If you were a hiring manager, which would you prefer? Would it be the candidate who shrinks back into his chair with arms folded looking like he’s timid or nervous, or the one who sits up straight and looks you confidently in the eye?
Although you may identify with the first example, it only takes a little practice until you become the second, according to Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School social psychologist, who has done research on the subject of power poses. You can go beyond the old saying “Fake it till you make it” to “Fake it till you become it” – and become the powerful, confident person who will get the job.
Look around and you will see examples of power poses, whether it’s the confident executive with hands on her hips – the so-called Wonder Woman pose – or the athlete who raises both hands above his head to celebrate victory after crossing the finish line.
Cuddy and research partner Dana Carney of UC Berkeley Haas School of Business did studies of students to measure their theory. In an experiment they had one random group of students do a two-minute hands-raised-above-the-head power pose and another group do a low-power pose, before asking members of both groups if they wanted to gamble on a game of chance, and the results were quite amazing.
Not only did the researchers discover that only 60 percent of the low-power pose group decided to gamble compared with 86 percent of the high-power pose group, but the hormone levels in each group changed in a direction that depended on which pose they had assumed. The high-powered posers saw their testosterone level go up and the cortisol level, which measures stress, go down, and the low-powered poses experienced the opposite.
In another similar experiment, Cuddy had students do power poses before participating in a stressful five-minute interview. The interviews were taped, and then coders who had no idea what had transpired – only that they were supposed to decide who should be hired – chose all of the candidates who had gone through the pre-interview exercise as power posers.
Her research proves what Cuddy believes – that nonverbal communication governs how other people think and feel about us. So if we act like we are powerful, then we will become powerful. There’s plenty of evidence that our minds can change our bodies, but Cuddy’s and Carney’s research shows that our bodies can change our minds. And two minutes of practicing a power pose can significantly change your life – and your job search.
Susan P. Joyce, chief writer and editor of job-hunt.org and chief blogger and editor of Work Coach Cafe, offers a variety of ways to use the power pose in a recent blog post. Beyond posing for two minutes in a power position before going to a face-to-face job interview, she recommends you assume the pose before a telephone interview, before a call to a recruiter, before you get a headshot taken for social media and even before parties and family gatherings.
You can always use a boost of self-confidence to tackle any social or work-related situation. And with a little bit of practice you will, as Cuddy says, fake it till you become it.
To learn more or see the power pose in action, check out:
Amy Cuddy’s TED talk at blog.ted.com/2012/10/01/10-examples-of-how-power-posing-can-work-to-boost-your-confidence
Susan Joyce’s blog article at http://www.workcoachcafe.com/2012/11/12/power-poses-boost-confidence
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