Power Stance

by Jean Tower


Not only is our body language communicating things about ourselves to others, but it can influence how we feel about ourselves.

Amy Cuddy, in her 2012 TED talk, explains that taking just a couple of minutes striking a “power pose” when you aren’t feeling all that confident, can help boost your confidence, and can change levels of testosterone and cortisol in the brain. These are psychological and physiological responses that can help you achieve a more successful outcome.

Amy Cuddy is a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School, and her claims are research-based and lab-tested. Just two minutes in a power pose before a meeting or presentation can change the brain and result in more courage and confidence. Ms. Cuddy’s TED talk and her research have become very popular, the topic even making its way into a Dilbert strip. What is a power pose? Well, to start with, think of it as the opposite of shrinking, of making your self small – hunching, crossing your arms, crossing your ankles, and touching your face of neck, all postures and gestures that symbolize powerlessness. A power stance, instead, makes you occupy more space, and there are several versions of this.  Usually your feet are a bit apart, your arms are akimbo (“with hands on the hips and elbows turned outward”) or raised and spread. Imagine any pose where you are taking up more rather than less space.  A good example of the power pose is Wonder Woman or the image of Christopher Reeve as Superman (above).

“Our bodies change our minds.”

Ms. Cuddy’s research in the lab shows the difference between subjects who strike a power pose for two minutes versus those who strike a timid pose for two minutes:

  • Risk tolerance – Goes up 80% for power pose subjects, 60% for low power pose
  • Testosterone – Increases 20% for power pose, reduces 10% for low power pose
  • Cortisol – Reduces 25% for power pose, increases 15% for low power pose

These are significant changes so that after two minutes in a power pose you could be more assertive and comfortable versus low power pose – tense and stress reactive. Maybe you could try this before your next public speaking engagement, oral exam, performance evaluation, or  job interview. It might just make a difference in the outcome.


Image: source

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