Tuesday 24 April 2018

Positive actions give positive results in quest for a new you

If you want to increase your internal perception of your outgoing confidence, next time you're meeting someone make sure to look kindly into their eyes, extend your hand and clasp theirs. (Stock picture)
If you want to increase your internal perception of your outgoing confidence, next time you're meeting someone make sure to look kindly into their eyes, extend your hand and clasp theirs. (Stock picture)

Gina London

Since I'm about to fly back to Ireland, I'll share my passenger routine with you. First, I'll tap the airplane screen to see if there's a movie I'm interested in. Then I'll read a little from one of the books I bought when I passed through the Dallas airport as I criss-crossed the US these past three weeks. And then, my favourite thing. I'll pop on my headphones, dial in a classical music channel, and daydream.

I'm in France. Sitting alone at a small table in front of a café when who should stroll up but Bradley Cooper? Of course, Bradley Cooper. It's my daydream, thank you very much. He's toting a bottle of wine he offers to share. He speaks perfect French to me in my reverie just like he does in real life. And I reply to his request with a perfect accent, "Bien sur."

Why am I sharing this? Not to bore you with my preoccupation with Mr Cooper, but to talk about how powerful our mental illusions can be. For instance, you might be someone who thinks, "I would go to that networking but I'm too introverted to talk to anyone."

Or maybe you think, "I'm terribly awkward in front of an audience, so I'd better let someone else make the presentation for my team."

Or maybe you think, "I'm not funny enough to be a captivating speaker." You may think you're too much of this, or not enough of that. You're not the type who goes for this, or you can't control yourself when it comes to that.

Neuroscientists like Antonio Damasio - who directs the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California along with his wife and fellow-neuroscientist Hanna - examine how our we perceive ourselves. They've determined it's subjective and influenced by what we do.

Antonio explains it this way, ''The mind exists for the body and is engaged in telling the story of the body's multifarious events."

This means the mind reacts to the body, not simply the other way around.

University of Hertfordshire psychology professor and best-selling author Richard Wiseman agrees. "For years self-help gurus have preached the same simple mantra: 'if you want to improve your life then you need to change how you think.' This idea sounds perfectly reasonable. However, in practice it often proves ineffective."

At times, in Ireland, when I've spoken at events about the power of changing your behaviour or body language to influence yourself and others, I've received a bit of push back. "That's not how we are here. We don't put ourselves forward. We're taught not to 'act above our station.'"

Confidence doesn't have to equate to arrogance. I meet plenty of incredibly inspiring Irish men and women all the time who purposely put their best bold and kind selves forward. So why not you too?

If you want a particular quality or characteristic, then act as if you already have it. Not surprisingly, this is referred to as the "As If Principle." To get started, try these confidence-building actions on for size.

1 Give a warm, firm handshake

If you want to increase your internal perception of your outgoing confidence, next time you're meeting someone make sure to look kindly into their eyes, extend your hand and clasp theirs. If you're wondering what makes a proper handshake, it's not like President Trump, with an arm-pumping endurance battle. Rather, concentrate on warmly wrapping your fingers around the other person's hand. Your fingertips should press against the back edge of their hand. Don't squeeze off their circulation, but don't give them the dreaded dead fish.

2 Introduce yourself

At your next networking event, calmly walk up to the first interesting circle of people you see. Don't worry if the circle is "closed". Paste on a smile, engage your eyes and say in a poised, clear and kind voice to whomever is nearest you, "Mind if I join you?" I can tell you I do this. And while there's always a first time, so far it's always worked.

Like magic, the circle opens and I'm in the group. Usually, the person I addressed will tell me what they were speaking about. If no one does, I quickly add, "I don't mean to interrupt…." (obviously I have but what can you do?) "I'm Gina London, your conversation looked so interesting."

To date, I have never been shunned.

3 Get coaching

This may seem self-serving. After all, I coach clients to help improve their executive presence. But darn it, if you hire a personal trainer to help you get more physically fit, or a counsellor to help you manage a relationship issue, why wouldn't you get professional help to help you professionally?

I have seen time and time again how true transformation requires an incremental, performative approach.

Changing what you do changes the way you perceive yourself. New York University professor Richard Schechner states these changes need not be superficial: "Humans are able to absorb and learn behaviour so thoroughly that the new 'performed' behaviour knits seamlessly into ongoing 'spontaneous actions' which penetrate to the deepest strata of neurological experience."

You're familiar with, "Be the change you wish to see in the world" (which, incidentally, is a sort-of bumper-sticker paraphrase of Gandhi and not his documented remarks).

I'd now like to encourage you to, "Be the change you wish to see in you." That or just close your eyes and daydream.

You can meet me in France. I'll be sitting next to Bradley.

What helps you become feel more confident? Write to Gina in care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie. Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon

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