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A Shove with Love – A Kickstart to Change.

A Shove with Love – A Kickstart to Change.

Stepping into reality

Thought we might be a little less theoretical and philosophical, and a bit more practical today. Always nice to get out of our head and into reality. We all have behaviours and habits that we need to change and from time to time we all need a little encouragement and support, possibly a vigorous shove, to get under way. So I’m here today to give you a shove. You can relax and feel safe in the knowledge that I am a fully qualified and vastly experienced shover. I have shoved many over my journey, including a few statues who have made the job pretty tough. I know that some of you are career procrastinators who have been about to address certain less-than-desirable habits forever; always at the brink of something life-changing but never quite there. And that some of you have even started (four hundred times) but never actually maintained.

The caring sledgehammer

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    Knowing that many of you are perpetually waiting for the magical and mythical ‘right time’ (it doesn’t exist) and knowing that many of you struggle to create and maintain momentum, I thought that today I might give some of you a shove with love. You may even like it. I’ll be gentle. Gentle like a sledgehammer. A caring sledgehammer.

    Yep, I want you to identify one habit which you really need to change right now. Not soon, now. Not when it suits you, now. Not when you’re comfortable to do so, now. It can be any behaviour which is impacting negatively in some area of your life. It might be about food or exercise, it could be alcohol or drug related, it could have something to do with how you treat yourself or others, it might pertain to work, home or somewhere else. It may have something to do with how you deal with or react to certain situations, circumstances, events or people. It might be about your lifestyle, your finances, your long-term goals or perhaps some other kind of destructive habit (lying, stealing, violence, self-abuse, obsessive behaviours). You know what you need to change.

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    We all want to move from the negative to the positive in our life, that’s why we come to this site. But there needs to come a time when we stop planning, talking and thinking and start doing. Thinking doesn’t create change, doing does. Some of you think too much and do too little. You know it.

    One habit at a time

    The reason I want you to identify one habit (only) for this 28-day project is because the more things we try to change in a short time, the less likely we are to maintain those behaviours (what we want) and create life-long results. By identifying our single most destructive habit and addressing that in a strategic, practical and un-emotional manner, we greatly increase our chances of success. People who try to undo years of bad behaviours and change fifty habits in a short amount of time invariably fail. So let’s do what works.

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      Of course 28 days isn’t a lifetime but it’s enough time for me (and the other readers) to help you generate some momentum, build some enthusiasm and hopefully start to create some new habits, behaviours and attitudes to get you where you want to go over the long term. Of course I can only get you started, and of course, ultimately it all comes back to you. But for some of you, this little project might just be a life-changing process – if YOU make it so.

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      How to get involved.

      Click on the comment thingy and tell me (us) the following.

      1. The habit you’re going to address over the 28 days.
      2. Why it’s necessary for you to change that habit.
      3. Why it will be different this time.

      Keep it short(ish), we don’t need an essay – just the facts, Jack (or Jaclyn). If you are uncomfortable leaving your name then do it anonymously but keep in mind that public declarations can often be an effective way to create and maintain momentum. Name or not – it’s not crucial.

      Okay, stop over-thinking, get off the fence, click on the comment thingy and tell us what amazing things you’re gonna do over the next 28 days.

      Ciao Kids.

      More by this author

      Craig Harper

      Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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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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