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New Tools for a New Year: Communication

New Tools for a New Year: Communication

    Communication is an essential part of being productive in work and life. We talk about communication quite a bit here at Lifehack and think that you should be ready to communicate effectively and efficiently in the upcoming year. Here are a few new tools that you may need to add to your arsenal in 2012.

    Skype

    Skype isn’t a “new” tool by any means, but if you still aren’t using Skype to get things done during your workday as well as communicating with friends and family, we highly recommend installing it, getting a decent webcam, and using it in 2012. Most of my communication online is done through Skype by IM-ing, voice, or even video. It allows me to quickly have a conversation with someone or be able to see someone across the country in a matter of seconds.

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    Something that people don’t realize is that talking over Skype is a highly effective way to communicate complicated ideas or to make sure that your message isn’t taken the wrong way. Text messaging and IM is great for sending concrete information or just chatting, but if you want to get serious about your message, talking to someone voice-to-voice or face-to-face can’t be beat.

    What else is awesome about Skype is that it can be used on any Android or iOS device. That means if you have a nice 3G or WiFi connection you can communicate with another Skype user from anywhere for free.

    Twitter

    In the last couple of years Twitter has increased in popularity so much that it’s hard to find any “brand” or celebrity that doesn’t have an account or doesn’t want you to use some hashtag. But, just because Twitter has changed from it’s original incantation, to allow users to send 140 character messages to a group of followers, doesn’t mean that you can’t use it for that.

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    Twitter is great for sending one off messages to friends and colleagues as well as fostering a “community” feel with “at-replies.” Lately, I’ve heard it refered to as a type of digital “water-cooler.” It is a little hard to reduce the noise of Twitter as well as keep track of conversations in an ordered fashion, but for back and forth conversations it does pretty well. One of the best ways to communicate with Twitter is by direct message. It’s fast, simple, and private. Mike and I both use it quite a bit to get stuff done here at Lifehack.

    I’ve found to get the best use out of Twitter you need to use a seperate client to do it. Some of the best are:

    This allows you the control you want without the annoyingness of Twitter forcing things on you like recommendations of people you should follow or the inevitable inclusion of sponsored tweets and hashtags.

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    Path

    I guess Path is more of a social networking type of application than a communication one, but it just feels a little different (and beautiful, to boot). Path is an app that allows you to follow and be followed by only 150 people (based on Professor Robin Dunbar’s research regarding the number of trusted relationships somone can maintain) making it more of an intimate type of sharing and communication application. With Path you can share your location, thoughts, what you are listening to, images and video, when you are asleep and when you awake.

    I consider Path a communication app because as long as I update things that I am doing, places that I am going and my friends see it, they don’t really need to ask, “hey, where are you at?” You can let them know through Path. It may sound a little cold and inhuman to reduce some of this type of conversation in our lives, especially with our friends, but it really could end up saving a bunch of time for you, your co-workers, and friends.

    The only serious downfall that I see about Path right now is that there is no user interface for being able to export your data. You can contact Path via the their support site, but to do this everyday or week (depending what you deem as acceptable for a backup schedule) will get annoying for you and them.

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    Email Tools

    We can’t recommend email as a great communication tool for the new year, but what we can recommend are a few services that keep you out of the mound of email that you probably receive on a daily (or hourly) basis.

    One of our favorites that we took a look at a few months ago is AwayFind which allows you to filter all of your incoming email and create alerts for the ones that you deem important. AwayFind’s interface is awesome and you can come up with some pretty unique rules for qualifying email. You can be notified via SMS, IM, or even the dedicated iPhone or Android app.

    If you are a Gmail user, another tool you may want to check out is Boomerang for Gmail. Boomerang is an addon for Gmail that allows you send email at a later time or set up reminders of emails that need replied to by a certain time and aren’t. It’s another great way to keep up with your email while keeping you out of your inbox as much as possible.

    Boomerang’s creators, Baydin Inc., also offer Boomerang as a plugin for Outlook as well as The Email Game, which challenges you to deal with as much of your overflowing inbox as you can in 15 minutes or less.

    Conclusion

    Communicating effectively is vital for being productive so it is important that you find the best tools to enable you to keep in touch while keeping you sane. Hopefully, with the use of these tools this new year you can get more done both efficiently and effectively while communicating with co-workers, friends, and family.

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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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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