We all pay attention to body language – whether someone turns their back on us, shakes our hand or looks down. But we pay less attention to our own body language and especially how it affects us.
Your own body language, according to Amy Cuddy, a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School, can ”significantly change how your life unfolds.”
Cuddy studies non-verbal expressions of power and dominance. It’s easy to see how a powerful animal shows his or her dominance: “In the animal kingdom, it is about expanding. You make yourself big. You stretch out. You take up space. You are basically opening up.” Cuddy said in a recent TED talk. “Humans do the same thing.”
Picture how a runner looks after being the first over the finish line – arms stretched out, head up. Even people blind since birth assume the same “power pose” when they win, Cuddy said. That tells us this body language isn’t something we see and learn – it’s innate.
At the other extreme, people who do not feel powerful take up less space. “When we feel powerless, we close up, we make ourselves small,” she said.
But Cuddy’s research goes a step further than observing this body language. She explored the impact of how our own body language and poses affect our brain. Through elaborate studies, Cuddy was able to determine that assuming power poses and body language associated with feeling powerful for just a few minutes actually changes our hormonal body chemistry in measurable ways.
After two minutes, Cuddy said, hormonal changes had occurred that either “configure your brain to be assertive and confident or to be really stress reactive and feeling sort of shut down.”
Cuddy concludes that “faking” the body language of a confident person isn’t really a matter of “faking it until you make it.” It’s more a case of “faking it until you become it. “ Cuddy concludes: “Do it enough and you actually become it and internalize it.”
Here’s her full TED talk: