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Conforming To The Rules Followed By 99% Of People Is A Huge Blunder

Conforming To The Rules Followed By 99% Of People Is A Huge Blunder

Do you sometimes stop and question why you do things or think in a certain way? Imagine you’ve been asked to go into a room and wait with a group of strangers. You’re the last to walk in and see everyone standing by their seats but no one sits down. What do you do? Some part of you would probably question why people are opting to stand instead of sit, but chances are you’d probably decide to stand too.

Why? Because we all try to conform with those around us. This situation is a simple one but it illustrates our tendency to conform to social pressure in an attempt to feel accepted and not outcast ourselves.

Conformity Takes Away Your Sense of Self

The definition of conformity reads as ‘a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behaviour in order to fit in with a group.'[1] When we are born, we’re instantly moulded by the beliefs and attitudes of those around us, as were our parents’ and their parents’ before. But while this is looked at as a moral set of rules for us to live by, it can diminish our true sense of self making us afraid to do the things that ignite our passions and dreams.

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You may want to try your hand at becoming a writer but society says becoming a doctor is much more worthwhile so you take that path instead. You want to pack your bags and travel the world but parents and loved ones think going to university would be much more beneficial and sensible.

Even up until recently, hiding our true sexuality was necessary to avoid social exclusion and a limited quality of life all because hetrosexuality was the only acceptable form. This is demonstrating that conforming to ideals and what society deems ‘correct and incorrect’ takes away part of your identity and happiness.

It Restricts Your Happiness

Most people conform so much that they accept living their lives in order to keep in line with what other people think. But the problem comes when a sense of unhappiness that comes from not following your true path.

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Most people experience this as feeling lost in life or even described as going through a ‘mid-life crisis’ when they realise life hasn’t quite gone to plan. However, this can manifest as a result of years spent needing to conform rather than living the way that will make you the happiest.

Social conformity has the power to restrict our sense of freedom to pursue our dreams and pops up in the decision process for many of our most important decisions. But ask yourself – if no one judged what you did as a career, what person you dated or married, where you lived and how you chose to live your life, would you do anything differently?

Don’t Be Afraid To Embrace Your Individuality

The main problem with conformity and rules is the demise of individuality and our uniqueness. While many people do live this way, it is still sometimes met with hostility and a sense of judgement from people close or society as a whole.

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We live in a world that tells us we need to stand out from the crowd to be successful, but on the other hand expressing your individualism can be deemed negative. Expressing your individual style, opinions, thoughts and beliefs can often label us as attention-seeking or eccentric but who is really setting these ‘rules’?

Learning to embrace who we really are and how we live our life will bring us true happiness we all strive to find and create. Breaking free of the fear of non-conformity can bring more prosperity and contentedness into each day.

So next time you feel you’re making a decision where you contemplate what ‘society’ would think – what’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – ask yourself who set those standards and do you really want to conform to them?

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Featured photo credit: Andrew Neel via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Simple Psychology: What is Conformity?

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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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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