Can our body posture influence others to believe we are more powerful? More importantly, can our body posture influence ourselves that we are more powerful?
Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist whose research as an associate professor at the Harvard Business School focuses on the perceived power that is gained from our body posture. More specifically, she researches the non-verbal expressions of power dominance. Her TED talk, titled “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” is one to watch.
Powerful people are often characterized as assertive, optimistic, abstract thinker and a risk taker. They take up more space in a physical situation that a less powerless person. For example, arms outstretched or hands on the hips and legs firmly planted or up on a desk. They normally register high levels of testosterone, with low levels of cortisol, whereas a less powerful person would show the opposite.
Testosterone is a very important hormone found in both men and women. It has been shown to increase a sense of pride and boost one’s self image. It also increases optimism. Dominance is increased in a person with a high level of testosterone.
Cortisol is a hormone released by our adrenal glands when faced with fear or stress, as part of our bodies’ fight or flight mechanism. Elevated levels can increase blood pressure, affect weight gain and interfere with learning and memory.
Cuddy explains how we have seen that when people feel more powerful, they display this power through non verbal body gestures and do more things characteristic of a powerful person. She questions whether the opposite is true. By exhibiting power through our non verbal gestures or “faking” that we possess the power, can we teach our mind to be a more powerful person? She finds that it is absolutely true. The amount of time necessary to gain the benefits of a powerful person through posing in power positions is as little as two minutes.
The next time you are preparing for an important interview, take the posture of Wonder Woman in the elevator for a couple minutes. Take up some space. Show who you are. Your presence in the interview will reflect it with increased confidence, enthusiasm and passion.
Have you ever tested this theory? Did it work for you? Leave a comment and share your experience.
Our bodies change our minds,
and our minds change our behaviors,
and our behaviors change our outcomes.