One of my quarantine resolutions is using some of the extra time I now need to spend at home for my personal development.
I particularly decided to watch the 25 most popular TED talks of all time.
Even though I’ve seen most of them at least once before, each of these comes with so many incredible insights that it’s worth watching again.
Last week, I listened to How to Speak so That People Want to Listen by Julian Treasure and I loved it. Admittedly, it was even the first time I watched his speech, and I was blown away.
However, yesterday I had a look at one I had already seen many times before: Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are by Amy Cuddy.
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In her talk, she explains how powerful our body language is and how exactly we can use it to transform our happiness, confidence, and, eventually, our lives.
I’ve used and taught the concept of power posing in many of my seminars during the past three years, yet, re-watching the TED talk again opened a new perspective and came with fresh lessons.
Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist, and all her learnings are based on research she did together with her team.
Even though there’s criticism against her theories and the results of the studies couldn’t be replicated, her TED talk is certainly worth watching, and power posing is definitely worth trying because…well, you have nothing to lose but so much to gain.
What is my body communicating to ME?
Cuddy initially lays out how there’s a lot of science and research based on discovering how our body language affects others.
When we talk about communication and interpersonal connections, we barely forget to mention body language.
However, we hardly think about the effects our body language has on ourselves.
Yet, the truth is that how we act and use our bodies significantly influences how we feel, think, and behave.
This, in return, means that not only our feelings control our body language but also the other way around:
If we express power and dominance through our bodies, we start feeling more powerful.
If we, however, shrink ourselves, feeling small becomes our reality.
Unfortunately, how we use our bodies is connected to our gender.
While women tend to make themselves smaller, men usually take up more space, and as a result, they communicate power and feel more powerful.
Thus, especially women should take Amy Cuddy’s advice of power posing seriously and use the power of their bodies to generate more energy and authority.
“We know that our minds change our bodies, but is it also true that our bodies change our minds?”
That’s the question Cuddy and her team were after.
They wanted to find out if changing posture, adapting our body language, and acting more powerful would somehow influence our hormones.
The two essential hormones they looked at were testosterone and cortisol.
They knew that powerful people and leaders have high testosterone and low cortisol levels and wanted to find out if these changes can also occur through changing our body language, even if nobody is watching.
So, what they did was basically bringing people into a lab and running a little experiment by asking them to adapt to either high-power poses or to low-power poses for two minutes.
What is a high-power pose?
High-power poses are those which make us feel confident.
Being bold, stretching out, sitting upright, taking space. These are things we do when we feel dominant.
The most typical power pose is the Wonderwoman pose where you simply stand upright, feet slightly apart, stemming your fists in your hips.
What Amy Cuddy and her team found is that even two minutes of power posing lead to significant changes in testosterone and cortisol levels.
Those who practiced power poses experienced an increase of testosterone which is the hormone most associated with confidence, strength, and risk tolerance.
Additionally, power posing led to a decrease in cortisol levels, which means they were less stressed.
Summing up, the studies of Amy Cuddy found that two minutes of power posing led to less stress, or a better ability to deal with stress, more confidence, and higher risk tolerance.
“So two minutes lead to these hormonal changes that configure your brain to basically be either assertive, confident and comfortable, or really stress-reactive, and feeling sort of shut down.”
How can we apply all of this in real life?
As the hormonal changes were documented during studies in a lab, Cuddy also explained how we could use this knowledge and the power of our bodies in our daily lives.
And in fact, we can use the power of our bodies everywhere.
No matter if it’s asking someone out on a date, an important presentation, a wedding speech, a job interview, or a critical conversation with our partner.
Being confident and stress-resistant is beneficial in all our daily encounters.
Even if we are alone, being strong and powerful is undoubtedly better than feeling insecure.
“Fake it until you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize.”
Amy Cuddy believes we can change our lives by changing our body language.
She is convinced we don’t need to fake confidence and power but that we adopt these characteristics if we practice power posing regularly.
“Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes. Before you go into the next stressful evaluative situation, for two minutes, try doing this, in the elevator, in a bathroom stall, at your desk behind closed doors. That’s what you want to do. Configure your brain to cope the best in that situation. Get your testosterone up. Get your cortisol down. Don’t leave that situation feeling like, oh, I didn’t show them who I am. Leave that situation feeling like, I really feel like I got to say who I am and show who I am.”
I love how tiny changes can lead to tremendous outcomes in our lives.
So many tools, techniques, and resources can transform our lives and result in us being happier, more fulfilled, and more successful.
Power posing is just one of these tiny techniques, yet it’s an incredibly powerful one, and I hope you’ll give it a try.
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