Non-verbal cues are an integral factor in effective communication. For example, when we coach presenters, we recommend they begin by standing perfectly still. Not only do speakers look more professional and in control, but the pause helps to calm them and get their bearings at the outset. We also coach clients to be sure to make eye contact with individual audience members to foster a stronger connection.
Not only does body language strengthen or weaken connections with others, it can also have profound effects on our own state of mind! While discussions about body language typically focus on deciphering positive versus negative signals from others, we have yet to really delve into how it affects the person employing it.
Let’s look at a popular TED Talk by Harvard professor Amy Cuddy as she expands on how body language not only conveys power to others, it makes those understanding and using it feel more powerful:
Cuddy’s research reveals that people who practice “power poses” increase their testosterone levels and lower their cortisol levels. (Testosterone is often linked with aggression, while cortisol is linked with stress.) Therefore, people high in testosterone and low in cortisol are typically more confident than those lower in testosterone and higher in cortisol. By practicing power poses, they feel and show up with more confidence, and the people who interact with them respond more favorably. Those with more confidence are also more likely to take risks.
So what are these power poses? Simply speaking, as we saw in the clip, they’re more expansive and take up more space. It’s akin to the act of marking your territory.
“How ‘Power Poses’ Can Help Your Career” from The Wall Street Journal describes how a female executive, who had previously stepped away from listeners during presentations or conversations, began standing up to speak at meetings. At 5’1”, she was rather small compared to her male colleagues, but her bold move got them to pay attention to her in a way they hadn’t before. See if you can identify some power poses in this game.
Have you ever noticed the reactions you get from altering your body language? The smallest things can make a huge difference. We know of a woman who learned that she missed out on a job simply because she didn’t offer enough eye contact during a training session.
Remember. if you learn to have confidence in yourself, or at least fake it until it naturally develops , you may be amazed at the responses you get!