Body Language 101. Seeing Past The Words.

“Head up, chin up, chest out” When people can see we feel low they often say phrases like this to us to make us feel better. Although their advice is often ignored, if practised,it can be an almost instant short cut to feeling better.

Although this sounds like a bold claim to make, body language experts across the world agree that behaviours that appear to defy gravity e.g. holding your head high or walking on your toes rather than the balls of your feet, are generally signs of a more positive and confident mental state.

Combining this with evidence from brain imaging studies, it seems that our actions can affect our thoughts just as much as our thoughts can affect our actions. To put it simply, practising gravity defying behaviours when we feel down in the dumps might be the best way to cheer us up.

Although we can consciously choose to use gravity defying behaviours as a way to manage negative emotions and make us feel confident, natural gravity defying behaviours happen without us thinking.

Controlled by a part of our brain with a fancy name that we will just call the “emotion centre”, these behaviours generally reflect a persons true thoughts and feelings. So the next time you find yourself wondering what your partner, friend or family member is thinking, keep an eye out for gravity defying behaviours, a lack of them may be a subtle clue that all is not as well as words would have us think.

Top Gravity Defying Behaviours Include:

1 Genuine Smile

2 Thumbs up

3 Toes/foot pointed up

4 Standing tall and straight

5 Head held high, hands in the air like you just won a 100 meter sprint

6 Dancing

Emotions Are Rapid Not Rational

I read a post the other day on Linked in about the habits of highly successful people. Since I’ve come across this same point in many great books and interviews, I thought it was worth sharing again with my own spin on it.

It is said that rather than letting emotions felt in the moment blindly guide them into making gut decisions, highly successful individuals tend to wait, ruminate and rationalise before acting. Now this makes perfect sense, because despite emotions uncanny ability to make us feel like we are doing the right thing, emotions job is not to help us make good decisions, it is simply to allow us to make quick and dirty decisions to freeze, flee or fight when threatened (a process perfectly streamlined by evolution to bypass concious input and reasoning) Now although automatic emotional behaviour sounds great, almost like a handy autopilot in our brain, the system simply hasn’t evolved fast enough to deal with the new kind of “threats” such as arguments, career choices, business decisions etc that we face in everyday modern life, a factor that we should all bare in mind before we decide to act when we are emotionally aroused.

Recognizing and managing emotions is the key to minimising unnecessary conflict and effective decision making.

So the next time you catch yourself charging into making a decision without thinking, remember, our emotions are designed to be rapid not rational! Allow time to gain clarity and compose your thoughts, sleep on it, count to ten, walk away, but whatever you do, don’t trust your emotions to make the right decision in the heat of the moment.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

“How little do conditions have to change for you to become an asshole? Couple days of bad weather? Forgetting to eat lunch? Bad night’s sleep? More stress than usual? I’m guessing the answer to this is a lot less than we’d like to tell ourselves. Yet we hold it against other people so easily. Yet we think we’re a fundamentally decent person”

I read this the other day on best selling author Ryan Holiday’s blog. The guy has a serious point. Because emotions are controlled by a more primitive part of the brain, our emotions are fundamentally impulsive and unconscious. Although this is great for making a quick decision to run away from a sabre tooth tiger 10,000 yrs ago or to fight off a mugger in the streets, such automatic emotionally driven behaviour often causes problems in everyday modern life, leading us to act before our rational brain has had time to stop us and say “is it really fair to shout and snap at my partner because I had a stressful day at work”

As a psychology student I read a lot about emotion, but if there is one thing that you take away from reading this, it should be the importance of what psychologist Goleman calls “emotional intelligence”

Goleman’s emotional intelligence can be broken down into four things. A persons ability to perceive what emotion others are experiencing. A persons ability to put themselves in another’s shoes and understand why another person is feeling a particular emotion (empathy). A persons ability to manage their own emotions and judge when they are leading them astray. And finally, a persons ability to use their emotions to communicate effectively

Going back to Ryan Holiday’s question “How little do conditions have to change for you to become an asshole?” if we were to reword the question to make it more useful, it may look something like this “how good are you at managing your automatic emotional response when you are in a stressful situation”

So what sort of things can we do to increase our emotional intelligence?

We can exercise when we are stressed to release feel good chemicals in the brain. We can pause and think about whether irrational emotions are influencing our thoughts before we rashly respond to others. And finally for today, we can try to put ourselves in others shoes when they get angry at us or treat us unfairly, allowing us to better determine whether we have done something wrong, or whether they are simply using us as an outlet for their stress. But remember, although we can use empathy to control our emotional response, we should always point out to people when they have been unreasonable after they’ve had time to cool down to stop them doing it again in the future.