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10 Life Lessons from Nelson Mandela

10 Life Lessons from Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela has left us a legacy of forgiveness, reconciliation and his pledge for freedom for everybody, no matter their race or color. He will always be an inspiration to the world. In the long and cruel battle to achieve this, he has taught us some invaluable life lessons.

1.Never abandon hope or give up

“The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.” – Nelson Mandela

Mandela (also known as Madiba) had very clear objectives in that he was committed to ending apartheid and a terribly unjust society. He knew that the road would be paved with enormous difficulties. But he never gave up.

Defining your goal and your objectives are essential to winning the race. Facing setbacks and failure is the most difficult part, but never give up.

2. Learn the art of compromise

“You mustn’t compromise your principles, but you mustn’t humiliate the opposition. No one is more dangerous than one who is humiliated.” – Nelson Mandela

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” – Nelson Mandela

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Whether in politics or in relationships, compromising and negotiating are essential tools. Learn how to give and take. Mandela gave superb advice when he stated that both sides have to gain. It should ideally be a win-win situation.

3. Violence is not the answer

“We can’t win a war, but we can win an election.” – Nelson Mandela

Mandela was sentenced to prison for life (and served 27 years) because he and the ANC party had adopted a Marxist strategy of sabotage and violence in the fight for justice. After his release, he did not altogether renounce this policy. It was kept in reserve.

Reconciliation and negotiation were far more effective and powerful weapons and that should never be forgotten. Madiba had the intelligence not to let the past of bitterness and resentment restrict him. Four years of tough negotiations with President de Klerk were rewarded with success and the joint Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

4. Don’t be put off by difficulties

It always seems impossible until it is done.” – Nelson Mandela

That quote by Madiba reflects that although lives are marked by illness, tragedy, misfortune and pain, people should never get discouraged. Those negative experiences can teach more than anything else. And they can teach that you have to remain faithful to your values and ethics. Mandela wanted freedom from apartheid, and while he changed strategy, he never changed that one principle.

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Nelson Mandela

    5. Learn how to forgive

    “If there are dreams of a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to that goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.” – Nelson Mandela

    Why do you think that Nelson Mandela decided to learn Afrikaans, the language of his oppressors, while in prison? That was the first move in forgiveness.

    When you have been hurt, it is only right to feel self-pity. That feeling may be followed by anger and rage and you should let it all out in a safe, private way. If you never learn to forgive, you will always feel bad. Even if the person who hurt you is dead, negative emotions ruin your life. Time to draw a line under it, and once you forgive, you immediately start to feel better.

    6. How kind are you?

    “I believe that in the end that it is kindness and accommodation that are all the catalysts for real change.” – Nelson Mandela

    Try a little kindness today.

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    7. Bond by sharing experience

     “I dream of Africa which is at peace with itself.” – Nelson Mandela

    In South Africa, rugby was the sport of the white elite and many black and colored people cheered the opposing team as a way of protesting. Picture the scene at the 1995 Rugby World Cup when Mandela wore the rugby jersey of the Springboks, the South African team, who went on to win. That one gesture in participating at a great sporting event was a powerful way of bonding a nation.

    On a personal level, try hugging (if appropriate!), eating together, taking part in a sport, or hundreds of other ways to strengthen bonding. These shared experiences will help understanding, commonality and reinforce relationships.

    8. Fight discrimination

    “I detest racialism because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man.” – Nelson Mandela

    Madiba was single minded in his approach to the enormous task ahead. Today, society is confronted with many other forms of intolerance that lead to discrimination and oppression.

    In addition to racism, you can add sexism, ageism, fat phobia, ableism, homophobia and classism as barriers to unity and equal human rights for all.

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    Where do you stand on these issues? Have you taught your kids that this discrimination is hurtful and unfair?

    9. Draw a line under your past

    “We don’t have to be victims of our past, that we can let go of our bitterness, and that all of us can achieve greatness.” – Nelson Mandela

    Mandela had every reason to become bitter and twisted and to continue with aggression and confrontation. He was intelligent enough to realize that closure was essential and the new path towards peace and reconciliation was the only way.

    How many times have you told that story about your difficult childhood, marriage or boss? Looking for pity is no way to win friends. Time for healing and closure.

    10. An unconquerable spirit

    At the Rivonia trial, there was a risk that Mandela might be sentenced to death. He was so determined that he persuaded his comrades that they would not appeal. He urged them to have dignity and pride, and to be steadfast.

    Mandela’s approach to life when he finally retired was, “Tread softly, breathe peacefully, laugh hysterically.”

     You might also like: One Life Lesson From Nelson Mandela

    Featured photo credit: Ted Eytan Creative Commons via Flickr via Flickr

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    Robert Locke

    Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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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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