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8 "Fake It ‘Til You Make It" Strategies Backed by Science

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Trying to fake your way to success seems dubious at best and delusional at worst. And yet, there is plenty of science that proves you can actually fool yourself and others into becoming more successful, finding love, and increasing your happiness. Researchers have found that “acting” a certain way allows your brain to “rehearse” a new way of thinking and can set off a desired chain of events in the future. Here are eight scientifically-backed strategies for “faking” your way to a better job, relationship, and mood. 

1. SAY CHEESE.

Scientists have found that if you want to lift your mood, you should force yourself to smile. A 2012 study published in the journal Psychological Science trained 169 university students to hold chopsticks in their mouths in order to force particular facial expressions (one neutral, one a standard smile, and one a genuine smile, which engages the eye muscles as well as the mouth muscles). Once the participants learned the correct expression, they were given stressful multitasking activities to complete, such as tracing a star with their non-dominant hand while looking at a reflection of said star in a mirror. The researchers found that the subjects with both the genuine and the standard smiles had lower heart rates after performing the task than those with the neutral expression, indicating they were less stressed.

According to Psychology Today, a similar study that asked participants to either "raise their cheeks" (forcing them to smile) or "contract their eyebrows" (making them frown) while judging images of neutral, happy, and angry faces found people had a more positive reaction to the images when smiling. What’s more, the positive benefits of these forced smiles lasted for four minutes.

2. STRIKE A POWERFUL POSE.

In her much-publicized 2012 TED talk, Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School social psychologist, shared her findings that adopting a powerful posture can affect your body chemistry. In her study, she had subjects adopt either a power stance—with their chest and head lifted and arms propped on their hips—or a meeker pose—hunched over with their arms crossed—for two minutes. The people who maintained power poses showed a decrease is the stress hormone cortisol and an increase in testosterone, a hormone related to dominance and confidence. “Our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves," Cuddy concluded. "Our bodies change our minds."

3. PRETEND YOU KNOW THE ANSWER.

A 2012 study published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology found that expecting to know correct answers can actually improve our test-taking abilities. Psychologists asked two groups of participants to answer a set of questions on a computer. One group was told the answers would briefly flash on their screens before each question—too quickly for them to read the answer, but supposedly slow enough for their subconscious to register it. In reality, the flashing "answers" were a random series of letters and numbers. Meanwhile, the other group was told the flashing screen simply signaled the next question. In the end, the group that thought they were seeing the answers got the most questions right. This advantage may have evolved from our primitive survival tactics, reasons Scientific American, as expectation of a change in the environment “triggers physiological changes that prepare the body for the impending confrontation even before the predator comes into sight.”

4. DRESS FOR THE JOB YOU WANT.

Researchers at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management found that wearing particular clothes associated with certain positive qualities helped improve the wearer’s performance. In the 2012 study, individuals were instructed to don white coats described either as  "lab coats" (the kind worn by doctors and scientists) or as "artistic painters' coats" (which were actually identical to the lab coats) while they performed a task; in order to demonstrate that the coat had to actually be worn to make a difference, a third group was merely shown a lab coat before being asked to perform the task [PDF].

The three groups were asked to examine four sets of two pictures for differences and write what they found down, a test that was designed to test their sustained attention. The researchers found that people wearing the “lab coat” found significantly more differences in the same amount of time than the "artists," meaning that their attention was heightened while wearing the coat. This lead the researchers to conclude that dressing for success “depends on both the symbolic meaning and the physical experience of wearing the clothes.”

5. LISTEN TO HAPPY MUSIC.

When you’re in a funk, probably the last thing you want to do is turn on some Pharrell. But recent research found that forcing yourself to listen to happy music and consciously trying to become happier can actually lift your mood. In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, 167 college students were asked to listen to 12 minutes of "happy" music. One group was told to try to actively boost their mood while listening, while the second group was instructed to listen without trying to alter their mood. The first group reported much higher levels of positive mood after listening.

