It could be said that some are born powerful, some achieve power, and others should just pose as if they’re powerful, and power will be thrust upon them. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy is attracting much attention for her fascinating study in to poses and gestures that can turn a shy and retiring wall flower into the lion king or queen of the pack. The baseline assumption is that people who are powerful have certain conscious or unconscious poses that mark them as powerful. These poses are not merely external, but in fact they are associated with the person’s internal chemical balance of testosterone and cortisol. Powerful posing people stand tall, extend their arms, perhaps even kick their feet up on a desk. In short, they’re making themselves bigger. These poses, so to speak have a corresponding higher surge of testosterone, the power hormone. On the other hand, the less powerful people work at making themselves smaller. They fold themselves in. Their arms are folded toward their bodies. Legs are probably folded under. This type of pose is associated with a higher level of cortisol, which is the stress hormone. It indicates a lack of power and confidence.
Space-filling model of the cortisol molecule, a steroid hormone that controls the body's response to stress. Colour code (click to show) : Black: Carbon, C : White: Hydrogen, H : Red: Oxygen, O (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
But fear not, ye of little power and confidence. Amy Cuddy’s research seems to indicate that regardless of whether you feel powerful or not, posing as such correlates with a rise in the power hormone and a lowering of cortisol. In other words you don’t have to feel powerful, you just have to act powerful. In short, fake it and you will make it. Before a big meeting or a job interview, stand tall, extend your arms, hold your head high and make yourself big – at least in your head. In a short time, you too will feel and behave in a more self confident manner, winning contracts, jobs and friends. Still, you should probably refrain from putting your feet on the desk, unless you’re behind the desk.