Power posing is a well-documented technique that uses body language to change your emotional state. Have you ever noticed that when you feel sad, intimidated, or full of self-doubt that you slump over or make yourself small?
Now compare that to when you’re feeling confident and self-assured. When we are feeling confident we stand and breathe in a certain way. The power stance uses your body to alter your emotional state by standing large. So often in life many things work in reverse. What I mean by reverse is this: you can smile when you’re sad to cheer yourself up, or when you are feeling happy you may find yourself smiling. A person’s nonverbal body language can govern how they think and feel about themselves. Your body harnesses the power to actually change your mind.
In 2012, Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy gave a now famous TED Talk on the benefits of “power-posing,” or changing your body language in ways that can make you feel more confident. If you look at animals you will see that before an attack they puff up, look big, and take up space. There are several different power poses that you can easily try at home. Studies show that power posing can be considered more powerful than affirmations.
Body language affects your hormone levels also. When you understand how to improve your body language, then you can increase your testosterone, decrease your cortisol, and “magically” feel more confident and risk tolerant.
One move you can try is “The Wonder Woman” pose. Place your hands on your hips and stand with your feet apart. Tilt your chin up in the air and hold for two minutes.
Another pose to try is “The Performer”. Throw your hands in the air and widen your stance, as if you’re soaking in the applause after an incredible performance. Hold the pose for two minutes to set those hormonal changes in motion and give you the confidence you need to face what is in front of you.
Cuddy puts power posing in the broader context of what she calls “self-nudges,” or small tweaks to your body language and mind-set that can produce psychological and behavioral improvements in the moment. She borrows the term “nudge” from economists and psychologists who discovered about a decade ago that you can spark significant behavior changes by nudging people in the right direction.
Cuddy, along with her collaborator Dana Carney of Berkeley, ran an experiment in which people were directed to adopt either high-power or low-power poses for two minutes. Then they were asked if they wanted to gamble. Cuddy and Carney found that 86% of those who posed in the high-power position opted to gamble, while only 60% of the low-power posers felt comfortable taking a roll of the dice. But even more interesting — there were physiological differences between the two groups, as shown by saliva samples. While high-power posers showed an 8% increase in testosterone, low-power posers had a 10% decrease in the hormone. Meanwhile, the inverse relationship happened with cortisol, the hormone related to stress. While high-power posers experienced a 25% decrease in cortisol levels, low-power posers had a 15% increase in their stress levels.
You may be asking yourself when is a great time to pull out a power pose?
You’re getting ready for a job interview and you feel yourself becoming nervous. Insert power pose!
You are about to go on stage and publically speak to a large crowd. A feeling of terror washes over you. Insert power pose!
You are standing in a meeting and you feel intimidated. Insert power pose!
You are about to close a deal and doubt creeps in. Insert power pose!
You are pitching a new idea to a colleague or spouse. Insert power pose!
You can use power poses anytime you need to feel confident and more powerful. My daughter even used the power pose before her first day of second grade.