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What Everyone Could Learn From Leonardo DiCaprio

What Everyone Could Learn From Leonardo DiCaprio

A collective sigh of sympathy went out to Leonardo DiCaprio when he failed yet again to win an Oscar for The Wolf of Wall Street. I was shaking my head in empathy. Hang on. Did I say empathy? Yes, I was reacting to what I thought he must be feeling. Okay, it’s not  easy to put myself in his shoes, much less see the world through his eyes, but you know what I mean.

We’ve all experienced a painful loss — a job promotion, admission to a dream university, a much needed scholarship, a financial investment or a lasting relationship. The big difference is Leonardo DiCaprio’s losses make headlines.

He most probably is disappointed over his latest Oscar miss. But I bet he is already moving on to his next project in film, philanthropy or environmental activism.

Skeptical? Let his words throughout his career support my bet, and let’s pick up lessons along the way too.

“My mom, Irmelin, taught me the value of life.  Her own life was saved by my grandmother during World War II.”

DiCaprio grew up with his mother who remained friends with his father after the couple divorced when Leo was a toddler. Both parents shared in his upbringing and encouraged creativity. His mother was born in Germany, moved to the U.S. in the 1950s and worked as a legal secretary. DiCarpio remains close to his mom. She was his “date” at Oscar night.

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Leo knows about valuing life. Dwelling on loss would be a waste of precious time. 

“Brothers don’t necessarily have to say anything to each other — they can sit in a room and be together and just be completely comfortable with each other.”

An only child, DiCaprio has a close friendship with fellow actor Tobey McGuire, which began when they were auditioning for the same child actor roles in the 1980s. He also keeps a regular close group of friends.

Leo’s enduring friendship with a professional rival shows no grudges over missed roles or awards.  Friendships and relationships carry more weight than personal loss.

“Don’t think for a moment that I’m really like any of the characters I’ve played.  I’m not.  That’s why it’s called acting.”

DiCaprio’s portrayals of fictional and real life characters are not easily forgotten. Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Catch Me if You Can) and Danny Archer (Blood Diamond) are, to me, the most poignant. He chooses film projects not by genre but based on how interesting the character is.

Leo has no attachments to roles or awards. Devastation over a loss comes mostly from a perceived attachment. 

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 “I’m not the kind of person who tries to be cool or trendy, I’m definitely an individual.”

A maverick is how he is described. While other leading men get comfortable working for years in an action franchise, DiCaprio does not mind doing supporting roles and is not afraid to play hateful protagonists and villains. He knows what moves him and does not go with the crowd.

Leo will not allow the Oscars to define who he is. Self-awareness keeps you centered in who you are.

“Drugs?  Everyone has a choice and I choose not to do drugs.”

DiCaprio has had his share of drinking and partying in the 1990’s but states he has never done drugs. Seeing drugs at an early age and growing up poor helped him make the decision not to go in that direction.

Leo used a difficult situation to make a wise choice. Wisdom comes from awareness, courage and commitment to a decision.

“I just really love doing what I do. I know every career is fleeting and there will be time periods when I don’t get the opportunities that I’m getting right now, so I’m taking advantage of them.”

DiCaprio is also a film producer and has worked with respected directors James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino.

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Leo understands the financial and creative aspects of the film industry. Losing an Oscar will not stop him from finding — or making — the next big opportunity. With purpose and ideas, a loss becomes irrelevant.

“I’m just starting to scratch the surface of what really makes me happy and it’s taken me a while to admit that acting like a little child and being a jerk and a punk is fun.”

These words may have come when DiCaprio was younger but it shows maturity — wanting to learn about himself, accepting his discoveries, and not taking himself too seriously. He has stayed connected with his parents and he has real friends to relax and act like a child with.

Leo has other pursuits beyond movie making, and losing an Oscar will not make a big dent in his life. Developing all areas of life enriches perspectives, making any loss purely incidental.

“You can either be a vain movie star, or you can try to shed some light on different aspects of the human condition.” (and) “Raising awareness on the most pressing environmental issues of our time is more important than ever.”

DiCaprio is among the first actors who has put fame to meaningful use by bringing public awareness to environmental and humanitarian concerns utilizing media projects, campaigns and grants. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation gave a US$3 million grant to Oceana, an advocacy group working for the world’s oceans.

Leo’s philanthropy and environmental activism seeks to positively affect large parts of the world population. Losing an Oscar is trivial. Being aware of a greater need makes you realize how much you actually have and cuts your disappointment down to size.

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What about his Oscar-losing streak?  Statistics-wise, a series of losses means he is close to winning.  But law of probabilities aside, the fact remains:  losing an Oscar is not an obstacle for Leonardo DiCaprio to continue living a highly successful and meaningful life.

So the next time you think “Poor Leo” (or the more common variation, “Poor Me”), think again.

Featured photo credit: Izzie August 344 via flickr.com

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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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