Oh, those clever Ivy League researchers! Not only have they confirmed that body language makes a difference in how we perceive each other (which is pretty much accepted knowledge the world over), but how you stand can change how you act .
Dana R. Carney , Amy J.C. Cuddy , and Andy J. Yap, from Columbia and Harvard University, recently were published in Psychological Science Online First , discussing their findings. They found that, ” posing in displays of power caused advantaged and adaptive psychological, physiological, and behavioral changes, and these findings suggest that embodiment extends beyond mere thinking and feeling, to physiology and subsequent behavioral choices. That a person can, by assuming two simple 1-min poses, embody power and instantly become more powerful has real-world, actionable implications.”
What are these “power poses”? Sitting in a chair with you feet on the desk and standing, leaning over a desk with your hands planted widely apart. The result of striking these poses for about a minute is a surge in testosterone, and reduction in the stress hormone cortisol – in both men and women. Those in submissive poses (hunched over, standing with your arms crossed) had the opposite hormonal experience. Testosterone leads to both greater confidence – as well as greater risk-taking.
Is it that those who naturally have more testosterone are more likely to adopt these positions, and be greater risk-takers? Maybe, but the authors note that, ” in some situations requiring power, people have the ability to “fake it ’til they make it.” Over time and in aggregate, these minimal postural changes and their outcomes potentially could improve a person’s general health and well-being. This potential benefit is particularly important when considering people who are or who feel chronically powerless because of lack of resources, low hierarchical rank in an organization, or membership in a low-power social group.” Not everyone is incline to agree that greater risk taking is helpful though. In the wake of the most recent series of financial meltdowns, New York Magazine asked if Lehman Brothers would still be around if it were Lehman Sisters (and therefore less prone to risk taking) instead .
In any case, these postures and testosterone are key to being perceived as powerful (assuming that perception is reality, which, sadly, is often the case), and men naturally have a whole lot more testosterone than women – then it seems that all the posturing in the world is just that, posturing. But in combination with being competent, dressed appropriately, and well-spoken, these could be the key to revving up your boss’s perception of you, not to mention your own self-image.
So, take a few minutes today to try out these “power poses” – How did you feel? Powerful? Ridiculous? More inclined to take risks? And the next time you notice yourself slouching in your seat or crossing your arms, make an effort to stand up straight (yes, another reason to tell your mother she was right!), and “fake it till you make it.”