Harvard professor and researcher Amy Cuddy recently delivered an inspirational keynote address. This was of particular note as she wasn’t supposed to become a successful scientist. In fact, she wasn’t even supposed to finish her undergraduate degree. Early in her college career, Cuddy suffered a severe head injury in a car accident, and doctors said she would struggle to fully regain her mental capacity and finish her undergraduate degree, yet she persevered despite the original prognosis.
Cuddy’s research at Harvard Business School confirms that our body language communicates information to others that shapes their perceptions of us. It also communicates information to us that shapes our own self-concept. We can construct how powerful we feel by assuming expansive body poses.
In “Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance”, Cuddy shows that simply holding one’s body in expansive, high-power poses for as little as two-minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone, the hormone linked to power and dominance in the animal and human worlds, and lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that can, over time, cause impaired immune functioning, hypertension, and memory loss. These power poses led to an increased sense of power and risk tolerance.
In other words, Cuddy states that we can fake confidence and power by using expansive body language to change our body chemistry and our feelings. This is especially useful in preparing to speak to a group or in any situation where a self-assured image is important. Whether you face a challenging subordinate, a complex negotiation or a difficult relative, this is a quick way to gather your composure and tap into your power. Begin incorporating the pose into your daily practices, thereby reducing stress and adding greater self-assurance. Claim your space!