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5 Steps to Instantly Connect More Deeply with Anyone and Everyone

5 Steps to Instantly Connect More Deeply with Anyone and Everyone

Connection with other people is one of the most important aspects of life, but when you’re not connecting, it can be hard to figure out what’s going wrong. Whether it’s with friends, family members, co-workers, or kids, the following five steps will help you quickly move from feeling isolated and disconnected to being able to create deep and meaningful connections no matter who’s in front of you.

1  Breathe, relax and find your center

One of the things I notice when I’m feeling disconnected from others is that I’m usually also feeling sad, anxious, or angry. The reason I’m disconnected is because I’ve been avoiding the natural connection that is easily available when I’m present and enjoying life.

So, the first thing to do when you find yourself out of sorts is to stop, take some deep breaths, and notice what’s going on inside of you. When we can tune in to our own emotional world, or physical sensations in our bodies, or anxiety-producing thoughts that keep swirling in our minds, we’re much better able to put those thoughts, feelings or sensations into perspective. Rather than determining our experience, these things are simply a part of our experience and can be either dealt with in the moment or put aside until later, allowing us to be more present and available for connection.

After tuning in, it’s much easier to “find your center” or discover your unmoving sense of self. For instance, when I’m feeling sad, I disconnect and sulk, but when I notice I’m feeling sad, I’m able to say to myself, “I’m feeling sad right now, but I am not my sadness. I am generally a joyful person who cares a lot about others. My kind and loving heart is the core of who I am.” Ahhh, that feels MUCH better.

2  Make eye contact

Now that you’ve discovered what’s happening with you that has been keeping you away from connection with others, it’s time to make yourself more available by making eye contact. When we avoid connection, we often avoid eye contact. That’s because the eyes really are like windows to the soul.

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When we make eye contact, a LOT of information is transmitted from one person to another. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of looking into someone’s eyes and suddenly thinking, “I know exactly how this person is feeling.” Sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong, but by making eye contact we make our selves vulnerable and available in a way that we just aren’t when we look down or away.

If you find extended eye contact difficult, go back to step one, breathe, relax, and tune in to your own thoughts and feelings and then when you’re ready to connect again, resume eye contact. Sometimes just taking a deep breath is enough to help me relax enough to maintain eye contact.

One more thing about eye contact: don’t try to look at both eyes at once or to give each eye equal time. Instead, just decide to look into one eye without shifting your gaze. I usually use the left eye, but that’s just my personal preference. By choosing one eye and maintaining steady but relaxed eye contact, the other person knows that you’re available and ready to connect.

3  Tune in and practice empathy

Now put your attention on the other person. Really take a moment to stop thinking about what you’re about to say or where you’re headed next, or what the other person is thinking about you and actually pay attention to the person across from you. Get curious about what the other person is experiencing. Is she feeling sad, hurt, or happy? Is he distracted by the television in the room? Does the energy of the conversation seem to change when he talks about his dad?

By noticing some of the subtle shifts in the conversation and then checking in about them, you can quickly move from small talk into a deeper connection. For example, perhaps you and a co-worker are talking about the weather:

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Y: “Wow, it’s freezing out there! The wind is really blowing!”

T: “I know! I almost slipped on some ice on my way to work this morning. It’s a good thing my mom isn’t planning on running any errands today. She broke her hip last winter.”

Y: “You know, I could really feel how much you care about and want to protect your mom when you shared that. Was it a bad break?”

T: “Yeah, it took months to heal and definitely took a toll on the whole family. We’re used to Mom taking care of us, not the other way around.”

Y: “I bet it’s scary to see the tables turning as your parents get older. I’m going through that too, and it’s so disconcerting to see my parents need more and more help as they age. I wish they could stay young and healthy forever.”

4  Appreciate and enjoy

Now that you’ve connected and empathized, make sure to keep things moving in a positive direction. You want to connect, but you don’t want to see this person in the hall a few days later and think about what a dark, heavy conversation you had. Instead, you want to leave the other person feeling appreciated and remembering what an enjoyable conversation it was.

Even dark or heavy topics can still feel enjoyable if you practice appreciation during the conversation. Take the above example, can you see where Y was appreciating and enjoying T’s love for his mom?

When we can genuinely appreciate and enjoy the person we’re connecting with, they feel seen and accepted and want to continue to connect further.

If you’re having trouble enjoying a particular person, just try to find one thing to appreciate about them in that moment. Maybe their hair smells nice, or you like their smile, or the sound of their voice reminds you of your favorite uncle. By focusing on the thing you enjoy, your appreciation will come through naturally without additional effort on your part.

5  Lighten up

One of the pitfalls of wanting deeper connection with people is that we can get stuck in a mode of thinking that “deeper connection” has to look and feel a certain way. Let me assure you, it doesn’t. When we can let go of any attachments we might have to a conversation going a certain way, and simply enjoy where it’s going organically, we take the pressure off and allow for much more fun and connection.

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And, by showing that you’re not dead set on discovering their deepest darkest secret or uncovering some childhood trauma, you’re inviting a level of openness and vulnerability that the other person is comfortable with. That will ultimately lead to more spontaneous sharing that is much more likely to result to an ongoing deepening of connection.

Having fun is a great way to connect with others and it’s a wonderful indicator of whether you’ll want to continue this connection into the future. If it’s no fun, you probably won’t want to do it again.

So, those are my five steps to connect more deeply with anyone and everyone. I would love to know your thoughts, please share a story or comment below.

And have a fabulous day, Shelly

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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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