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One Trick To Persuade Nearly Everyone: Don’t Be Too Creative

One Trick To Persuade Nearly Everyone: Don’t Be Too Creative

Have you ever thought that you’d be more successful if only you were more creative? Most of us believe that being as creative as possible will yield the best results, but there’s actually lots of evidence to the contrary.

Studies have shown that proposals that show too much creativity often fail, and that humans are drawn to what’s familiar to them. There are many ways we can use these insights to be more successful, and we’ll explore these below.

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Ideas that are too novel aren’t successful.

In 2014, researchers from Harvard and Northeastern University set out to find out how important novelty is when submitting funding proposals. Surely, the most creative proposals would be the most successful? Surprisingly, this wasn’t the case.[1]

150 proposals were prepared, and each was rated according to how novel it was. The proposals were then evaluated by a team of scientists, who gave a score to each. The proposals that were the most novel and creative received the lowest scores overall. Up next were the safe, familiar proposals, which scored only slightly higher. The proposals which received the best scores were those considered ‘slightly new’ – not too novel, but also not completely familiar.

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This study demonstrates how important it is to get the right balance between familiarity and newness. It’s not enough to simply come up with the most creative idea you can – you also need to make sure that it contains some familiarity. For example, when pitching a new business idea, try comparing it to existing services, saying, “It’s like McDonalds, but healthy,” or, “It’s eBay for bikes.” This approach makes your proposal easier to understand and less threatening. If an idea is so new that it’s hard to understand and explain, it’s unlikely to be successful.

Humans crave familiarity.

In the 1960s, a psychologist named Robert Zajonc conducted experiments which proved the human preference for familiarity. He showed subjects a variety of images, shapes and characters, and asked them to rate which they liked best. The images which were familiar to the subjects consistently received the highest ratings, while images which they had not been shown before were rated poorly. This shows that we are naturally inclined to like what we know, regardless of whether or not it’s actually better.

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This is described at the ‘mere-exposure effect’ and is often used in advertising. By showing consumers the same advert over and over again, the chance of them liking it and buying the product shown is increased. The same theory can be applied to many areas of life – music, art, cinema, and even people.

By bearing in mind that most humans crave familiarity, you can be more successful in many areas of life, including work, creative projects and relationships. You could pitch a novel idea to a familiar problem at work, paint a familiar scene using new materials, or suggest trying a new variety of your partner’s favorite cuisine for dinner.

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A combination of surprising and familiar works best.

Raymond Loewy, one of the most successful industrial designers of all time, knew all about getting the right balance between surprising and familiar. He developed a design principle called MAYA, which stands for ‘Most Advanced Yet Acceptable.’ and refers to the practice of creating designs that are as advanced as possible without being so new and unusual that they aren’t accepted by consumers. The MAYA principle can be used to explain why high-tech products, like the recent Google Glasses, can fail. While consumers are used to devices like phones and tablets, making the leap to a wearable device could feel too unfamiliar and strange.

Next time you’re pushing yourself to be more creative, stop. Think instead about how you could put a creative twist on a familiar idea. You’ll see better results, and won’t suffer the disappointment of your most creative endeavors being unsuccessful.

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Eloise Best

Eloise is an everyday health expert and runs My Vegan Supermarket, a vegan blog and database of supermarket products.

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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

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