I’ll start with a little story about guacamole.
I’ll tell you how I extracted a bunch of life lessons from a moment at Chipotle and saw deep into someone’s psyche after observing him for five seconds.
I’m standing in line and the man in front of me is ordering his food. He gets a steak bowl. The employee asks what toppings he wants on it and he tells them. As the employee is about to box up his bowl, he says:
Can I have guac on that?
The employee doesn’t hear him. He has this look on his face like he wants to say something, but he won’t. He’s there with his girlfriend and she gives him a glance, as if to say “Dude, you’re not going to speak up and get your guac?”
By the time they reach the checkout counter, the girlfriend ends up asking for a side of guacamole.
This leads to my first point.
It’s telling to see how well people respond to social pressure: situations that involve some level of conflict. Some people can face it and deal with it. Others fold.
If that guy couldn’t muster up the courage to ask for guacamole, what other problems is he running into in his life because of his inability to speak up? I can picture all the missed opportunities, things he wishes he would’ve said, things he wishes he could’ve done.
All lost because he can’t face a little conflict. If it seems like I’m exaggerating, you weren’t there. You could see the timid nature in his eyes and it was written all over his body.
There are so many situations where doing or saying one little thing makes a world of difference. Do you have the guts to question your boss when they’re making a misstep? Can you check somebody when they’re being rude?
Can you speak up to get what you want? Closed mouths don’t get fed.
If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Make a rule for yourself that once you speak certain words, they’re set in stone. Don’t break promises to yourself or other people, ever, no matter how small.
Each time you say you’re going to do something and you don’t do it, you send a little signal to your brain saying you’re the type of person who doesn’t follow through. The same goes for the commitments you promise to others.
Small broken promises can have big consequences, even as something as small as saying you’re going to work out that day and you skip. Tiny broken promises chip away at your character and self-confidence.
Better to have some humility and be honest about what you’re willing to follow through with than continue to spout hot air with no results.
Keeping with the theme of the words you use, you want to be very careful with phrases that:
This is my problem with little memes like ‘adulting is so hard.’ Even if you’re just joking, you’re communicating that you can’t manage your own life as an adult.
Other phrases that come to mind – ‘I’m always tired’ ‘Wait until you become my age’ ‘My job sucks’
Be careful not to speak about yourself in a self-deprecating way. Often, people use this as a humor technique but it’s just a coping mechanism. They knock themselves down a few pegs to avoid confidently facing the possibility of rejection.
“The power of life and death is in the tongue.” – Robert Pitts
Here’s a tip you can use if you want to become more confident socially. Try being the last person to break eye contact when you’re talking to someone. Not in a weird and creepy way, but a warm and inviting way.
When you lock eyes with people who struggle with social confidence, their eyes dart down immediately. It may be the slightest look down and they’ll meet your eyes right after. But that little microexpression says a lot.
Mike Tyson used to stare down his opponents. If they looked down for even a split second he knew the fight was over before it even started.
You’re not trying to knock people out, but this eye contact tell applies to many situations:
Learn how to maintain eye contact even if it’s uncomfortable.
How often do you type ‘lol’ when you’re literally not laughing out loud? You’re probably not laughing when you type this more often than you are. If you’re truly ‘lol’ you type ‘lmao.’
People often put lol at the end of their sentences as a hedge. When you tack it on to the end of a sentence, it gives you a potential out if someone’s not feeling what you have to say. It’s, again, a way to try to blunt and dull some of that social pressure.
All of these points speak to the same thing: authenticity or lack thereof. We adopt all these little devices we use to avoid living honest authentic lives with our hearts on our sleeves, anything to avoid rejection and humility.
All of these little instances are small in and of themselves, but when you combine them all they add up to a life where you’re hiding instead of living.
I used to be in a Toastmaster’s club.If you struggle with being more confident in your social skills and are afraid of public speaking, it’s a great place to practice.
Anyway, I once gave a speech about how to be more confident. During it, I yelled a sentence as loud as humanly possible. Loud enough to startle the other members of the club. Loud enough to be heard in adjacent rooms at the corporate office we held meetings in.
Loud enough to be absurd and embarrassing. I did it to prove a point about confidence and vocal tonality. The way you use and project your voice says a lot about you.
If you can speak up and project your voice it shows you’re not afraid to be seen and heard. Often, people speak softly so they’re not seen as a threat. They don’t want the spotlight on them so they’ll speak quietly to avoid being noticed.
The way you speak says a lot about you, from projection and vocal tonality to things like ‘up talk’ that make you seem like you’re unsure of yourself when you speak to others. Don’t yell on purpose. Don’t be loud, per se, but use your voice to your advantage.
This study had been debated back and forth, but this technique seems to work. Instead of trying to find the perfect peer-reviewed study on it, just try it yourself. These studies talk about the effect of ‘power poses.‘
Basically, if you stand in certain poses, like standing up razor straight with your hands holding your waists like Superman or Wonder Woman, you’ll feel more powerful.
Maybe there’s not a perfect scientific rule, but phenomenologically, there seems to be some correlation between your posture, the way you feel about yourself, and the way other people see you.
Do you stand up straight or do you slouch? Do you keep your head held high or do you look down?
Look at this video of two basketball players after one of them misses the game-winning shot:
The way you carry yourself says a ton about you, from the way you stand, the facial expressions you make, whether you tend to smile or frown more, the list goes on.
The point isn’t to become some self-confidence automaton. It’s simply to be mindful of the fact that your outward characteristics can and do affect the way you feel about yourself.
We all have justifiable gripes. Life isn’t fair and sometimes bad stuff happens to you through no fault of your own. No matter what life throws at you, complaining is usually a net negative.
Try this experiment for a week: see if you can avoid complaining out loud, to anyone, for seven days straight. When you’re mindful about complaining, you’ll notice just how often you do it as well as how often others do it.
Again, it’s all these little things that add up. Complaining comes from an external locus of control, meaning you perceive the results you get in life based on the actions of others instead of your own.
If you learn to avoid complaining, you can develop an internal locus of control, which means you take responsibility for the results you get in life.
Complain less and watch your disposition change. You’ll feel like you’re able to tackle more of life’s challenges instead of folding.
You’ll get better at bouncing back from setbacks. It teaches you that, ultimately, no matter what happens in your life you have to deal with the aftermath.
The point isn’t to carefully monitor every little behavior or try to be perfect. The point is to be mindful.
If you want to be more mindful, focus on the present moment. A lot of these little ticks fade away when you’re present instead of being worried and distracted.
When it comes to your life as a whole, become a conscious observer of your own behavior. Notice the way your behaviors shape your reality and adjust accordingly.
Life isn’t filled with a bunch of large and consequential moments. Most of your life is the sum of a bunch of tiny little moments.
That’s why it’s important to focus on being the best version of yourself not just every day, but in every single moment.