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Not a People Person? You Will Be One After Reading This.

Not a People Person? You Will Be One After Reading This.

When I was in seventh grade, my parents switched me to a new school. As if middle school wasn’t hard enough, I had to start over with a whole new group of people. I was a 12-year-old introvert facing the worst thing that a 12-year-old introvert could ever face: finding friends. I was not, nor have I ever been, what you might call a “people person.” But I did my best and somehow miraculously survived those angst-filled years. Now, I’m much more social, but it’s still something I have to work hard on. Here are some of the things I do to help.

1. Remember names.

When I was younger, I was really good with names, but I always pretended that I’d forgotten someone’s name that I had just met, so as to not seem creepy. I now realize that that’s pretty dumb, but it seemed smart at the time. Now, I’m not as good with remembering names, but I use names when I can. People are usually impressed that you know their names, and it shows that you’re interested in them.

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2. Smile.

It’s surprising how effective smiling is. Just warming your face up a little bit when speaking to people really makes a lasting impression on them. You seem like a more genuinely happy and approachable person when you smile. It makes people feel good when you smile at them, so show off those pearly whites!

3. Be honest.

If someone asks what your hobbies are, don’t lie to them. Seriously, I’ve done that and it always leads to trouble. Once, in tenth grade, someone asked me if I played guitar, and I (stupidly) told them I did. In fact, I had never touched a guitar in my life, but I wanted to sound cool. Soon enough, that person wanted me to play with him sometime. I had to back out of that lie pretty quickly. Just be honest about yourself, and you’ll save everyone a lot of time and effort. People will like you for who you are.

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4. Ask questions.

People like to feel like others are interested in them. It’s just natural. Make sure you show interest in whomever you’re talking to by asking questions and acting attentive to the answers.

5. Be complimentary.

“Your house/this food/this party/your cat is great!” Whatever applies to the situation, use it. Complimenting someone on even the smallest detail will make a lasting impression and might earn you some friends by the end of the night.

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6. Stay positive.

Doing too much schmoozing can leave you feeling a little fake inside, and that’s totally normal. Just don’t overdo it on the elbow rubbing and keep positive thoughts going on in your head. You’ve got to genuinely enjoy socializing with the people you’re talking to, or there’s no point in talking to them at all. Keep a good thought.

7. Share.

People don’t just want to talk about themselves all the time (though, let’s face it, it’s fun)—they also want to hear about you! So put your two cents in every now and then. Being a people person involves giving and receiving, so don’t be afraid to let your personality come out.

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8. Put the phone down.

You’re not going to seem very social if you’re glued to your phone all the time. Put it away and don’t let it distract you. Looking at your phone too much makes you seem disinterested in talking to the people right in front of you. It’s also often a safety net, so don’t let yourself use it. I know I’m guilty of messing around on my phone when I’m bored. Don’t do that!

9. Be genuine.

Yes, you want people to like you. No, don’t do whatever it takes to make that happen. You need to make sure you’re not being a pushover, or just acting like someone you think people would like. Act naturally, and you’re much more likely to be happy with yourself and those around you.

10. Just have fun!

Meeting new people, though sometimes stressful for us not-people-persons, can be really fun. Just get in the right frame of mind and you’re good to go.

Featured photo credit: Luc De Leeuw via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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