Strike a Power Pose

power pose 2

Everyone has their own pre-interview routine. You research the company, brainstorm questions, and prepare yourself to “wow” your potential employer. But here is one thing you have to add to the list: Power Posing

Power Posing?

Power Posing, though it may sound (and feel) ridiculous, is one of the most effective ways to psych yourself up for an interview. I discovered Power Posing when I found my sister standing with her arms raised above her head, holding a pencil between her teeth to prepare for her interview for a PHD program. At that moment, it hit me: the pressure had gotten to her. She had finally lost her mind.

But, I was wrong. After some convincing, she assured me that she was prepping for her interview using a method that is scientifically proven to be successful. Power Posing is a strategy that Harvard Business School Professor and Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy came up with based on her research on the correlation between power dominance and body language.

The Question

Cuddy was fascinated by how much a person’s body language affects the way we think of people, and how our own body language conveys how we think of ourselves. She was specifically interested in how we use body language to assert dominance. In her research Cuddy found that more powerful people take up more space and are physically more expressive, while less powerful people avoid drawing attention to themselves and use more passive body language. Think: fist pumping after scoring a goal, versus putting your hand over your face to make yourself smaller when you’re embarrassed.

Cuddy ultimately found that our body language could affect our hormone levels, and therefore dictate our emotions as well as our perception of ourselves. So she began to wonder; if we forced ourselves to change our body language, and if we acted and appeared to be dominant and confident – would that actually lead us to embody those qualities? She asks the question, “We know that non-verbals govern how people think of us and how we think of ourselves. And we know that we use our minds to change our bodies, but can our bodies change our minds?

The Science

Now, this sounds fantastic in theory, but I am never really sold on something until I get my hands on some evidence. Luckily, Cuddy has that too.

To back her theory, Cuddy conducted an experiment where she studied the influence that people’s body language had on their hormone levels and behavior. Essentially, people who have high levels of testosterone (a hormone that increases your feelings of dominance) are perceived to be more powerful, while people who have high levels of cortisol (a hormone that increases your feelings of stress and anxiety) are perceived to be weak.

For her experiment, Cuddy had participants spit into a vile to measure their baseline hormone levels. She then had all participants assume either high or low Power Poses, measured their hormone levels again, and proceeded to have them gamble.

Assuming a high Power Pose involves standing or sitting in a way that asserts physical dominance and most importantly – takes up space. Commonly used Power Poses consist of standing with your arms above your head, or on your waist. Also, to take your high Power Pose to the next level, you can hold a pen between your teeth, because forcing yourself to smile will actually make you feel happier. Low Power Poses aim to take up less physical space and consist of sitting with your legs and hands crossed, or using your hands to cover your neck.

Cuddy found significant differences between the high and low Power Pose groups in both hormone levels and subsequent behavior patterns.

When she measured the participants testosterone levels:

People in high Power Poses experienced a 20% increase from their baseline hormone levels

People in low Power Poses experienced a 10% decrease from their baseline hormone levels

When she measured their cortisol levels:

People in high Power Poses had a 25% decrease from their baseline hormone levels

People in low Power Poses experienced a 15% increase from their baseline hormone levels

When they gambled:

86% of the people in high Power Poses were confident enough to gamble

While only 60% of the people in low Power Poses gambled


How it helps in business

After considering this research, Cuddy wanted to conduct an experiment that showed how a person’s physical behavior could not only alter his/her hormone levels, but also have a tremendous impact on real life scenarios. Cuddy had participants assume high and low Power Poses and then go into a job interview with a committee who had no knowledge of the experiment. And, surprise: the committee unanimously chose to hire the people in the High Power Pose group following the interview.

Cuddy’s main objective in encouraging people to Power Pose is to have them increase their levels of testosterone, thus making them appear and feel more confident. Once you become aware of your body language, you can try to make simple adjustments. Cuddy suggests making tiny tweaks in addition to Power Posing for two minutes before your next interview, presentation, or any evaluative situation. This is a tremendous strategy to use to quell your nerves and reinforce self-assurance.

If you have 20 minutes to spare, I would highly recommend watching Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk “Our Body Language Shapes Who We Are,” where she goes in depth about her research, as well as her personal experiences. It is not only informative, but it is incredibly inspiring (bring tissues, it’s that good).

And, for the record: with a lot of hard work, and a lot of Power Posing, my sister nailed her interview and was accepted to the PHD program. What more evidence do you need?