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15 Things You Can Do to Be a Better Person

15 Things You Can Do to Be a Better Person

We’re all on a journey of growth, change and evolution, and hopefully most of us are trying to make a conscious effort to be better human beings. I’m not talking about being better at math, or improving running speed, but being more aware, compassionate, kind, noble, and honourable. None of us are perfect, but by engaging in some of the examples listed below, maybe we can leave this world a little brighter than how we found it.

Kindness

    Photo: Jesper Sachmann, via Flickr

    Let Go

    Learn to let go of pain, anger, bitterness, resentment, and all the other destructive emotions that tear us apart. All we ever have is this present moment; this breath, this heartbeat, this opportunity for growth and presence. This is a moment we’ll never get back again, and if we consider the fact that we have no idea how long we’ll live, do we want to waste precious moments roiling with emotions that don’t do any good for anyone? What’s passed is past, and tomorrow doesn’t exist. Be present, and do not hold on to negativity.

    Consider the Consequences of Every Action

    Being conscientious is extremely important, as every action causes ripples that extend far beyond what can immediately be seen. For example: if you throw a piece of litter on the ground, not only does that pollute the environment, but if there are any children around to see you do so, they might think that such behaviour is acceptable, and then they’ll do the same, and so on.

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    Be Willing to Admit Ignorance, So You Can Learn

    Very few people seem to be comfortable with admitting that they don’t know something. Maybe they feel that admitting ignorance about a subject will make them seem stupid, so they’ll feign knowledge and attempt to go with the flow in any given situation. This is highly detrimental on many counts, from a person being seen as an insufferable know-it-all, to projects going awry because an employee claimed to know something they didn’t.

    If you don’t know something, admit to your lack of knowledge, and then immerse yourself in the subject so that you familiarize yourself with it. The universe is full of things that we don’t know, but the only way to grow and change is to open ourselves to opportunities to learn… and those won’t come about if we don’t leave space for them by saying “I know” to everything.

    Try to Be Less Judgemental

    This is something we’re all guilty of on occasion, but we can be conscious of this behaviour and try to lessen it over time. Each and every one of us is on a difficult journey, and we have absolutely no right to judge another’s life choices, especially since we may not have any idea what their lives have been like. Remember that none of us are any greater or lesser than any other, so approach all with an open mind and open heart, as equal travellers on life’s road.

    Consider Another’s Point of View

    When faced with a viewpoint that differs from theirs, many people get defensive, and lash out. I’m sure we’ve all seen comment discussions on Facebook or other webpages that began with a simple difference of opinion, but then dissolved into name-calling, insults, and other abusive language. What’s the point of that, really? If someone’s opinion differs from yours, try to understand their point of view—you don’t have to agree with them, but that doesn’t mean that they should be insulted or made fun of for thinking differently.

    Be Generous with Compliments

    We will all go through difficult times, including periods in which we might not feel great about ourselves. Relationships can fall apart, jobs can be lost, school subjects can be failed, and emotional upheaval generally accompanies each of these experiences. Do you remember what it felt like the last time someone told you something wonderful that they thought about you? Imagine what others will experience when you say something lovely to them out of the blue.

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    You don’t necessarily have to approach a stranger to tell them that you like their hair/clothes/etc. (although you can absolutely do this as long as you’re not creepy about it), but you can even send someone a quick text or email to tell them something great. A simple line such as: “I was thinking about you today, and wanted to let you know how grateful I am to have someone as amazing as you in my life” can change the entire course of someone’s day, and you can rest assured that they’ll pay that beauty forward.

    Cultivate Empathy and Compassion

    We won’t always understand what another is going through via firsthand experience, but we can try to put ourselves in their shoes in order to have a bit more patience and compassion for them. Let’s say that you’ve been frustrated with someone because they’ve been complaining about their kids non-stop for weeks, and you just wish they’d shut the hell up for a change. Rather than focusing on your own irritation at their sprog-talk, think about where they’re coming from. They may not have slept properly for weeks, or may be incredibly worn out dealing with an autistic or special-needs child. Are they getting the help they need? Is this person in despair? Are they reaching out for any measure of comfort?

