The Real Magic Behind Power Poses [VIDEO]
We’ve long been told that the way people perceive you depends on more than the words you say – it’s also about how you say them. Research shows that your body language goes a long way to affect an audience’s perception of a speaker – but that’s just the beginning of the real magic behind power poses…
First let’s talk about what power posing really means.
Power poses have been around forever in the animal kingdom – this is by no means unique to humans alone.
It’s about opening up and taking up space.
Think of a peacock showing off its feathers or a King Cobra flaring its neck. Power poses are body positions in which you maximize your physical form.
On the contrary, when people are closed in, arms wrapped around their waist, legs crossed tightly, and they’re touching their neck, those are signs of vulnerability, weakness, and self-consciousness. That kind of body language impacts that way others see you.
This is complicated by the way that we’re conditioned based along gender lines in our society.
Just consider whole ‘man-spreading’ phenomenon of men taking up more space on public transit. The reality is, we’ve been told as little girls to sit like a lady, not take up too much space, and quiet ourselves since the day we were born – in a way that most men just aren’t.
Don’t believe me?
Well, if you’re a woman reading this, I want you to go ahead and try sitting like a man right now. If you’re a dude tuning in, try sitting like a woman.
I didn’t even tell you what to do exactly and I can guarantee we all knew what I meant. Men are sitting cross-legged and prim and women have taken up more space, sometimes a comedic amount of it, too.
Or perhaps you don’t want to sit like a dude right now for some reason.
Are you in public watching this so you don’t want to play along? Are you looking over your shoulder or around your desk to see if anyone’s watching you?
Why does it bother us to be seen acting this way? Because whether they’re explicitly stated or not, there are gender norms we’re violating by experimenting with body position.
Regardless of our gender socialization, research has shown that some of our body language is innate.
One power pose known as “pride” or the rockstar has been seen among blind athletes when they’re crossing the finish line in sporting events. Even though they’ve never seen or been taught to strike the pose, it’s something our bodies WANT to do when we’re feeling victorious! It’s like we’re wired to react in a physical way when we’re feeling like a winner.
And this is where the research gets interesting. Social scientists have long known that non-verbal body language cues affect how others perceive and feel about you. But the real magic behind power poses is their apparent ability to affect the way we perceive ourselves.
Imagine for a moment that you were about to walk into a job interview.
You really want the position, but your palms are sweaty and you’re nervous that you won’t be seen as having enough experience. You want to feel more confident, but your heart seems to be racing out of control and your legs are trembling in your pencil skirt.
Scientist Amy Cuddy set out to experiment with power poses and found that you can reverse-engineer your body language to feel more confident and capable.
Cuddy asked two sets of people to assume high-power poses (like my favorite, the Wonder Woman) and low-power poses for two minutes and then researchers measured the subjects’ risk tolerance and body chemistry.
After just two minutes, the confidence of the high-power pose folks soared. The risk-tolerance of the low-power pose group plummeted. The ability to take risks, as we know, is an important part of growth and leadership.
What fascinated researchers most was the profound changes in body chemistry they uncovered. Testosterone – the so-called “dominance” hormone – rose 20% among the high power pose group. For the low power pose group, testosterone fell by 10%.
Amy Cuddy’s presentation on her findings rose to become the second-most-popular TED talk ever and you should really take the 20 minutes to watch it in its entirety here.
Cuddy’s research reminds me of the simple advice from happiness scholar and author Gretchen Rubin, who says:
It’s our actions, even involuntary actions, that influence feelings.
Studies show that a smile – even an artificially induced smile – can prompt happier emotions. An experiment even suggests that people who use Botox are less prone to anger, perhaps because they can’t make angry, frowning faces.
So the next time you find yourself needing to draw on your courage to walk into a performance review, nail an interview, or get up in front of your peers for a presentation, remember this: act powerful to feel powerful.
Assume a power pose of your choice (the wonder woman is my obvious favorite) for at least two minutes, preferably while looking at yourself in the mirror and you’ll walk in with your body language and your brain chemistry on your side.
So tell me – is this a tactic you’ve put to use in your life already?
I want to hear about it. How are you using power poses to boost your confidence when you need it most? Share your story in the comments below or send us a pic of your Wonder Woman in action on Instagram. Just tag us at @BossedUpOrg so we’re sure to see it.