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13 Useful Hacks to Bolster Your Personal Growth

13 Useful Hacks to Bolster Your Personal Growth

When you think of “hack” articles, you might think of articles that feature collections of household goods arranged in creative ways that you would not normally think of, that make life easier. This article, however, is to introduce you to 13 social and mental tricks and principles you can use to improve your life, overcome social shyness, and flex that social muscle.

1. Confidence Pose

If you ever need a boost to your confidence to help you power through your day, adopt a powerful pose, and feel your testosterone rise and your cortisol (stress hormone) fall. Check out Amy Cuddy’s TED talk here for more.

2. Benjamin Franklin Effect

There’s a little trick called the Benjamin Franklin Effect that says if someone does you a favor, they will like you more as a result. Our brains like to justify our behaviors, so when someone does a favor for you, their subconscious will convince them that they did the favor for you because they liked you. Read more about it here.

3. Unattainability

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Things that are out of reach are always more desirable. Studies show that women find men more attractive if they are married than if they are single. Remember this next time you feel really needy towards someone. Do you want them because you would enjoy a sustainable relationship with them, or because you can’t have them?

4. Contrast Principle

Things always seem better when placed next to something worse. When a salesman tries to sell you a car for 50 thousand dollars, it probably sounds like an unfriendly deal. When they then offer you a 10 thousand dollar car, with a couple thousand dollars in add-ons (sunroof, satellite radio, rims, etc.) then it might sound like a steal. You might not normally get all the special add-ons, but after comparing it to the initial offer, it sounds like a great deal. The Contrast Principle can be tricky in this way. It is best to compare what you are being offered to your own initial expectation, instead of feeling like you have a steal after hearing a much-worse price.

5. Reciprocation

Whether we want to or not, we will feel obligated to reciprocate whatever people give to us. You don’t have to like the person at all in order to be subjected to this feeling. Ever wonder why poor homeless people will clean your windshield while you are on the road? They know you will feel obligated to reciprocate, and they take advantage of it. When you feel that urge to keep the conversation going after someone new has broken the ice with you, that is reciprocation at work.

6. Self-fulfilling prophecy

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Although ominous-sounding, the self-fulfilling prophecy is easy to take advantage of. The premise is simple: give someone a positive characteristic to live up to, and stand back and watch them try to live up to their new expectation. If you tell someone that they are funny, intelligent, or awesome to be around, they will do their best to live up to their standard. They will want to live up to their expectation, and they won’t want you to be wrong about how you think about them.

7. Foot-in-the-door

The foot in the door technique is another simple social hack. If you can get someone to do you a favor, they will be more likely to do more favors for you in the future. They will have convinced themselves that you are someone worth doing favors for, and they don’t want to be wrong about you.

8. Consistency principle

The consistency principle helps explain both the self-fulfilling prophecy, the foot-in-the-door technique, and the Benjamin Franklin Effect. Basically it means that humans are wired to be consistent- and that once we come up with a conclusion in our mind (oh, this person is funny), from then on we will try to convince ourselves that we are correct. Do you ever wonder why people who are thought of as “funny” can say stupid things that people laugh at, while when you say something you deem to be funny and nobody gets it? It’s because they don’t expect it out of you, and they don’t get the satisfaction of feeling like they are right about their initial thoughts of you. Knowing this can help you try to actively change what people think of you.

9. Never fear saying stupid things

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In a recent MIT study (found in this book), they found that what impacts you when people speak to you is not the content of what they said, but how you felt when speaking to them. Instead of worrying about trying to say the right thing all the time, think more about what kind of emotions you bring out in people. Are you associated with positive emotions? If you bring out the right emotions in people, the right things to say will flow freely.

10. Body language indicates success

Another recent study done by MIT found that the outcome of 87% of sales pitches can be correctly guessed by only observing body language. See #1 for more on the implications of having confident body language.

11. Remember people’s first names

Dale Carnegie, one of the world’s greatest pioneers of the self-development industry, offered this great tip for remembering people’s first names. Whenever you meet new people, how many times do you hear of someone that is good with names? The answer is likely slim – almost no-one actually succeeds at this. One of the best ways to show that you are truly interested in what other people have to offer is to remember their name. Everyone wants to feel important, and this is one great way to help them feel that way.

12. Anticipation

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People almost always find more enjoyment in that which they must wait for. According to PhD Larry David, co-author of The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction, drug users will like using drugs more if they anticipate using them. The same holds true for any other pleasure-inducing behavior, like sex. Our brain is wired to seek reward, and remembers what it’s like to flood itself with strong, positive neurochemicals. Do you remember how excited you got for your birthday as a kid? Maybe today, do you get excited about thinking about visiting one of your best friends across the country, going out to your favorite restaurant tonight, or going on vacation next week? This anticipation helps build up the event, and make it better than it really is.

13. Create a bond 

Sure, your dad has probably told you to look people in the eye when you talk to them. What he probably didn’t tell you was that eye contact facilitates the release of oxytocin, a “bonding” chemical. This chemical has also been linked to stress reduction, and biasing the brain by looking at the positives of a relationship. Besides releasing oxytocin, looking people in the eye when you speak to them demonstrates lots of confidence.

So there you have it:

13 hacks to help your personal growth take off.

Use these hacks every day and become the most high-powered version of yourself. Let us know what your hacks are in the comments below!

Featured photo credit: jessicahtam via flickr.com

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Nathan Adlam

Professional Boss

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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