Feel more powerful, assertive, and confident in just two minutes by striking a pose and making yourself big. It sounds like a sleazy sales pitch, but it’s not. We learned about “power poses” from a TED talk (oh, maligned TED talks!) by Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and professor at Harvard Business School. Cuddy studies how people judge each other and themselves and her recent work is about linking nonverbal communication – body language – to hormones, feelings, and behavior.
Cuddy’s research shows that body language has a significant influence on judgement, affecting everything from who we ask on dates, to who we vote for, to how we think about others and how we think about ourselves. Maybe you’ve heard of studies that have shown that people who are forced to smile even when they are not happy actually report feeling better? Cuddy’s work builds on this idea by studying how nonverbal communication – in this case, poses that express physical dominance and assertiveness – influences how we feel about ourselves, and therefore changes how we behave.
Cuddy found that these poses powerfully influence feelings and behavior by literally changing our brain chemistry. By testing hormone levels after having study subjects hold a power pose for just two minutes, she discovered that people’s testosterone increases, increasing our risk tolerance significantly, and levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, decline. In other words, changing how we hold ourselves physically, even for a short time, can change our attitudes and beliefs about ourselves, making us feel more powerful, assertive, and confident.
Instructions for power posing based on Cuddy’s research are illustrated here. All you need is two minutes, privacy, and willingness to try something that, yeah, feels a little weird.
Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes! See whether these affect your next date, work presentation, or interview and report back to us. We’ll be doing the same.