If humanity could be gifted one single behavioural trait to carry it into the future, it would surely be for each of us to leave people better than we find them. It is so healing for the human spirit to be greeted with enthusiasm and kindness and to be left feeling better off from the encounter.
I really looked forward to writing this piece because the realisation for me of this simple skill, was at some point in my life an epiphany – a moment of sudden and great realization that people enjoyed the innate approach of friendship, whether it be from a friend or a stranger. The fact that it is a skill gives it value and recognition for what it is and how it makes people feel i.e. better than you found them. Even better still it’s easy and free to do. It’s a no-brainer for several reasons.
I’m not writing this as a scholar from some high pedestal because life’s harsh lesson has taught me this skill, having screwed up on so many occasions in my dealings with people in my past. But these failings have been like stepping stones to my realisation that actually leaving everybody I come across better than I found them with an enthusiastic and friendly narrative has actually had a profound effect on my life.
“Internalise the feeling but externalise the narrative”.
What I mean by this, is that in its purest form making people feel better in your dealing with them, is to give but not expect anything back. However, I wanted to put a modern spin on it and execute this skill in a selfish way, which is probably more appealing to the younger generations. To be able to give but expect something back in return is biologically normal anyway. It is nature’s reward to encourage humans to be sociable. Humans are social animals, so it is no surprise that we are wired to help one another. In our complex modern society, there are many ways to give and the good news is that we now understand that both the giver and receiver benefit from the interaction with each other. Neuroscience has demonstrated that giving is a powerful pathway for creating more personal joy and improving overall health during a positive interaction with another human being.
The neurochemical drivers of happiness are quite easy to identify. Dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin make up the Happiness Trifecta. Any activity that increases the production of these neurochemicals will cause a boost in mood. It’s really that simple.
There are other benefits too! Serotonin is associated with sleep, digestion, memory, learning, and appetite. Dopamine is connected to motivation and arousal. Oxytocin “the cuddle hormone” is among the most ancient of our neurochemicals and has a powerful effect on the brain and the body. When oxytocin begins to flow, blood pressure decreases and foundation for sexual arousal is built. Bonding increases, fears are reduced and trust and empathy are enhanced. Oxytocin is also an anti-inflammatory and reduces pain and enhances wound healing.
This all sounds amazing, so here are my tips to encouraging the Happiness Trifecta. This is what I recommend and what I do daily:
- When you first greet people
- Be the first to speak when you greet.
- Smile with your mouth and your eyes. Be enthusiastic and make a positive comment, perhaps showing interest in their life and family. They as a result will produce dopamine and they will instantly bond to you. This is what I mean – you can be selfish and give the attention and be rewarded for your efforts.
- Speak with confidence and be knowledgeable. People are attracted to these traits and will trust you, and the decisions you make.
- Keep your head up and eyes focused on them during the conversation. Do not answer your mobile phone half-way through your interaction with another unless you have pre-warned of an impending important call. There is nothing worse than feeling less important than a mobile phone when it rings and you answer it, leaving the conversation you were having.
- Shake the person’s hand with confidence if the situation demands it and look in their eyes as you do.
- Greet with your palms open for the other person to see. Research has shown that this makes the other person feel safe and comfortable.
- Introduce your name slowly and with confidence.
- During the conversation maintain eye contact and don’t be distracted.
- Keep your enthusiasm levels high and do not dominate the conversation.
- Let the other person speak and wait to see what they have to say before and do not interrupt them.
- As you speak gesture with your hands to explain the narrative. This shows openness and is none threatening. Do not fold your arms or put them behind your back. Again, in the animal kingdom this would perceive as threatening and make the other person feel anxious.
- Keep your posture upright and confident and do not slouch.
- Be polite and courteous. Mirror the tone and rhetoric of the other person because your brains will fire off in unison and this helps to create a bond.
- If you have great achievements in your life don’t be the first to talk about them. People will find out about them in time and it is bound to come up in conversation at which time you can talk about yourself.
TOMORROW I TALK ABOUT: There is a message in failure.
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