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Writing: Change Yourself, Change the World

Writing: Change Yourself, Change the World

During our school days, writing was such a loathsome task; one of the greatest parts of graduation was putting down our pens and letting our brains atrophy. Why, then, do so many people choose to write? Why bother writing anything if there isn’t a formidable educator standing over us?

1. Change

Change is the reason so many people choose to write. It is what drives me – and perhaps many of you. After all, Margaret Mead was right when she said: “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”

And writing about both the good and bad experiences has been the foundation of change. Not convinced? Let me tell you exactly how writing can instigate change – both on a personal and global level.

2. Measure Success

I once read an article on goal setting. The author instructed readers to write down all their goals and aspirations. Then, go back and determine how they will accomplish each task.

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Why write your goals down? You are much more likely to accomplish your goals if you put the effort into writing them. You focus your mind on what you really want to accomplish and how you are going to do it. An ambiguous goal – like eat healthier – is difficult to measure, but if you wrote that out, you’d probably think of several ways to narrow your goal down and elaborate on what you really want to achieve, such as sitting down to dinner every night, eating three servings of fruits and vegetables each day, or only hitting the fast food joint once a week.

Similarly, writing about your travel experience offers a way to measure your successes and evaluate if you are achieving everything you set out to do.

3. Instigate Change

Each and every day, we all – no matter where we are in the world – witness injustices, faulty rules and regulations, prejudices, and more. Many of us feel there is little, if anything we can do about these things. However, there has always been one tried and true way to instigate change: raise awareness.

Writing about offensive things is the first step to drawing attention to them; once you have drawn attention to the situation, you can go about instigating change.

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Mahatma Gandhi said: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

People generally sit in their culturally-ignorant bubble (no judgment there, just a fact) and are totally unaware of many issues others face on a daily basis. Since few people have the means or desire to witness these things firsthand, it is the responsibility of global writers to bring these injustices to the attention of fellow countrymen.

By writing about major world issues, the author is changing own life along with changing the world. If we just passively observe life – without engaging – we don’t really experience it. Write about it and it becomes a personal issue that changes how you think, live, and interact with others. According to Wikipedia, desensitization is defined as the diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative or aversive stimulus after repeated exposure to it.

I want to remember there is an alternate way to live. Viktor E. Frankl had it right when he said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” Hopefully, I can rely on my writing to remember how life can/should be.

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4. Learn Something New

I would argue it is nearly impossible to write anything without learning something.

If you are a professional writer – say, a freelance blog content writer – you have to research different topics regularly. News reporters and magazine columnists need to do the same thing. All these writers need to gather facts, statistics, data, etc. Even novel writers need to research the topic of their book.

That is obvious learning, but there are less obvious learning opportunities too.

Take this blog post for example: I’ve had the idea for this post rolling around in my head for quite a while. Before putting my thoughts down on paper, I checked the archives of the site because I wanted to make sure no one else had written anything like it before. While meandering through the past posts, I couldn’t help but click on several that caught my eye. Two hours later, I had determined there wasn’t anything like my article on this blog – but there was a ton of interesting and educational information.

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At the very least, writing teaches you something about yourself. Just a simple diary entry exposes your deepest thoughts and intentions. If you didn’t take the time to write it, you might not have ever unearthed those parts of yourself.

There you have it. The top four reasons why writing can change you and the world you live in. What do you think? Do you agree? Do you write to instigate change? Have you been changed by what someone else wrote? 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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