How Body Language Shapes Who You Are

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In a TED conference earlier this year, Amy Cuddy, a researcher and professor at Harvard Business School, gave a talk titled “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are”.  Specifically, she discussed how non-verbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves and she specifically mentioned the impact of Power Poses.

So, what is a Power Pose?  A power pose is where an individual makes the body expansive and stretches out their limbs.  One of the more famous examples that Amy uses is the “Wonder Woman Pose”.  Other power poses include stretching out your arms in victory as if you just won the 100-meter race in the Olympics or putting your arms behind your head.

Amy’s research has shown that “power posing” can increase your testosterone (the dominance hormone) and lower the cortisol (the stress hormone) levels in the brain, and impact your chance for success.  The impact can even measured when a person does not feel particularly powerful or confident – and she refers to this phenomena as “fake it until you make it”.  As an experiment, she suggested that posing for just two minutes in front of a mirror in a “power” position before a big meeting or interview can have a profound effect on how you feel and on how other people perceive you.  The idea is that “our bodies change our minds” and even tiny tweaks in our posture can lead to big changes.

Similarly, low power or weak poses can have the opposite effect.  In low power poses, people tend to collapse inwardly to protect themselves which causes the opposite effect of power poses on your hormones and can negatively impact your performance and attitude.

You can watch Amy’s entire TED talk in this embedded video:

Amy is also studying how individuals can project warmth in their nonverbal communication.  In this Q&A interview on the TED blog, Amy mentions that demonstrating warmth is just as importance as projecting power.  Warm natural smiles and inviting body language can be used to promote warmth.   A preparatory warm pose is to force yourself to smile by holding a pen horizontally between your teeth for one minute.  This approach forces you to contract the muscles around the month and eyes, and her studies have shown that it actually improves your mood.

At the end of her talk, Amy urges the audience to”try the power pose and share the science.”  It may be just the edge you need for your next important meeting or interview – or it may become part of your daily routine.

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