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How to Start Talking to Strangers with Ease Even If You’re Shy

How to Start Talking to Strangers with Ease Even If You’re Shy

A day without communicating with others and meeting new people isn’t a day well spent.

But that’s not always the easiest thing to do if you’re shy by nature. You might be intimidated when in public because you get anxious, start thinking that others will judge you, fear being rejected, aren’t sure what to talk about, feel uncomfortable, or else.

Don’t worry. You can still take control of your bad communication skills and lack of self-esteem and turn them around. One of the best things about being human is that we have the ability to change, to improve, to built new qualities and learn any skill.

In this case, the goal is to start talking to strangers with ease. Let’s see how you can get there without too much stress and effort.

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Fix your relationship with yourself first

Shyness is a result of not being confident in yourself, and there are often deeper reasons behind this. It’s worth taking the time to dig deeper and see where all this started.

Maybe your parents were too judgmental and you could never satisfy them. Maybe you never found something you’re good at that could give you the chance to show you’re capable of much more. Or maybe you don’t try new things because you’ve failed in the past. Whatever the case is, getting back to these memories tells your mind you shouldn’t do anything right now. It’s time to let go.

Leave behind anything from the past, as it’s the foundation of your shy self. Instead, realise this: we all have potential inside of us, waiting to be unleashed. But it takes some work and practice to start getting things done and let others notice that.

So, set some goals and take a step daily. Decide to give a new hobby a try. Learn something new. Take up a sport. Find out life hacks that will help you do things faster and better. Whatever it is that you do, it will give you the confidence that you can accomplish much more. And you’ll start building self-esteem and begin taking risks more often, even in social life.

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Being action-oriented also means you’ll stop overthinking your weaknesses, will leave behind the doubts and insecurity. All that makes you stronger, more experienced, and more confident around other people. Once you go through this transformation – which doesn’t need to take long – you can show the world you’re not afraid to be in public, meet new people and show them how interesting of a person you are.

Leave the comfort zone

Your comfort zone is the bubble you live in, that feels safe and familiar, and which is hard to leave. It includes all the habits you’ve developed over the years and which you stick to, all the people from your past you’re used to being around, all the qualities you’ve always had, and the things you’ve always been doing.

But comfort is the enemy of progress, and that affects your social life quite negatively. Once you’re out of this comfort zone, you break free from the mediocrity and can start exploring, learning, socializing, and improving.

That can happen by doing things that don’t feel comfortable. And because we’re talking about getting better at approaching strangers, some things you can try on a daily basis are talking to one new person, asking a question, looking people on the street in the eyes, speaking up when you have something to say, spending more time around new people, etc.

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Do one of these daily for a start. It might feel awkward and unpleasant, but that’s how you’re changing for the better. Repeat it the next day.

Soon, you’ll notice some changes in your behaviour. You won’t feel anxious in public, won’t feel weird when people look at you and won’t be afraid to look them in the eyes, you’ll always know what to say when asked a question, and will even have longer conversations with new people.

Slowly master the art of being a conversationalist

Once you’ve gone through the first 2 phases, you’ll be ready to try different things, find what works best for you, gain experience, and have fun at the same time.

For example, you can begin disagreeing with people and thus showing character. Eventually, you’ll find the balance between saying your honest opinion, but presenting it in a way that won’t make the other person feel bad. You’ll become more assertive too. You’ll show respect to anyone you’re talking to but won’t allow being deceived or controlled in any way.

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Then, you’ll get creative with body language and your diction. The determination can be felt through the words you use, your tone and your posture. Once approaching the new person isn’t an issue anymore, you’ll experiment with all these too.

As for the topics, you’ll discuss with strangers, in the beginning, they will be more common ones that don’t require any knowledge or even opinion. But then you can bring up questions that concern you and be genuinely interested in what the another person has to say about this. This way, every new conversation will be a learning experience for you. As a result, you’ll become an interesting conversation partner and someone who’ll challenge others in exciting ways. You’ll learn how to open up to people once you’ve talked for a while, but also how to make them feel comfortable and start sharing.

After some time, expect to have the chance to actually form a friendship with anyone you have something in common with. You decide who you’ll spend time with for longer, but your circle of friends will definitely get bigger now that you’re more self-assured and know how to approach people with ease.

Your daily life will turn into a quest to meet new individuals, get to know them, brush up on your social skills, and have a good time.

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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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