You approach a beautiful female to ask for her phone number. Your nerves get the best of you, so you avert your gaze and stare at the floor. Do you think she’ll feel compelled to give you her digits?
You meet a potential client to ask for his business. You spend the meeting slumped over in your chair with a posture that resembles a timid adolescent. Do you think he’ll feel confident in your ability to do the job?
You confront your children to discipline them for misbehavior. You’re afraid you might hurt their feelings and can’t summon a commanding presence. Do you think they’ll feel convinced that they should behave more appropriately?
These three scenarios demonstrate the intimate connection between your mind and body. The words you express, no matter how brilliant they might be, will have no impact without a powerful posture. If you want to inspire confidence and win trust, check out these power poses that will help you influence people.
Proper Posture: A Crash Course
Before we dive into power poses you can use to be more influential, let’s talk about the basics of proper posture from head to toe. Hold your head high, as if there is a string attached to your forehead. Gaze forward with your eyes looking straight ahead. You should be able to see the faces of the people you walk past, while enjoying a clear view of the horizon in front of you. Maintain a proud chest while placing your shoulders down and back. It might help to shrug your shoulders up and down a few times before allowing them to relax in a position that feels natural. Space your feet hip-distance apart with your knees slightly bent and toes pointed ahead. If your body is a tree, the bottoms of your feet are the roots that keep it planted.
Power Poses: A Fascinating Experiment
“When we think of nonverbals, we think of how we judge others, how they judge us, and what the outcomes are. We tend to forget, though, the other audience that’s influenced by our nonverbals, and that’s ourselves.” — Amy Cuddy
Positioning your body in a confident stance doesn’t only impact how other people view you. It also influences your body on a chemical level. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist from Harvard Business School, created a test to determine how much posture affects confidence. She asked study participants to position their bodies in “high power” and “low power” poses for two minutes. Researchers then assessed the risk aversion and body chemistry of those participants. Below is a summary of their findings:
- 86% of people who held a high power pose were open to risk, compared to 60% who held a low power pose.
- 20% increase in testosterone, a hormone that influences how assertive you are, for the high power pose group. Compare that to a 10% decrease for the low power pose group.
- 25% decrease in cortisol, a hormone that influences how stressed out you feel, for the high power pose group. Compare that to a 15% increase for the low power pose group
These statistics make it clear that we should be more mindful of how we present ourselves. Or as Amy Cuddy put it in her TED talk, “Our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves.”
Power Poses: Examples from Popular Culture and When to Use Them
This power pose is often referred to as the “victory stance” since athletes naturally reach their arms high when they win a competition. If you want to start your day feeling powerful, put your body in this position as soon as you roll out of bed. Stretch your arms to make a Y, lift your head, and gaze at your ceiling. If you’re feeling nervous about a job interview, you could even sneak away to a restroom or stairwell to practice this pose beforehand. You’ll walk in the door feeling as if you already got the job!
Putting your feet on your desk could be frowned on depending on the setting, so be careful about when you use this power pose. If you’re having a meeting with your superior, for example, then it might leave the wrong impression. But if you are a manager who would like to feel carefree and display confidence during a meeting with subordinates, go for it.
Context is everything with this power pose, just like the previous one. You should never lean into the desk of a person giving you a job interview, because this will make you appear arrogant. If you’re giving a sales presentation in a boardroom full of potential buyers, however, this pose would be a great way to exude dominance when you ask for the sale.
There are few things more frightening than going to a bar or coffeehouse alone with the hope of meeting a person worthy of your affection. Never cross your legs or clasp your hands in this situation. Doing so will make you feel self-conscious. You’ll also appear to be uninterested in meeting new people. Instead, take up as much space as possible. Relax your legs, place your feet on the ground, and stretch your arms on the back of the chair or sofa you’re seated on. This power pose signals that you are open to advances.
Final Thoughts: Developing a Confident Mindset
As Amy Cuddy says in her TED talk, it is acceptable to “fake it until you make it.” No one was born with a confident mindset. Confidence is a skill that can be learned just like playing an instrument, riding a bike, speaking a language, or anything else. Changing the way you present yourself is a great way to begin the healing process. That said, your mind and body are intimately connected, so it would be foolish to neglect the second half of that equation. Begin by performing a brutally honest assessment of your mental chatter. Are you wallowing in a pit of negative thoughts about how stupid, worthless, and undeserving you are? Or are you empowering yourself with positive thoughts that will lead you to success? No negative thought has any power over you unless you let it. Only dwell on the thoughts that encourage you to do your best. If you’d like to learn how to develop a confident mindset, join me next week when I’ll share some empowering affirmations that will help you believe in yourself.