The Power Pose – The Gift of Living Big!

Strike a pose! Amy Cuddy, Associate Professor at Harvard business School (and compelling public speaker!) is trying to change lives through “power poses”. Her prolific research shows that so-called power poses (think All-Blacks Warrior “dance” before a game or the standard “Victory or Wonder Woman” stance) could make the difference between high performance or failure in the workplace as well in your personal life.

Cuddy has shown that we humans are biologically wired to mirror our state-of-mind in the way we look. Her talk, Make Yourself Big: How the Body Shapes the Mind is about her work in changing outcomes and behavior through a few simple changes in your body language. She claims we can change the impression we make by ‘thinking big,’ just before an important meeting or interview and this willful control of body language, in the long term, our sense of self.

In fact, there is a body of research that indicates that our body chemistry can be altered to produce a better sense of self-confidence and being in control, simply by changing our basic posture or stance.

For example, in one study, people were assigned to two groups: one with “high power” poses, and another to “low power” poses. Their hormone levels were tested (saliva sampling) and they were left to stay in their pose for two minutes. They were then asked to perform different behavioral activities such as take tests (students) do a job interview etc. You guessed it, the power posers were the most likely to do well – and by a large margin!

Their hormones were tested again and results showed “that power poses caused an increase testosterone levels by 20% and cortisol levels reduced by 25%. Testosterone is associated with confidence and cortisol is linked to stress. Low-power poses had the opposite effect, reducing testosterone by 10% and increasing cortisol by 15%”.

What I find remarkable is how powerful and effective these few minutes have proven to be for a huge range of people. The science indicates that 2 minutes in a pose every day has a significant, positive effect on your dominance and status. I have found this 2 minute method to be incredibly successful with both highly experienced professionals facing critical challenges such as media interviews, job search and delicate negotiations, as well as with young students, uncertain and nervous in social skills and the world around them.

Coaches are constantly driving clients to examine and master their non-verbal language as part of the journey to create a series of meaningful life outcomes. Although the mechanisms that link body posture to body biochemistry and human interaction are not clear, there is abundant clinical evidence that it does and that even tiny tweaks become big changes. So as Amy Cuddy has said “don’t fake it till you make it, fake it till you BECOME it! What a great gift to your self.


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