Do you get nervous before interviews or important meetings? What if we told you that you could change that in just two minutes?
Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist and former assistant professor at Rutgers University, Northwestern University, and Harvard Business School. She’s also the creator of one of the most popular TED talks in history – with 70 million views and counting.
Her TED talk looks at body language from a perspective you might not have considered before.
We know that non-verbal communication plays a significant part in how others think and feel about us. But, Amy Cuddy asks, does it also affect how we think and feel about ourselves?
Consider this situation. You’re waiting to go into an interview at one of your favourite not-for-profit organisations. You’re nervous – naturally. And, naturally, those nerves affect your posture and demeanour. You find yourself hunching over, jiggling your leg and rubbing uneasily at your neck. It’s a case of your mind changing your body – and women in particular often shrink in public or stressful situations.
“These postures are associated with powerlessness and intimidation and keep people back from expressing who they really are,” says Cuddy.
That’s why she set out to understand whether the body could change the mind in the same way. She decided to test this out with a series of simple experiments – and the results are significant – and have been reproduced in numerous follow-up studies too.
It turns out that just by adopting a simple ‘high-power’ pose for as few as two minutes at a time, you can affect your brain in ways that can help you perform better in evaluative situations such as interviews.
So what is a high-power pose? It might be raising your arms and head skyward like a victorious sprinter. Or it might be “the Wonder Woman”: standing up straight, your feet in line with your shoulders, shoulders back and your hands on your hips.
Yes, it does sound strange – and it can certainly look pretty silly! But if practised just before a high pressure moment in your life, Cuddy’s research shows that this positive body language can have a marked effect on your confidence and susceptibility to stress – and in turn on how you perform.
Since Cuddy’s TED talk in June 2012, there’s been lots of academic debate around whether or not the scientific evidence supports her hypothesis about power posing, or “postural feedback” as it’s called by researchers.
Several researchers have attempted to replicate the original studies conducted by Cuddy and her colleagues, with mixed results.
But a 2017, a meta-analysis by Cuddy and others surveyed 55 studies about power poses and found “strong evidential value for postural-feedback (i.e., power-posing) effects and particularly robust evidential value for effects on emotional and affective states (e.g., mood and evaluations, attitudes, and feelings about the self).”
A later 2020 study by Emma Elkjær and colleagues comparing power posing to “contractive” postures (slouching, leaning inward, legs crossed) found that the most positive outcome actually came from the absence of contractive posing, rather than more “expansive” poses.
So while the evidence is perhaps not as strong as it was back when Amy Cuddy gave her 2012 TED talk, there’s still plenty to be gained by giving power posing a go before your next interview. Arrive a few minutes early and find a private spot – perhaps a corner of a car park or a bathroom stall – and get your power pose on for two minutes!
And don’t forget to check out Amy Cuddy’s full talk – it’s a captivating, sometimes moving talk and well worth a watch even if you’re loving your job at the moment::
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