Power Posing – ‘Fake it ‘til you make it’
A Look at How Our Body Language Changes Who We Are
What Does Your Body Language Say About You?
In the 1960s, a team of scientists from the University of California, led by Albert Mehrabian, conducted extensive studies into how human beings communicate with each other. They concluded that much of the information conveyed is not in the form of spoken words. Instead, it takes the form of non-verbal communication, of which body language is the foremost.
Since these initial studies, the actual percentage of communication that is non-verbal has been widely debated. However, most scientists agree that our body language does tell those around us a lot about who we are and how we are feeling. This influences how we are perceived and treated by others.
Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, studies how people judge and influence each other. Her research and experimentation now suggest that our body language not only changes how we are perceived by other people – it can also change how we feel about ourselves.
Take a moment now to audit your own body language. How are you sitting or standing? Are you hunched over or drawing your body inwards, or is your pose more expansive? Cuddy claims that simply by changing your body language for as little as two minutes, you can change your feelings about yourself, change your behaviours and positively influence the events in your life.
What is Power Posing?
When we are feeling powerless, ineffective or unsure of ourselves, we tend to make our bodies as small as possible. We hunch our shoulders, cross our legs, bow our heads and use self-protective gestures, such as neck or mouth covering. Conversely, when we feel powerful and dominant, our bodies tend to adopt an expansive pose. We spread our arms, sit or stand straight and widen the position of our arms and legs.
Interestingly, as Cuddy explained in a presentation delivered in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2012, which has now been viewed online more than 40 million times, these body language changes are hard-wired behaviours. In her presentation, she describes how the raising of your arms into the air in victory is a universal gesture. Even people who have been blind since birth, so could not have seen this gesture in other people, raise their arms when they feel victorious – for example, when crossing the finishing line after a race.
These gestures also make us FEEL different, Cuddy claims. In experiments with colleagues, Dana Carney and Andy Yap, results showed that body postures associated with dominance and power (power posing) increase testosterone (the dominance hormone) and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone). These changes in hormone levels appear to positively influence a person’s behaviours – increasing the appetite for risk-taking, increasing confidence and performance in stressful situations, such as job interviews.
Therefore, Cuddy suggests, prior to important or stressful situations where your performance is paramount to the outcome – try power posing to give you the feeling of more confidence and to reduce debilitating nerves. Cuddy calls this method ‘Fake It ’til You Make It’. In effect, if you change your body posture and adopt power posing, you will succeed in more areas of your life.
Next time you have to face something you find stressful – a presentation, interview or meeting, for example – try taking a few private minutes before the event to practice power posing. Stand up tall, raise your arms in a gesture of victory and make yourself as large as possible. Faking feeling powerful, Cuddy says, will actually make you FEEL more powerful! When you feel powerful, you act powerfully – influencing those around you and appearing more capable.
Can Power Posing Change Your Life?
Our bodies have the power to change our minds, our minds have the power to change our behaviours and our behaviours influence our outcomes. Making power posing an integral part of your preparation for the important events of your life can help you to achieve more. When you feel confident and powerful, you are more able to express yourself and influence others. If you chronically feel that you haven’t managed to convey your needs or achieve what you really want to when dealing with others, perhaps your self-confidence needs improving. Using power posing could give you the edge you need to create more success and enjoy a more fulfilled life.