A tandem study by the same researchers had 68 students listen to happy music during five lab visits over the course of two weeks. Again, half the group was told to try to become happier during this time, while the other half was told not to attempt to change their mood. The students who made an effort to be happy reported higher mood levels than those who just listened to the happy music. “These studies demonstrate that listening to positive music may be an effective way to improve happiness, particularly when it is combined with an intention to become happier,” the researchers conclude

6. MIMIC GOOD LEADERS.

Say you’ve just been promoted to a position with job requirements that are outside of your skill set. New research shows that the best thing you can do is mimic someone else around you who displays the required skill sets, even if your first inclination is to worry about appearing like a fraud. Of her research, professor of organizational behavior Herminia Ibarra writes in the Harvard Business Review, “By viewing ourselves as works in progress, we multiply our capacity to learn, avoid being pigeonholed, and ultimately become better leaders. We’re never too experienced to fake it till we learn it.”

7. FEIGN ROMANTIC INTEREST.

Richard Wiseman, a psychology professor at the University of Hertfordshire in the U.K., split roughly 100 participants at a speed dating event in Edinburgh in 2012 into two groups to test what he calls the "As If Principle” (if you act "as if" you are a certain way, you'll come to feel that way). One group was instructed to behave as they normally would on their dates, while another was told to pretend they were already in love by gazing into each other’s eyes, touching hands, and whispering secrets. All participants were then asked how close they felt to their various partners (on a scale of one to seven) and whether they would like to see each other again. On average, those faking romantic interest reported that they felt one point more intimate with their partners. Forty-five percent of this group also said they would like to see the other person again, while only 20 percent of the “normal” speed dating group reported the same. Wiseman told the Telegraph of his study, “The assumption was that the emotion leads to the action or behaviour but this shows it can happen the other way around, action can lead to emotions.” 

8. FAKE CONFIDENCE TO GAIN INFLUENCE.

It turns out that in group dynamics, early assertiveness becomes self-enforcing. In a 2013 study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers randomly assigned three groups of college students the task of writing two paragraphs on either their job ambitions, their duties and obligations, or their commutes. They then formed same-sex teams using students from each of the three groups and instructed them to brainstorm a hypothetical startup company. Afterwards, everyone took a survey in which they rated the extent they respected and admired the other members of their team. The researchers found that the individuals who had written about their ambitions enjoyed a higher rank in the group pecking order and were perceived as being more assertive and proactive than those who had focused on their job duties or commutes. By just shifting your thoughts to your goals, the research suggests, you can project a more capable, confident persona. 

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This AI Tool Will Help You Write a Winning Resume
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For job seekers, crafting that perfect resume can be an exercise in frustration. Should you try to be a little conversational? Is your list of past jobs too long? Are there keywords that employers embrace—or resist? Like most human-based tasks, it could probably benefit from a little AI consultation.

Fast Company reports that a new start-up called Leap is prepared to offer exactly that. The project—started by two former Google engineers—promises to provide both potential minions and their bosses better ways to communicate and match job needs to skills. Upload a resume and Leap will begin to make suggestions (via highlighted boxes) on where to snip text, where to emphasize specific skills, and roughly 100 other ways to create a resume that stands out from the pile.

If Leap stopped there, it would be a valuable addition to a professional's toolbox. But the company is taking it a step further, offering to distribute the resume to employers who are looking for the skills and traits specific to that individual. They'll even elaborate on why that person is a good fit for the position being solicited. If the company hires their endorsee, they'll take a recruiter's cut of their first year's wages. (It's free to job seekers.)

Although the service is new, Leap says it's had a 70 percent success rate landing its users an interview. The rest is up to you.

[h/t Fast Company]

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11 Behind-the-Counter Secrets of Baristas
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Being a barista is no easy task, and it’s not just the early hours and the don’t-talk-to-me-unless-I’ve-had-my-coffee customers. While people often think working at a cafe is a part-time, temporary gig, it takes extensive training to learn your way around an espresso machine, and most baristas are in it for the love of coffee, not just to pay the bills. Mental Floss spoke to a few baristas working at the New York Coffee Festival to learn what exactly goes on behind the counter, and why you should never, ever dump your extra coffee in the trash.

