Confidence: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

I saw this video on TED TV a while back and thought it was just excellent advice.  Amy Cuddy talks about how your body language governs who you are and how you feel.  She discusses how “power posing,” standing in postures that convey confidence, can affect your testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain.  It might even impact your chances of success.

If you are new to TED TV, then you are missing out on a lot of great and free educational content.  The site contains a lot of videos on various topics, such as technology, entertainment, business, and science.  I have watched videos that discuss the benefits of meditation and what factors determine how happy we are to more esoteric topics, such as our capacity for evil and how easy it is for people to cross into that deep, dark place.

Confident postures are divided into two categories: Postures of high confidence and postures of low confidence.  Postures of high confidence include simple things such as standing upright, with your head parallel to the ground, and looking forward.  Low confidence postures include slouching and looking down at the ground communicates to those around you that you are passive, shy, and unsure of yourself.  Other power poses of high confidence include stretching your arms up into the air, as if you just passed the finish line of a marathon, taking first place, fist pumping in triumph, or sitting with your feet up on the desk and your fingers criss-crossed behind your head.

Cuddy had volunteers strike either high or low power poses for two minutes in a controlled setting, where participants had no prior knowledge of the experiment being conducted.  She also had the same volunteers spit into a vial before and after striking these high or low power poses in order to measure testosterone and cortisol levels.  Examples of high power poses include placing ones hands on the waist to make himself or herself look bigger and sitting in a chair taking up as much space as possible.  Low power poses are slouching, arms crossed in front of the chest, and the self-hug, generally any pose that makes a person look smaller rather than taking up space.  The results were astonishing.

In terms of testosterone:

High power people experience a 20% increase.
Low power people experience a 10% increase.

In terms of costisol:

High power people experience  a 25% decrease.
Low power experience a 15% increase.

Just two minutes of striking these poses led to these hormonal changes that reconfigure your brain, leading into assertiveness, comfortableness, which equates to confidence.

Or it leads you to being really stressed.

Confidence: Fist PumpingI am a big fan of the notion that the mind follows the body.  If you adopt a poor posture or any of the low confidence poses, then the mind will begin to experience thoughts of low confidence and self esteem.  Likewise, striking power poses eventually causes the person to feel more confident and self-assured.  Increases in testosterone of course cause men to be more energetic, passionate, competitive, and aggressive.  It makes them hate losing and want to win even more.  On the flip side, a person that has always lost will continue to lose.  With decreases in testosterone levels, the capacity for aggression, passion, competition, and energy drop correspondingly.  Strangely enough, with enough losses that person no longer knows how to win.

Have you ever been around someone that is just full of life, confidence, and zest?  When they speak, they sound passionate about the things they do.  They just sound happy.  I have only met one or two people like this and, I tell you, even though they are a rarity, they are a breath of fresh air.  You cannot help but have their zeal rub off onto you.  You start to wonder how you can feel and be that way.  Just being around them causes you to start feeling lively, confident, and enthusiastic.  It’s part of the reason why happy people want to surround themselves only with happy people.  Contrarily, being surrounded by sad, glum people has the same effect on you.  They feel low and want you to feel that way, too.  Mostly, it’s just by design rather than malice.  Misery loves company.  Nowadays, I try to stay away from such people and only surround myself with happy, energetic people.

Higher Confidence in a Job Interview

How do we apply this information to our everyday lives?  I have personally followed her advice and struck power poses five minutes prior to a phone screen for a job interview.  I would run around my house with my arms raised above my head, as if I just won the marathon, pump my fists into the air in triumph, or walk around with an exaggerated upright posture.  Doing all this definitely psyches me up and places me into a good mood.  When the interviewer calls, I notice myself conveying more excitement, passion, and ambition for the position at hand.  I struggled with my job search for quite a while before I finally figured out this critical component.

Confident Pose: Arms Raised Up High

During the interview itself, I try to become interested and passionate about the project, if it sounds like something I would enjoy working on.  I put on a smile as I speak.  Just smiling affects the mind.  Soon I find myself excited and fascinated.  When I catch myself in this place, I find myself smiling genuinely.  Your interviewer is absolutely able to detect that tone of excitement and enthusiasm in your voice.  Most employers are, first and foremost, looking for someone that is passionate and ambitious about the work they do over how much they actually know.  Passion makes up for lack of knowledge because it is motivating.

So, the next time you have a job interview, arrive early enough that you are able excuse yourself to use the restroom, where hopefully you can strike some of these power poses in private for at least two minutes.  You can do the same thing on dates, an important speech you are about to give, an innovative idea you want to bring up with your boss, a business deal with an important client, or a concert.

Fake it until you become it.

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