Did you ever ask yourself whether you might be personally responsible for a lack of confidence, charisma, authority, leadership or warmth?
What if these wonderful qualities that the greatest among us have in spades…
…are not “gifts”, but are in fact “tools” that anyone can acquire?
What if it is possible to access these parts of your personality, even if they’ve been disused for years?
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest just this – that we have a much greater influence over our moods and personality than you may have thought.
A superb TED Talk by Amy Cuddy explains how this can be the case:
Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are
Picture for a moment how valuable this knowledge actually is.
Instead of feeling nervous before an interview or meeting, you can hack your mind using conscious body language, to not just look more confident and magnetic, but to actually feel it, too.
For me, it’s also relieving to find out that by following these techniques to increase confidence don’t involve being inauthentic.
It turns out that some really small tweaks in your behaviors could make a big difference to how your life turns out.
You may have read elsewhere that the act of smiling, in addition to being a result of happiness or pleasure, can also increase your happiness.
Your choice of poses has a similar effect – you can choose “high-power” or “low-power” posture, and your choice really can determine how you will feel.
It seems that changing your body language can change your mind, so choosing a high-power pose will increase testosterone, the dominance hormone, while decreasing cortisol, the stress hormone.
In exactly the same way, your choice of a low-power pose will reduce testosterone, and increase production of cortisol.
It stands to reason we react well to people who have some degree of power, but lower levels of re-activeness to stress. In earlier days of our evolution, as now, people with power can help us, which is attractive to us, but we don’t want them to fold, or act erratically under stress. Imagine a US President who doesn’t perform well under stress!
An experiment was conducted, to see how strong was the change in hormone levels in people adopting either a high-power or low-power pose for just two minutes.
High-power people had on average a 20% increase in testosterone, and a 25% decrease in cortisol.
Low-power people experienced a 10% decrease in testosterone, and a 15% increase in cortisol.
The participants were also given an opportunity to gamble, after their poses.
86% of the participants who have adopted the high-power poses were willing to gamble, compared to 60% of the low-power participants – a whopping difference of 26%.
The most obvious application of this knowledge is in the period before a job interview.
Cuddy points out that the most likely pose we strike while waiting for an interview is pretty much exactly a low-power one. We are likely to hunch-up, and take up as little space as possible.
Yet. if two minutes of adopting a low-power pose increases stress and reduces confidence, this is the worst thing you can do before an interview.
In fact, Cuddy then took the experiment one stage further, and staged interviews where participants were asked to imagine that they were about to interview for their dream job and then to prepare and perform a five-minute speech detailing their strengths, qualifications, and why they should be chosen for the job to two experienced evaluators. In this instance, they had a total of seven minutes adopting either high or low-power poses.
The methodology of the experiment is rather long-winded to describe, but you can access it here.
The conclusion of the experiment was interesting, in that now only were the high-power participants more confident, enthusiastic and captivating, and more “hire-able”, but also, their speeches were better-structured, more straightforward, and they succeeded better at explaining their qualifications.
In other words, rather than being “fake”, what they actually achieved was to present themselves better.
I’m not going to suggest that body language is the be-all-and-end-all.
It’s a two-way street, and your mind controls your body, as well as vice versa.
You’ll may even be wondering why if this is so effective, then why have method actors like Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep worked so hard to get themselves “into character”?
And I’d suggest that they do this because once they’ve become the character they are playing, the body language, the breathing, the tone of voice, the facial expressions, almost take care of themselves, and they don’t have to worry about giveaways like micro-expressions.
Because there is no way they that you can consciously modify all aspects of your non-verbal communication, there’s simply too much to be able to control it all.
Nonetheless, what strikes me as particularly valuable in this study is that this is stuff that anyone can use.
Regardless of income or situation, anyone who wants to try this now has a simple, free, two-minute short-cut that will improve confidence and presence, while reducing stress.