1. THEY REALLY LOVE COFFEE.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the profession, says New York City-based barista Kayla Bird, is “that it's not a real job.” But especially in specialty cafes, many baristas are in it for the long haul. Coffee is their career.

“It's a chosen field,” as barista Virgil San Miguel puts it. “It's not like you work in a coffee shop because it's a glamorous job,” he explains. “It's more like a passion.”

2. THEY GO THROUGH A LOT OF TRAINING.

“Being a really good barista takes a lot of studying,” explains Jake Griffin, a wholesale representative for Irving Farm Coffee Roasters who has worked in the coffee industry for almost a decade. “It can take a few years. You have to start to understand origins, production methods, where your coffee came from.” You have to go through an intensive education before you start pulling espresso shots for customers, so it's possible that the person taking your order and fetching your pastry isn't even allowed to make you a drink yet. “They have to be what we call 'bar certified' before they're even allowed on the machine,” he says. “Usually people start off in our cafes in various support roles, then start to go to classes and go through the training program.”

3. THEY’RE PROBABLY PRETTY WIRED.

Sure, baristas take full advantage of all that free coffee. And if they work in their company’s training programs, their whole job is to drink coffee. But it has its downsides. “I taste—at minimum—ten shots of espresso a day,” John Hrabe, who trains baristas at Birch Coffee in New York City, says. On his busier days, it might be as many as 20. You get used to all the caffeine, he claims—at least until you take a few days off. “Then when you go on vacation and you're not working ... everyone's like, 'Why's John so tired?’”

Other baristas who have worked in the field for a long time say the same. “I’ve been doing this for 15 years, and I used to have five or six coffees a day,” Michael Sadler, who helped develop the barista education program at Toby’s Coffee, says. “Now I do two,” he says, both because of the caffeine-induced anxiety and the withdrawal headaches he would get on his days off.

4. OR THEY’RE DRINKING … SOMETHING ELSE.

Like any job, there are things that go on in coffee shops that the boss would definitely not approve of. According to one barista who has worked at both a corporate coffee chain and specialty cafes in Delaware and New York, coffee shops can get pretty rowdy behind-the-scenes. “If you see a barista with a lidded cup behind the bar, there's probably a 50/50 chance: It's either coffee or beer,” he says. “You never know.” And it’s not just the booze, either. “I’ve been a part of secret menus that have cannabis-infused coconut milk,” he explains. “I had a pretty good cappuccino.”

5. THEY GET ANNOYED WHEN YOU SKIP THE PLEASANTRIES.

You don’t want to hold up the line telling a barista your life story at 7 a.m., but even if you’re in a hurry, don’t forget to say hi before you jump into demanding that large coffee. “Walking up to somebody and saying 'Almond latte,' when they just said 'How are you today?' is probably the biggest thing you can do to get on a barista's bad side,” Toby's Coffee's Sadler says. “It's like, exchange pleasantries, then get to business.”

6. IF YOU’RE NOT NICE TO THEM, THEY WON’T BE NICE TO YOU.

Not everyone is super perky in the morning, but if you can’t be civil, you’re better off making your own coffee at home. At some places, if you get snippy with the employees, you’re going to get worse than furtive eye rolls between baristas (though you’ll get that, too).

“Be nice to your baristas, or you get decaf,” warns one barista. While it varies from cafe to cafe, multiple baristas told Mental Floss that it happens. Rude customers might get three letters written on their cup: “They call it DTB—‘decaf that bitch.’”

There’s a less potent way a barista can get back at you, too. If the hole in your coffee lid lines up with the seam of your paper cup, you’re going to get dripped on. And sometimes, it’s not an accident. “When a barista puts the mouth on the seam, they want it to leak on you,” a New York City-based barista explains.

