There is a long history of researchers discussing the mind-body connection. Body posture "speaks" and is part of the non-verbal way people communicate with each other. In the workplace, this means that you are constantly communicating, whether you are talking or not. For example, eyes cast down or shoulders slumped are usually associated with lower confidence or even sadness. It is important to understand that our body language speaks to others but our body language also communicates with us internally.

Amy Cuddy, a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School studied the question of how does our body language affect us? She gave a great TED talk on the topic. She coined the termed "power posing" to study how a certain body posture might actually help increase confidence.

This pose consists of standing tall with the arms raised into a V-Shape above the head with a slight turn up of the chin and eyes looking up to the sky. It has been determined that this is the universal body posture of victory. "Our bodies change our mind, and our minds can change our behavior, and our behavior can change our outcomes." This concept can be very valuable in the workplace from the perspective of outcome-based performance. When we need to give a strong presentation or be interviewed, it might be helpful to be mindful of our posture prior to the event and consciously choose to do some power posing as a way to boost our hormones and help our minds change our behavior. Every person wants to go into these situations with confidence and power posing is a means to increase the chance of this.

This is where the simple practice of power posing can change the game.

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Power Posing: What is the Science Behind this Posture?

Body language is a form of non-verbal communication both to others and to our own body.  For example, when a person gives a presentation their non-verbal body language will set the stage before they speak and there is a steady stream of information being shared through body postures and actions.  Co-workers size up one another and look for subtle non-verbal cues that say things like "I am confident" or "I am nervous".

Professor Cuddy has studied the effect that Power Posing has on hormones in the body.  Powerful people tend to  respond to stress, while less powerful people react to stress with more stress.  This can be measured through two hormones in the body: Testosterone and Cortisol. Testosterone is a regulator of physical energy and the ability to think clearly. Cortisol is released in response to stress and it helps generate new energy from stored reserves.

Here is how this works:

Powerful people have elevated levels of testosterone and lower levels of Cortisol. Less powerful people have elevated testosterone and higher levels of Cortisol. Thus, a person who responds to stress have elevated levels of testosterone and lower levels of Cortisol.  Practicing power posing once a day is a simple way to set yourself up for success in the work place.

Imagine this situation:

Today is the day for your big presentation at work and you have been preparing for a few weeks.  You get in your car and head off to work and remark at how sunny and nice the morning feels.  You come to a stop at a traffic light and suddenly, boom, you are rear-ended by a distracted driver.  The damage is minimal, but you are shaken up and frustrated.  In your mind you are thinking, "Why did this happen today of all days?  I have my big presentation in an hour!" You finally make it to work and you have about 30 minutes gather your senses before your big presentation.  This is where Power Posing can have a large impact on the quality of your presentation.  You are faced with TWO choices:

Choice A - Do nothing but hope...

You arrive at your desk and quickly open your laptop and turn it on to pull up the power point presentation and your mind is moving one hundred miles per hour-bouncing all over the place thinking about the accident. Five minutes until you have to present and you just decide to HOPE it goes well. Hope is not a plan.

Choice B - Change your body and mind with Power Posing...

You arrive at your desk and quickly open your laptop and turn it on to pull up the power point presentation and your mind is moving at one hundred miles per hour-bouncing all over the place thinking about the accident. You recognize your racing mind and stop yourself to do a 2 minute power pose.  You raise your hands above your head, slightly look upwards and begin to take some deep breaths. You feel your heart rate slow down and then your mind begins to calm.  You even decide that you are going to think positive thoughts, "I am ready for this presentation, I am calm and present, I can do this." You feel focused and ready, all in just 2 minutes. 

Workplace Power Posing

Prior to a presentation or an interview, stand and breathe for 2 minutes in a power pose as a way to improve your performance.  You can fake it before you make it, meaning your non-verbal body posture can assist you to feel more powerful.

Power posing can also be utilized:

  • Before a test
  • Before a job interview
  • Before a public speaking event
  • Before an investor pitch