12-12-2014 by 

It’s a given that body language influences how we are perceived by others and how we perceive other people. This not-so-subtle form of nonverbal communication is so powerful that it influences employment, high-powered business negotiations, wealth, politics and social standing.

Most of us are keen observers of body language, even when we aren’t consciously aware of it. Based on a quick scan, we make judgments about power, attitude, strength and self-confidence. We decide in moments if a person is friendly and approachable or cold and remote.

Open vs. Closed Body Positions

In simple terms, open positions that take up space indicate power and confidence, while closed positions suggest just the opposite. For example, a stance with hands on hips or arms extended versus shoulders hunched, arms crossed or chin down.

This non-verbal form of communication isn’t limited to the realm of human beings. In the animal world, powerful alpha creatures assert their authority by making themselves look larger, while animals lower on the hierarchy of power display a closed appearance that makes them appear smaller. Even birds fluff up their feathers to look larger and more dominant.

Power Posing

Amy J. Cuddy, a social scientist at Harvard Business School, has studied body language extensively. Her research indicates that not only does the mind change the body, but the body can change the mind. According to Cuddy, even two minutes in a “power pose” brings about significant changes in how we feel about ourselves. [1]

Even more surprising, this small tweak in nonverbal communication influences us on a physiological, hormonal level. Saliva tests of students who dedicated two minutes to power posing resulted in increases in testosterone, a hormone associated with dominance and power; and reductions in cortisol, a hormone associated with high levels of stress. The opposite was true for students who assumed a closed, submissive position; saliva tests revealed a reduction in testosterone and a marked increase in cortisol. [1]

'Fake it Until You Become It'

Dr. Cuddy acknowledges that this is a “fake it until you make it” deal for people who say power posing makes them feel like imposters; and moreover, it’s normal and perfectly okay to feel that initial sense of not belonging. She encourages people to, “Fake it until you become it.” If you pretend to feel more confident, you will feel more confident. If you act optimistic, you become optimistic. It gets easier with practice and soon feels perfectly natural. [1]

Give it a try and see what happens. No audience is required for practicing, and you may find that two minutes spent power posing in the elevator or the bathroom is enough to make powerful changes in your self-perception.

Mood Keywords: body-image, self-esteem, self-image, faults
1. Cuddy, A. Ted Talks. “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are
2. The Wall Street Journal. “How ‘Power Poses’ Can Help Your Career. http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323608504579022942032641408
3. Hochman, D. The New York Times. “Amy Cuddy Takes a Stand.” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/21/fashion/amy-cuddy-takes-a-stand-TED-talk.html?_r=0
Image Credit: Maridav © 123RF.com (used under license) 
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