Others are a little more forgiving of rude patrons. “I like making them the best drink that they've ever had, just to kill them with kindness,” one coffee shop employee says. “I don't want them to be like, ‘She’s a bad barista.’” Just to be safe, though, it's better to be nice.

7. THEY PROBABLY KNOW WHAT YOU WANT BEFORE YOU DO.

“The longer you work in coffee, the more when someone walks in the door you read their personality type and say, I know exactly what you're going to drink,” Jared Hamilton, a self-described “espresso wizard” at the Brooklyn-based chain Cafe Grumpy, says. When I ask him to predict my drink, he proves his skills. “What you're going to drink is like, an alternative milk, flat white or cappuccino. So maybe soy, probably almond. Nonstandard. You don't want a lot of milk, just enough.” He’s not too far off—my go-to is, in fact, a non-standard, some-milk-but-not-too-much drink, a decaf cappuccino, though I drink regular milk in it. He points to another festival visitor who is dressed in business attire. "That guy right there, he drinks espresso all day," he guesses.

Depending on the coffee shop, the barista might know what customers want more than they do. Dominique Richards, who started her first barista job in Brooklyn three months ago, says she has to order for her customers around a third of the time. “Usually if someone's looking at the menu for more than 30 seconds, I jump in and say, ‘Hey, what would you like?’” She then asks them a few questions, like whether they want hot or cold coffee, and goes from there, often recommending lattes for people who are just getting into specialty coffee. “It's kind of a learning experience for the majority” of her customers, she says.

8. CUSTOMERS CAN BE REALLY PARTICULAR.

“People treat cafes like they're [their own] kitchen,” according to Cafe Grumpy’s Hamilton. “My favorite thing people do is when they walk in and they rearrange the condiment bar. Then they order, then they go use the condiments.” Apparently, some people are really particular about the location of their sugar packets. And if you throw off their routine, watch out. One of his colleagues describes a customer who threw a fit because the shop didn’t have a cinnamon shaker, demanding a refund for both her coffee and her pastry. (They eventually found some cinnamon for her.)

9. YOU SHOULD NEVER, EVER DUMP EXTRA COFFEE STRAIGHT INTO THE TRASH.

Even if you ask for room for milk in your drip coffee, the cup is still sometimes just a bit too full. It’s tempting to just pour a little into the trash can, but whoever has to take out that garbage is going to pay for it. “Please don't pour it in the garbage,” Bluestone Lane barista Marina Velazquez pleads. “Because at the end of the night, it ends up on our feet.” If the shop doesn’t have a dedicated container for you to pour out your excess coffee, take it back to the counter and ask them to dump a bit in the sink. Your baristas will thank you.

10. MAKING ESPRESSO DRINKS ISN’T A ROTE SKILL.

When you’re waiting in line, it may look like baristas are doing the same thing over and over for dozens of drinks. But in fact, every order presents its own challenges.

“There's probably not an appreciation for how much a coffee can vary,” explains Katie Duris, a former barista of 10 years who now works as a wholesale manager at Joe Coffee. High-quality coffee is “really dynamic as an ingredient,” she says. Baristas “have to make micro adjustments all day long. You have to change the grind based on the humidity in the room or a draft or how much coffee is in your hopper—if it's an espresso machine—so they're tweaking all day long … good baristas are making adjustments all the time.”

11. IT’S PHYSICALLY TAXING.

Making espresso drinks all day long can wear you out, and not just because you’re on your feet all day. There are also repetitive stress injuries to consider. “There's physical wear and tear on your joints when you're a barista,” Birch's Hrabe says. He’s worked in coffee for 11 years, and says that tamping espresso shots (compressing the grounds before brewing) day after day has given him tennis elbow. “It's totally common for baristas,” he says.

In short, baristas are probably doing more work behind the bar than you give them credit for, whether it’s dealing with customers or actually making coffee. “Being a barista is fun, but it's hard work,” Bluestone Lane's Velazquez says. “Everybody should be a barista at least once. I think it teaches humility.”

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