    We’re often so blinded by our own emotions and responses to situations that we don’t consider the bigger picture, but taking a step back and analysing the situation can shed a lot of light, and help us change our thoughts and actions accordingly.

    Study History, Even if it’s Uncomfortable to Do

    Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, which is why it’s so vital to really be aware of what has happened in the past; so we’re well aware of what brought us to where we are now, and how we can avoid their recurrence in the future. If you’re unfamiliar with the African slave trade, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, Cambodia’s killing fields, the Cathar Heresy, Pinochet’s regime, the Trail of Tears, and countless other atrocities that most people don’t even want to think about, let alone remember, it’s a good idea to delve into them. It’ll hurt like hell to do so, but it’s incredibly important to know about such topics so we can ensure that they never happen again.

    Spend Time in Nature

    The Senegalese ecologist Baba Dioum once said: “In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” He was quite right, wasn’t he? If people are only exposed to material wealth, that’s what they will cherish and place priority upon. By spending time in nature, we can learn to appreciate all the beauty that the natural world provides.

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    Spending time in the forest can also have a marked effect on our well being: in Japan, “forest therapy” is becoming more popular, as the natural environment can lower blood pressure and stress in those who spend at least 20 minutes immersed in a wooded environment.

    Baby Sparrow

      Photo: the author

      Help Those Who Cannot Help Themselves

      Take in abandoned kittens to foster, or help to rehabilitate an injured bird. Stop in at a retirement home, hospice, or children’s hospital a couple of times per month to assist in volunteer programs. There are so many beings out there (both human and non) who could use a helping hand, and making a connection with a being who is vulnerable and in need of our help, is a life-changing experience. You cannot help but discover vital aspects about your self and your place in the world when you care for another.

      Get to Know Different People

      In many cities around the world, libraries participate in a “human library” project: folks from all backgrounds and walks of life volunteer a few hours of their time, and you can take the opportunity to sit down and chat with them for a little while. You may have never had the chance to chat with a Buddhist monk, a lesbian single mother, a Wiccan priestess, a police officer, an Imam from your local mosque, an ex gang member, or a person who has been disfigured in a fire or accident, but by sitting down and chatting with them (especially in an environment where no question is considered “stupid”), you can have the opportunity to connect on a very human level and move past any preconceptions or prejudices.

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      If your city doesn’t have one of these libraries, consider taking the time to seek out those whom you have always been curious about—you may discover that they are far more open to chatting with you than you’d expected. We all like to be understood and respected for who we are, and open dialogues are so conducive to greater compassion and acceptance of differences.

      Along that very line…

      Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

      This could mean immersing yourself in subject matter that you’re unfamiliar with (or even vaguely uncomfortable with) as a means to understand others more, going to a festival centred around a culture other than your own, attending religious services for a faith other than yours, or even just trying a new food. Every experience helps us grow as individuals, and even if you find that whatever you tried isn’t to your taste, at least your opinion stems from a place of awareness and experience, rather than just aversion and preconception.

      Speak Gently

      That seems like a simple concept, but it can be fairly difficult in practice. There’s a song by The Smiths that contains the lyrics: “It’s so easy to laugh. It’s so easy to hate. It takes strength to be gentle and kind”, and those are quite apt, aren’t they? Most of us are quite harried and stressed out, and it’s easy to overlook social niceties like thanking fast food workers, or excusing yourself if you bump into someone. Remember that people will always remember how you treated them, even if it’s just a couple of words tossed in their direction, so make them count.

      Practice Random Acts of Kindness

      This goes along with the previous recommendation, and can also make a monumental impact on more people than you can imagine. Paying for someone else’s coffee, offering your seat on the subway to an elderly passenger, or even just putting a bowl of water outside your workplace for dogs to drink from are just a few examples of little acts that can mean a great deal to others.

      Appreciate Beauty, and Share It When You Can

      There is an abundance of beauty around us at all times, if we but take a moment to really notice and appreciate it. Music, art, literature, nature, a partner’s smile, an animal’s friendship—these are all gorgeous, beautiful gifts that make life worth living. Appreciate them, be creative in your own way so you can bring even more beauty into the world, and share bits of joy as you come across them; you might just change another person’s life by doing so.

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      Catherine Winter

      Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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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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