear crime sleuths, we can look back at our previous encounters with them and learn a few life lessons. Yes, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson have not just given us exciting crime stories to watch and enjoy, but they have taught us much more than just crime solving without us even realizing. Looking closely at the series reveals that there are life lessons we can learn from these characters, and indeed some very important ones!

1. Pay Attention to Details

What makes Sherlock Holmes so successful in solving his cases? He notices the things that we generally miss. There are many times when the solution is right in front of us. However, we are so absorbed in the world we live in that we tend to miss those clues that can lead to resolving the issue at hand. Developing Sherlock-level attention to detail may be challenging, but it would definitely be worthwhile.

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2. Focus on What Really Matters

“Listen: [pointing to his head] This is my hard-drive, and it only makes sense to put things in there that are useful. Ordinary people fill their heads with all kinds of rubbish, and that makes it hard to get at the stuff that matters! Do you see?”
~Sherlock Holmes

This means that useless information in the brain is like having junk all around the room. It makes it difficult to store something important or to find what is needed. Sherlock suggests that peripheral distractions that clutter the mind can derail the focus from important things and goals. So say no to activities, people, issues, and meetings that distract you from the goals you have and pay more attention to what’s really important.

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3. Don’t Have a Job or Are Unemployable? Just Create Your Own Job

Our consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, also shows us that being unemployed or unemployable is just fine, or perhaps more than fine. One can invent their own job and do what they are passionate about. If they give it their best shot, utilizing all of the strengths and skills they have, then lo and behold: the job is done!

4. One Good and Like-Minded Friend is All You Need

For many of us, the philosophy is “the more the merrier”. However, from Sherlock we can see that even one friend or a few trusted ones are enough. Sherlock is a solitary character with only Watson as a sounding board. Hence, he gives us this lesson that having a friend who understands you, gives you honest opinions, and guides you when you are going in the wrong direction is all you need. With this friend, you can share and discuss anything and everything, voice your thoughts or vent your frustrations. It is also not necessary that the two have similar personalities, as Sherlock and John are two very different people. However, they should be able to understand and value each other.

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5. Never Let Failures and Criticism Drive Your Life

Facing failures and getting criticized by people are inevitable aspects of life. Many times people lose hope when they fail, or they feel dejected when they are criticized for their failures. However, all is not lost as long as one doesn’t lose hope in themselves. We can see that for Sherlock, too, success is not a luxury. Instead, he works it out by means of careful planning and utilization of his skills. During many cases that he takes there are ups and downs, and many times he faces failures. Similarly, despite all the fan-following that he has, he is criticized by people for a variety of things. The episode, “The Reichenbach Fall” illustrates how a person at such great heights of popularity suddenly becomes the “Fake Genius” in the eyes of the people. He is also called a psychopath at some instances. However, he doesn’t allow any setbacks or criticism to stop him from doing what he wants to do and being who he is. His attitude towards both failure and criticism teaches us how not to give these the authority to rule our lives.

6. There is Always More Than One Way to Approach a Problem

Sherlock Holmes makes use of many approaches to problem-solving. Sometimes he disguises himself, other times he searches for information and then makes a plan, and at other times he makes use of clever deception for drawing the players into the game. In case an approach fails, he does not end his pursuit of the solution, but looks for other options and approaches to take. Hence, we can learn from him that there is not just one way of approaching a problem. To be clear, I am not suggesting to take his indoor target practice as a lesson; there are many other approaches apart from that to learn from him.

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7. Don’t Judge Anyone by Face or Appearance

How do we perceive someone we have met for the first time? We tend to judge that person, assign him or her to some sort of category, or come up with some explanation of what that person is or what he or she is likely to be. Sherlock shows us the extent to which one can be wrong when they judge anyone by face or by some of his or her initial actions. This we saw through his initial judgment of Moriarty as gay and how he was later revealed as a totally different person. Even though Moriarty was disguised that way and wanted Sherlock to believe him to be gay, Sherlock only judged him by his appearance and did not look beyond that when he first met him.

Conclusion

These were a few lessons that I learned from Sherlock. There are many others that you may deduce on your own if you pay attention. Fingers crossed for the new season that is set to bring some more life lessons and be just as entertaining as the previous ones!

Featured photo credit: Sherlock via pbs.org

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Mehwish A. Wahid

Writer and Researcher

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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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