Advertising
Advertising

11 Small Things Anyone (Including You!) Can Do to Make the World Better

11 Small Things Anyone (Including You!) Can Do to Make the World Better

Do you believe you’re too small to change the world? You have much more potential than you realize! Take a look at these 11 little (but important!) things that you can do to make a difference today.

1. Smile. 

It’s amazing how much a smile can make a difference in any interactions — that’s why we are told to smile before we pick up the phone! When we dig way down, we find that everyone just wants to be happy, and a smile shows just that. Smiles are contagious. What better way to spread happiness to tons of people? It doesn’t cost any money, and it’s not touchy like a hug. So, flash those pearly whites to whoever crosses your path. And if you’re just not feeling it, you know what they say: “Fake it ’til you make it!” If you smile long enough, you’ll find you can’t help feeling great.  (And to take this even farther — laugh!)

2. Listen.

This is such a biggie in this fast-paced, I-don’t-have-time-for-that world. We lend people our “ear,” but are we really listening? To be a good listener, put all of your to-do’s and opinions on the back burner and still your mind. When the person is done, respond with some of what they said, so they know that you were giving your full attention. Not so easy! But it can make a huge difference. A lot of people just want to be heard — we all have a story to tell, and we all want to feel understood. This one may take a few minutes of your time, but if you can make the effort, you can make a world of difference to another individual.

Advertising

3. Pick up after yourself.

A clear space keeps a mind clear and just looks and feels better. Have a regular place for things and keep the table and counter surfaces clear. Keep it clean outside, too. Keep your litter in the garbage can, and pick up that water bottle or soda can that someone else left behind. Know that you’re beautifying the space for yourself and others, showing that you care about your environment. How about when you’re out to eat? My family likes to stack up the menus for the waiter so they don’t have to reach around everybody at the table. We’ll sometimes stack up and pass over our plates, too. It shows you care and leaves the wait staff more time to take good care of you and the other customers. And when you’re visiting? Clean up when you’re hanging out or at a party. Offer to help take things down or clean up, and maybe even do the dishes! Work gets done faster with many hands, and an easier cleanup might encourage a host to throw another party!

4. Open the door for someone.

I think it’s so sweet when there’s a double-door situation, and the person going out and the person going in are both holding the door for each other! This is a wonderful, easy way to make someone feel special. Take that extra minute and that little bit of humility and let the other person go through first. It doesn’t matter if the person is male or female, young or old, in a wheelchair or on crutches, or toting a few kids in a stroller — it’s a wonderful gesture for any person.

5. Pay for the person behind you.

This one does involve a little cash, but it’s a wonderful, appreciated surprise when you are able to do it. And it can be as small as a toll or cup of coffee. Think about all the times you’ve had to stand or sit in line. Now think about how much you’ve hated it! Imagine finally getting to the front and then finding out someone has taken care of you. This is a powerful way to start a chain of “paying it forward.”

Advertising

6. Say please and thank you (and mean it!).

I think this is pretty self-explanatory, but it can’t be over-applied. However, it’s sometimes overlooked in service situations and in giving commands. Even if someone is serving you as part of a job, say, “Thank you.” When you are directing someone, say, “Please.” I found as a teacher that I had much better rapport with my students when I said: “Johnny, please close the door,” rather than “Johnny, close the door.” Thank the waiter for pouring you more water and for clearing your plate. Thank the cashier for handing you your bags and receipt. Yes, they have to do it —  but it’s all the better when people appreciate it.

7. Learn names and use them.

“Say my name.” They say everyone’s favorite word is their own name. When you use a person’s name you show that 1) you listened, 2) you cared enough to remember, and 3) you recognize that person’s individuality. Of course, you wouldn’t use it in every sentence, but do use it in your greeting, and throw it in here and there — then, watch the other person light up like a firefly!

8. Give encouragement.

One of my favorite teacher gifts is a small plaque that has this quote: “The finest gift you can give anyone is encouragement. Almost no one gets the encouragement they need to grow to their full potential. If everyone received the encouragement they needed to grow, the genius in most everyone would blossom and the world would prosper beyond its wildest dreams.” How powerful encouragement is! Encouragement can be anything from a simple observational compliment, to a “You can do it!” to an “I believe in you,” and even an “I love you.” The best leaders use more encouragement than criticism. The best parents and educators teach through positive reinforcement, as well as negative. And the very best encouragement we can give is sharing our unconditional acceptance and love of an individual, through all time and all circumstances.

Advertising

9. Take time for yourself.

This may sound more greedy than giving, but it’s not. Think about those times when you’ve just needed to recharge, but instead you chose to push on. You spent that extra hour. You did that extra event. How did you feel afterward? Were you really giving your full attention to that activity, to those people? This is why good businesses give their employees extra breaks and extra vacation time. We are more productive when we have a chance to relax and just be for a bit. Give yourself your full attention for a while so that you can be fully present (or attentive) for others later. Read your favorite book, take a nice shower or bath, meditate, go for that walk, or take yourself out — whatever takes your fancy! Do whatever you need to do to remind yourself that you are also important. It’s not selfish — it’s actually selfish not to!

10. Be a giver and a receiver.

First — simply put — when you can give, give. The world has a circular ebb and flow, and generosity has a way of coming back to you. This doesn’t just mean money; all of the above suggestions are different ways of giving. Holding back stops the flow. Giving starts it up again.

Just as important — receive! If you don’t accept gifts from others, you are also cutting off the stream. Every giver needs a receiver, or they can’t be a giver. If someone smiles at you, take that in and smile back! Give someone a chance to listen to you, to serve you, to open the door for you, to pay for you, to thank you, and to encourage you. Let yourself feel great for the attention, and let that other person enjoy being able to do something for another.

Advertising

11. Be yourself.

The greatest gift you can give to the world is being your true self. We get so lost in who others and society want us to be that we forget who we really are. Your presence is a gift, and you are here on this earth for a reason. Invest in discovering who you really are — what do you think, what are your passions, what excites you? And then share with the world. Giving yourself permission to be yourself allows others to do the same. Imagine how much easier and more pleasant life would would be if people would spend less time forcing themselves to be what others wanted them to be and could spend more time being who they actually are, doing what they really want to do? It can start with you!

Are you ready to make a difference? Start today!

More by this author

10 Things Your Dreams Can Tell You About Yourself What Babies Would Say if They Had Twitter Accounts 17 Things Only Slow People Would Understand How You Should Communicate with Cat-People and Dog-People 27 Things Your Daughters Should Know by Age 10

Trending in Communication

1 7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language 2 How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake 3 7 Science-Backed Books About Spirituality That Will Change Your Life 4 20 Things Life Is Too Short to Worry About 5 How to Find Inner Peace and Lasting Happiness

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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]

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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]

Advertising

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

Read Next