“People in power increase their size.”
A while back, when I was first starting my foray into Corporate America, I read that successful execs had something in common – they spread out. Like a cat galloping towards a perceived enemy at an angle to increase its perceived size, people in power increase their size. At a conference room table, they lean back, spread their arms, sit with their legs either uncrossed or loosely crossed. It shows dominance. It shows confidence.
As a junior level employee, I certainly wasn’t in a position of power, but as an anthropologist by training, I studied the behavior of the humans around me and saw the employee I didn’t want to become (mousy, adverse to risk, ineffectual) and the employee I aspired to (powerful, confident, inspiring). I saw proof of what I had read. There are power poses.
But were these power poses a byproduct of successful corporate ladder climbing or was it possible to fake it til you make it? Could you act powerful without necessarily being powerful, and would that eventually make you powerful?
Power Poses: How Your Posture Can Make You Stronger, from the Inside Out
Turns out, research has already been done on this subject, and the study bore out the hypothesis.
Posing in high-power nonverbal displays (as opposed to low-power nonverbal displays) would cause neuroendocrine and behavioral changes for both male and female participants: High-power posers experienced elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk; low-power posers exhibited the opposite pattern. In short, posing in displays of power caused advantaged and adaptive psychological, physiological, and behavioral changes.
There you have it, folks. There are power poses, and by performing those power poses, you can alter your own hormone levels to increase feelings of control and confidence. Just as the act of smiling, even when you’re miserable, has been show to increase levels of happiness, standing in a power pose can increase testosterone and decrease cortisol. Um. Yes please. (Remember: cortisol is that stress hormone which, while great in certain situations, can wreak havoc on your health and can make losing weight a bear).
So what is a power pose and how can you use it?
It’s actually quite simple.
For Two Minutes a Day, Change Your Posture.
You can be standing or sitting. If you’re standing, stand tall, chest open, shoulders thrown back, hands on hips – like Superman might stand, with his cape waving majestically in the winds of justice blowing around him.
If you’re sitting, much of the same applies, maybe link your hands behind your neck, opening your elbows wide. Sit with your ankle resting loosely on the opposite knee – in other words, spread out.
I prefer standing for this. If you look into the mirror while you do this, all the better.
Power Pose photo from Cuddy’s TED presentation
“I get complimented now on my poise and confidence during public speaking”.
Since learning of this, before any public speaking or in meetings with higher level execs, I spend some time doing the power pose. It’s drastically changed my confidence levels. I used to wear scarves into meetings because my neck and chest would get so red and splotchy from nerves that knowing other people could see that redness, made me even more nervous. After a couple of times doing the Power Pose, I stopped needing that crutch and haven’t used it in more than a year. Recently, I was even complimented by several senior VPs in my company for my poise and confidence in my presentations. I’m attributing this completely to adding the Power Pose into my prep work for any presentation.
A colleague of mine also started doing the Power Pose and is getting similar compliments and indeed, a massive promotion is under way, in part because of how well she’s carried herself in public speaking venues.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy has a great TED talk all about it and is definitely worth checking out. You can watch that here: http://bit.ly/1gENuLB
In the meantime, stand (or sit up) straighter, roll those shoulders back, and make yourself look as proud as you should feel.