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How to Make Yourself INSANELY Useful

How to Make Yourself INSANELY Useful
How to Make Yourself INSANELY Useful

All of us want to be useful to others in some way. We want to feel needed, competent — like we’re making a difference, in some small way.

Some people, though, are insanely useful. They are the go-to people whenever someone needs help. They’re the people that make us feel useful because we know them — when someone needs something done, we can say “Oh, I know just the person!”

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It’s not necessarily that they’re smarter, better connected, or more competent — what makes someone insanely useful is their attitude. The not only help, but they make the people they help feel better about themselves, not worse. Needing help makes us feel vulnerable and worthless — insanely useful people counteract that and leave us feeling enriched.

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Here are a few things you can do to make yourself insanely useful:

  1. Share what you know: Be open with people about your strengths and knowledge. Let people know that you have special skills and that you can help when they’re in a jam. Lots of people know how to do things, but don’t bother telling anyone else — which is about the same as not knowing it at all, since when their special skills are needed, nobody knows to ask them and whatever it is that needs doing doesn’t get done (or gets done badly).
  2. Be confident in yourself: Know that what you know is needed and valuable — and that nobody’s going to reject a helping hand in their time of need. When we lack confidence, we make excuses for not helping, because we’re afraid to put ourselves on the line. Insanely useful people don’t make excuses — they jump in and do things to the best of their ability.
  3. Solve the current problem: Help people with the immediate problem they’re facing, without questioning the judgment that got them into trouble and without worrying about the problems that lie down the road. In a moment of crisis, lend your efforts to resolving the crisis. Once the problem is solved, you can offer your advice for the future or your evaluation of the situation — in a way that makes people stronger, not weaker. Remember, neither you nor they can fix the problem they had last week, last month, or last year; the best you can do is offer some advice for avoiding those problems in the future.
  4. Give willingly — even when it’s your job: We always remember (and seek out) the people who went “the extra mile” in helping us. We also remember (and try to avoid) the people who helped us grudgingly, because they had to. Show through your actions that it’s your pleasure to help — even when (maybe especially when) you’re being paid for your time.
  5. Satisfy your own curiosity: Look on each opportunity to help out as a chance to learn something new, to expand your own knowledge and competency.
  6. Listen to others: People’s inability to do something often causes them real emotional pain; listen to them, both to provide a shoulder but also to let them let you know what they’ve tried and where they think they went wrong. This gives them an opportunity — and it shows that you value their efforts. Think of how demeaning it is when you call customer service with a complex computer problem and they tell you to check if the power’s on — it feels bad when the people helping us belittle the knowledge we do have and assume we’re too stupid to handle even the basics.
  7. Don’t take over: It can be tempting to push someone out of the way and just do it yourself. This almost inevitably makes people feel bad. Whenever possible, work with them and show that you value their expertise and perspective on the task at hand.
  8. Know when to stop: Likewise, once an immediate problem is solved, turn it back over to the person you’re helping. Chances are, they know what to do once they get past the tricky part — give them a chance to demonstrate their own ability and talent.
  9. Teach, don’t tell: As much as possible, explain what you’re doing and why. Leave the people you helped feeling a little bit better informed and more capable to handle the problem if it should arise again (or at least to identify it, if handling it is above their abilities). Don’t assume that because you’re the expert, you’re the only one who can understand what to do. (At the same time, be sensitive to things that really are beyond all but the experts — don’t make them feel dumb because they don’t understand a word you’re saying!)
  10. Be sensitive to people’s feelings and shortcomings: I’ve said this several different ways already, but it bears repeating — help people feel better about the situation, not worse. Know that when people need help, it strikes deep at their sense of individual pride and competence. Don’t put them down in any way, and don’t let them put themselves down.
  11. Ask for help: Give other people a chance to shine in their areas of expertise by asking for help when you need it. You don’t have to be good at everything to be insanely useful — build the sharing of assistance into your relationships with other people by letting them be useful when they can.
  12. Model best practices: Show through your actions what it means to be open and available to help others. Be open about how you do things so that others can learn by emulating you.
  13. Be reliable: Once you commit to helping someone out, follow through. Never let yourself feel that because you’re doing someone a favor, they have to accept it on your terms. This demonstrates that you have the power in the relationship and makes them feel even weaker and more vulnerable than they probably already do. It might get the job done in the end, but it won’t make you insanely useful.

Being useful, even insanely useful, doesn’t mean allowing yourself to be used. It means offering what you can, when you can, and doing so gladly. This applies whether you’re doing favors for friends, working with a team at work, writing instructions, or anything else — set limits, but within those limits, be wholly available.

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Lots of people are useful — they do the things they need to do, solve the problems they need to solve, and keep things chugging along. People that are insanelyuseful are in high demand by the companies they work for, the organizations they take part in, the clients they serve, their friends and family, and society in general because they not only solve problems and make things work but they add value to every relationship they take part in.

Who do you know that’s insanely useful? What have you learned from them in your own life? Let us know!

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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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