Research by social psychologists at Harvard and Columbia universities has revealed startling facts about how simple shifts in posture can have profound effects on how well you present yourself in client meetings, fee negotiations and marketing presentations.
Research had already shown that the mind can influence the body. For example, it’s common knowledge that if you’re feeling depressed, there’s a high likelihood that your immune system will be depleted. But what researchers Amy Cuddy, Dana Carney and Andy Yap wanted to find out was could the opposite also be true; could the body influence the mind?
They discovered an easy exercise that anyone can do that can change not only others’ perceptions of them, but the way they feel about themselves by spending two minutes “power posing” before a stressful situation. I’ll explain how the “power pose” works in a minute. First I want to explain the experiment itself.
The researchers took two groups of people and had them pose for two minutes in one of two positions before going into a stressful meeting.
The “high power posers” were told to sit in a room with their fingers clasped behind their neck, leaning back in their chair, with their feet kicked up on top of the desk. The “low power posers” were told to sit in a chair with their arms crossed, leaning forward, and looking slightly down. The researchers took saliva samples twice so they could test for testosterone and cortisol levels before and after the posing took place.
Testosterone exists in both men and women and is known as the “dominance hormone.” If someone is feeling powerful, dominant and confident, it’s likely they have high levels of testosterone at that moment. Cortisol, on the other hand, is known as the “stress hormone.” High levels of cortisol are unhealthy and tend to exist when someone is feeling anxious and weak in a given situation.
combination in a leader or recruiter is high testosterone and low cortisol. If you possess this mix when going into a client meeting it would mean you feel very confident and also calm. So you would be able to express yourself fully, with color and charisma, and you wouldn’t be easily thrown or feel reactive.
A different study looked at 100 venture capital pitches to see if there were predictors of who got funded and who got rejected. Experts in communication and body language looked
at how people spoke, as well as how they used their bodies. They did not study the words people used at all. The results showed there were two primary predictors of who got the money: genuine enthusiasm for what they were saying, and a lack of social awkwardness. Both of which tend to correlate with high testosterone and low cortisol.
What They Found
So, going back to the study of “high power posing” vs. “low power posing,” what were the results after just two minutes in each pose? Researchers were stunned to find that:
- Testosterone (confidence) spiked by 20% after two minutes in a high power pose and dropped by 10% after two minutes in a low power pose.
- Cortisol (anxiety) dropped by 25% after two minutes in a high power pose and increased by 15% when in a low power pose.
So, by doing just two minutes of high power posing before a stressful situation, you can increase your feelings of power by 20% and decrease your anxiety by 25%. That’s a statistically significant amount of change in your biology for simply shifting your posture for two minutes. As I said, what made the difference in who got funding from venture capitalists was genuine enthusiasm and lack of social awkwardness.
If you’re in a shootout with another high powered search firm for a coveted retainer, any slight advantage could make the difference between you winning the search or coming in second place. If you feel more confident and calm, and therefore present with more enthusiasm and less awkwardness, that slight edge could make all the difference. You only need two minutes to give yourself that advantage.
High Power Poses
Superman Pose: Spread your feet wide, roll your shoulders back, place your hands on your hips, and lift your chin slightly.
Pride Pose: What does an Olympic sprinter do when he crosses the finish line and wins the race? He raises his arms high in a V, lifts his chin, and has a wide stance. It’s a victory pose.
Two Minute Confidence Booster
Simply stand in one of the power poses for two minutes before any stressful situation and you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits mentioned here. All you need is a bit of privacy, say, a bathroom stall or an elevator. Use this before important phone calls, client meetings, negotiations, and presentations to give yourself an edge. Feeling powerful after the two minute pose increases your presence, meaning you get to display your full, true self; comfortable, passionate, enthusiastic, captivating, authentic and confident.
To Prepare Before a Stressful Interaction
Don’t sit hunched in a chair looking down at your cell phone making yourself small. Instead, go to a bathroom stall and power pose. Or walk around and move with purpose. Or put your feet up on your desk and lean back in your chair.
During the Interaction
Expand yourself physically without dominating or complimenting. “Dominating” would mean you’re trying to “own the room,” which is obnoxious. “Complimenting” would mean that you make yourself smaller and more submissive when someone else is dominating or has higher perceived power. This is the usual reaction people have to someone with higher perceived power (a client, a boss etc.). Instead, be as big physically as you can comfortably be; square off your shoulders and stand with your feet apart. If you’re sitting, put your arms on the arms of the chair to stay wide and open (so you don’t hold or fold your arms). If standing, lean against the wall or put your hand on the back of a chair or chalk board – anything that forces you to stretch out creating a “big box” physique.
Fake It ‘Till You Become It
Lastly, rather than faking it until you make it, have an intention to “Fake it ‘till you become it.” Internalize the feelings of confidence and calm via repetition of this technique. I repeat; internalize the feelings of confidence and calm via repetition of this technique. Remember; top producers make a daily habit of the things that mediocre producers do every so often. Tiny tweaks like this can lead to big changes in your productivity over time.