What do Superman, Beyoncé, Obama and Mick Jagger all have in common?
High levels of testosterone…but we’ll get onto that bit later.
Human behaviours and emotions are firmly tied. People often express how they’re feeling – often without realising – through the way they are standing, holding their hands and even by their posture.
Do you get nervous before a meeting or a public presentation? Does your posture begin to slouch and you hop from one foot to the other…or is that just me?
How about in this moment as you’re reading this? Pay attention to what you’re doing right now. Are you sitting there slouched? Closed body? Or spread out? This could say a lot about how you’re feeling.
If you think about it, the most powerful leaders (like above) don’t just think a certain way; they carry themselves a certain way. And you can do the same. Don’t pretend you haven’t tried to dance imitate Beyoncé.
Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy says that nonverbal language or behaviour is a language and causes us to think about communication.
“When we think about communication, we think about interaction. So what is your body language communicating to me?” she asks.
“We make sweeping judgements and inferences, and those judgements can predict meaningful life outcomes like who we hire or promote, or even ask out on a date.”
Cuddy studies body language and the impact it has on your hormones, and found that powerful leaders tend to have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol.
Higher levels of testosterone (in both sexes) often lead to increased feelings of confidence. Meanwhile, lower levels of cortisol are said to lead to decreased anxiety. Your levels of each hormone can change rapidly depending on the social, physical, and environmental cues that surround you.
In her TED talk, Cuddy gave a great presentation about how certain ‘power poses’ don’t just change how others perceive you. They immediately change your body chemistry.
Opening up your body and filling more space – known as a ‘power pose’ – has been shown to have a range of confidence-boosting effects. Recent studies show that physiological changes are linked to better performance and more confident and assertive behaviour.
You can see it all across the animal kingdom, from peacocks to gorillas, to eagles with their puffed chests of pride – whether it’s a feeling of power chronically or a feeling of power in the moment.
Some good advice they gave was to practice. Merely practicing for a few minutes can lead to more positive thoughts.
Have a go. Try standing tall and leaning slightly forward with your hands at your side, or leaning forward over a desk with your hands planted firmly on the surface.
So, the next time you’re faced with an interview or public presentation, or even a date, rather than pace nervously, try spending a few minutes beforehand standing or sitting in a power pose. Think Wonder Woman.
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