Forrest Gump's simile about life isn't really true. You do know what you're going to get: a lot of rough situations. Also, what if you're allergic to chocolate? Luckily for you, we’ve put together a rundown of useful tips for life’s stressful situations so you can walk into 10 tough moments with Gump-like confidence.
1. Job interview
According to one Harvard study, stretching out and taking up more space -- known as “expansive postures” -- gives the impression of power. Individuals felt more confident and in control, and were more likely to be decisive, take risks, and even possessed a higher tolerance to pain, while those who slouched or otherwise occupied their space more meekly felt powerless and interviewed poorly. What’s more, those who adopted the power pose were actually found to have more testosterone and less of the stress-hormone cortisol.
Outside of having your finances together and looking well, you should make eye contact. How much eye contact? According to the Wall Street Journal, the ideal window is between 7 and 10 seconds, and you must lock eyeballs with someone you're aiming to build rapport with 70% of the time. Translation: if you look them in the eye, they’re more likely to show you the money.
3. Meeting your girlfriend’s parents
According to the UCLA Brain Mapping Center, not only should you smile to seem like a nice guy, but because smiling activates these things called mirror neurons. These special friends form neural connections associated with a particular task, and fire not only when you perform said task -- something like smiling -- but also when you observe someone else doing it. So, when you smile, her parents' smiling-specific mirror neurons will go off and the sensation of smiling manifests in their minds. What usually happens? They smile back.
4. Giving a speech/presentation
According to one study at University College London, and exposure to unreceptive virtual audiences left subjects more confident and capable.But you don’t need virtual reality to practice going to bat with hecklers -- just speak in front of a (willing) captive audience after you’ve primed them to seem disinterested, even hostile. That way, you can better battle anyone who throws you off in your presentation about how to successfully synergize side-stream dynamics in social media.
So how to tell if you’re date is interested. Researchers at Princeton University found that, while most people believe it’s facial expressions that show someone’s real feelings, it’s the rest of the body that reveals the truth. Meaning: the face is much more ambiguous than we intuitively assume and hips, evidently, don’t lie. So if your date is leaning in (not professionally) and his or her feet are facing you -- the chemistry is there.
Weddings: the perfect place to meet that doctor, lawyer, doctor-lawyer your parents are always hoping you’ll date one day. And don’t worry about not being handsome enough to land one. A famous 1990 study in Social Psychology Quarterly found that less attractive individuals were just as likely to have a highly educated spouse as those determined to be more attractive. That all means the only real prep you need is to stay confident that no amount of letters at the end of someone’s name takes him or her out of your league.
7. Getting a proposal approved by an important group
In any situation when you address a Board of Directors, the convention is to write a letter and read it in person. You’re trying to save your community garden, or to call out your neighbor for rearing a cabal of militant koalas, whatever. How to get them on your side? One study from the University of Connecticut suggests that you will be more effective at persuading an audience if your arguments produce positive thinking, rather than negative. So, “The entryway to our neighborhood is ugly and needs…” is a less effective tact than “Wouldn’t it be nice if…”
The “Benjamin Franklin Effect”, a psychological principle he established, says to do one simple thing -- ask for a favor. Because of something called cognitive dissonance, our mind has trouble holding onto paradoxical ideas, meaning it won’t be easy for them to justify not liking you and doing you a favor on a subconscious level. To resolve the tension between the opposing feeling and action, they'll think you must be just swell.
9. Reducing stress when someone cuts you off in line at the bank or on the road
Studies show that while half of people lose it when just one person cuts them off in line, 73.3% get red-faced mad when two people do. So it’s not always easy to keep a cool head. But just take a breath. According to Mladen Golubic at the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Integrative Medicine, practicing breathing can help your body better deal with stressful situations, and can even prevent the expression of bad genes that cause disease. Just breathe, man.
Fighting a speeding ticket? According to one paper in the Journal of Social Psychology, four measures of attractiveness greatly influenced the severity of punishment doled out in the courtroom: attractiveness, neatness, cleanliness, and quality of clothing. To help you make your case, don’t just wear a suit -- make sure your hair is cut, any facial hair trimmed, posture is upright, and all the other stuff your mom used to yell at you about is done beforehand.