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Last Updated on December 18, 2020

How Traveling Can Drastically Improve Your Interpersonal Skills

How Traveling Can Drastically Improve Your Interpersonal Skills

Inherently, the seasoned traveler doubles as a social butterfly. They can strike up a conversation on a whim and somehow manage to find common ground with individuals from all walks of life.

Traveling on its own can be incredibly eye opening and enriching, but it will also equip us with skills that are necessary to be successful. Communication and interpersonal skills are attributes that can be learned and honed. These skills are applicable in everyday life and can be translated into professional environments.

We are inherently closed off

For my first lone traveling experience, I had just arrived to San Francisco for an externship. There was an issue with our train and we had to switch to a new train at the next platform. A gentleman who had been making polite conversation decided that it was now his mission to help me move my stuff to the next train.

Although well intentioned, I was appalled. I was not accustomed to the kindness of strangers, in fact I thought that he was trying to rob me or worse. Kindness is somewhat regional. And growing up in the tristate area, I had been conditioned to be extremely skeptical. Interaction with strangers seemed incredibly taboo.

It’s shameful to admit, but social skills have fallen by the wayside. We’ve forgotten how to speak to one another. The idea of striking up a conversation with a stranger is borderline terrifying. But more terrifying still, the lack of effective communication will ultimately lead to a lonely life.

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Keeping the passion alive

A very wise man once said that before fully committing to someone, take them on a trip. This wise man is Bill Murray- and he speaks the truth. Traveling can be a very vulnerable time for many, often times it can bring out the worst in people.

But if you are able to overcome the inevitable hurdles that will arise during your trip, traveling has been proven to strengthen relationships.[1] It gives yourself and your partner an opportunity to share in a common goal.

Just being in a different environment[2], free of all of your day to day obligations that tend to get in the way will help to reignite romance and intimacy. It will give you both the chance to revisit some issues that would normally initiate an argument- in a safe, romantic setting.

Couples who regularly travel together have reported having more effective communication with one another than those who don’t. [3]

You will never see the world the same

The greatest epiphany one can experience as they submerge themselves into the travel lifestyle is the realization that not everyone thinks the way that you do. Not everyone lives the same way that you do. Different cultures harbor different philosophies and priorities.

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Breathe, relax, enjoy

Growing up in a place where results are expected instantaneously, I didn’t take well to the idea of waiting. I mean, what’s the hold up? I placed my order and I want it now. Clearly impatience was smeared all over my face. The server who took my order asked me ever so innocently, “Why do you look upset? You have a few extra moments to just enjoy life before you receive your food.” He was so right. Why was I getting upset? I didn’t have anywhere to be. So I took his advice. I drew in a deep breath, taking in all of the beauty that surrounded me.

Patience is a virtue. And when you’re traveling, you have no choice but to be patient.

Learn to roll with the punches

Not everything works out as planned, things are bound to go wrong. When you are traveling, you are exceptionally vulnerable to these mishaps, with very little security if things happen to not go your way. This can be incredibly unnerving the first few times around. This can even deter some from deciding to continue. But if you can hack it and take the hits as they come, you will ultimately develop the patience of the Saint. Bad things are going to happen; let them. You’ll find another way.

When things don’t work out, not only do you have to be patient, but adaptable as well[4]. You must be able to recollect and strategize, or at least accept the situation at hand and roll with it.

It’s not the situation- it’s your reaction

In a landslide of positive effects, your increase in patience and adaptability will in turn make you a kinder, less skeptical person. Because at this point, you get it. We’re all human, doing our best to get by. So just stay cool.

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Conflicts are going to arise, and how you choose to handle them will determine the outcome.

Alternate forms of communication

Everything that is new and unfamiliar can seem terrifying. Especially when you are traveling abroad, specifically if you are traveling alone.

If you’re anything like me, you relish in the somewhat abrasive blow of culture shock. Everything is so foreign, so unbelievably different.

This can make communication difficult. I literally don’t speak their language. Chances are, I’m not going to become fluent overnight or anywhere in the near future. But I can still ease my struggle by learning a few key phrases in the language of where I am visiting in order to get by in daily life.

More likely than not, I will butcher the pronunciation. The average person will get the gist of what I am trying to say and appreciate the effort-regardless of the poor execution.

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Non-verbal communication will become your saving grace. You will develop the ability to convey your meaning without words. Without realizing, you may start to mirror the behavior of those around you to establish a foundation of common ground.

Just in this short time, you are evolving. You’ve picked up new mannerisms that will channel into your existing personality and habits.

This experience literally becomes a part of you, altering how you think and how you behave.

Featured photo credit: VideoHive via videohive.net

Reference

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Jenn Beach

Traveling vagabond, writer, & plant-based food enthusiast.

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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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