There is fascinating new research on how our body language actually shapes who we are. We’ve known for a long time that our body language shapes how others see us, but this research shows how our own body language shapes who we are down to the chemical levels in our own brain.
For example, if you sit or stand in a certain way, you will have more confidence and be able to better handle stress.
The research was done by Amy Cuddy who is a social psychologist at the Harvard Business School. As part of her research, she conducted an experiment where she asked people to assume a high-power pose or a low-power pose for two minutes. She then tested their willingness to take risks and evaluated their body chemistry.
Some of the poses are pictured below. Notice how the high-power poses stretch the body out (much like animals gearing up for a fight), and the low-power poses make the body smaller.
The results were incredible. After just two minutes of holding these poses, here’s what she found:
– the high-power posers’ willingness to take risks soared while it shrank with the low-power posers
– the testosterone levels of the high-power posers rose 20% while it fell 10% with the low-power posers – when our testosterone levels are high, we’re more likely to seek out new challenges
– the cortisol levels of the high-power posers fell sharply while it rose in the low-power posers – when our cortisol levels are low, we can better handle stressful situations
It’s easy to see how this would be a benefit to us. Holding ourselves in a more confident way (i.e. a power pose) will actually help us take on new challenges and handle stressful situations better.
Cuddy then went on to test more specifically how holding a high-power pose for a few minutes could change our lives in a meaningful way.
She conducted another experiment where she again asked people to assume a high-power pose or a low-power pose for two minutes. This time, however, they followed it up with an intense mock job interview.
The non-partial judges, unaware of the specifics of the experiment, overwhelmingly wanted to hire the individuals who had just posed in a high-power pose before the interview. The judges actually said it wasn’t so much what these people said in the interviews, but it more about their “presence.”
This is significant if you think about how people usually wait to be called in for an interview. It’s often in a very closed, low-power position like the individuals pictured below.
Now, you probably don’t want to be putting your feet up on the table waiting for your interview, but you could stand, sit up straight, or even go to the bathroom and secretly pretend you’re superman as Cuddy suggests!
In her research, Cuddy concluded:
“Our bodies shape our minds, our minds shape our behavior, our behavior changes our outcomes.”
Our body language not only shapes how others see us, but it actually shapes who we are down to the chemical levels in our own brain.
What do you think? Will you stand like superman before your next big meeting, pitch, or job interview? According to the research, it will make a big difference.
If you’re interested in this topic, I highly recommend watching Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on the topic.