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Stay Resilient: 4 Ways We Deal with the Blows that Life deals us

Stay Resilient: 4 Ways We Deal with the Blows that Life deals us

I love good surprises, but the bad surprises aren’t so much fun.

I wake in the morning. Get out of bed. Get dressed in my best suit. I head downstairs and turn on the Nespresso machine. I wait while it warms up. I place a blue capsule in the space. I push the button for a long coffee. It cranks up its pump motor and coffee begins to pour out into my cup.

I take the cup and as I turn, I bang into my girlfriend. Coffee covers my clean shirt, my suit pants. I’m drenched in coffee. How do I react?

There are crap things that can happen to us in a day: from the little things like spilt coffee, unexpected traffic, lost keys, forgetting stuff at home through the bigger blows like a car crash, the end of a relationship, loss of our job, loss of a loved one.

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The blows in life push me off-balance. It is hard to enjoy life when I am off-balance. I am not productive when I am in this place.

What can we do?

Martial Arts and Intentional Reaction

Martial arts are about dealing with blows. In the case of karate, judo or aikido these are real physical blows in the form of punches and kicks. A punch in the face hurts. A kick in the ass hurts. Martial arts are about practicing to handle these blows so that you don’t get hurt too much.

Karate is about blocking the blow. Judo is about using the energy of the blow against the attacker. Aikido is another level of response entirely.

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How Aikido Deals with Blows

George Leonard brought the Japanese martial art of Aikido to the USA back in the 1950s. He and 3 friends opened a dojo in California. He spent his whole life practicing Aikido. He was asked to write a short article for a local magazine on the art of mastery. The goal is discipline of daily work to improve towards excellence. His article was requested so often by readers, that he was asked to expand the material into a book. The book is called Mastery. The book explores the path towards excellence. It may be excellence in chess, excellence in tennis, excellence in piano, excellence in karate, or excellence in living.

We don’t have space in this short post to go into all the ingredients of mastery which George describes. There is only space to cover one idea. The idea is the decision to react intentionally.

Are You Practicing To Be Frustrated or Practicing To Be Productive?

Imagine Mr A and Mr B. They both had coffee spill on their fine clothes this morning. Mr A is pissed off. Mr B is fine. Why does the same occurrence cause two human beings to end in two different internal states?  Mr A is in a negative, disempowering state. Mr B is in a positive, empowering state.

It is not what happens to us that really shapes our lives. It is how we practice responding. It is a little bit of choice, but a lot of habit. If I am in the practice of getting angry and frustrated, I am getting better and better at turning any start point into a frustrated state. If I am in the practice of seeing the bigger picture, I am getting better and better at keeping myself in a productive, empowering state.

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George tells us that there are 4 ways that humans respond to the blows of life.

The 4 Responses to the Blows of Life

The four ways of responding that are demonstrated by George Leonard are:

  1. Defensive/Aggressive – respond to the blow with anger and a direct attack. My friend tells me that I have arrived late, so I tell him that he was late yesterday.
  2. Victim – respond to the blow as a victim “Poor me, this always happens to me”. My friend tells me that I have arrived late, so I break down in tears.
  3. Denial – respond to the blow as if nothing happened. “I feel nothing, I will go on as I am.” My friend tells me that I have arrived late, so I ignore it and dive into my donut.
  4. Leader – respond to the blow by centering myself, really feeling how the blow affects me, accepting the blow, accepting my feelings and then acting once I have blended the energy of the external blow with my own. My friend tells me that I have arrived late, so I notice that I feel attacked, I notice a surge in emotion, I notice an urge to respond. I pause accepting this energy and I say “It is 12:15. Do you still have time?”

The Practice of Resilience

This is a matter of practice, not choice. If I practice centering myself for the little blows, I am preparing myself to make good choices when the bigger blows hit. How do you choose to practice?

By the way I screw this up 8 out of 10 times but one highly empowering view from a Buddhist philosophy is this: if only once in your day you pulled yourself back from a knee-jerk reaction and made a conscious intentional decision – it has been a good day.

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Don’t put yourself in a guilty state because you reacted poorly this morning. The fact that you are now aware of that poor reaction is a good step forward. Get ready for life’s next blow. They come guaranteed.

Featured photo credit: alixroth via flickr.com

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Conor Neill

Professor of Leadership, President Vistage Spain

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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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