Social psychologist Amy Cuddy made her mark at the TED TALKS when she delivered an impassioned speech on how body language affects who we are and how our lives unfold. It isn’t just about how others respond to our body language, it’s how body language affects our hormonal levels, brain function, presence in life, and overall success.
Body language power poses are reflected both in the animal kingdom and in humans. When animals and people feel powerful their body language is expansive, open and upright. When both species exhibit weakness they make their bodies small: cower, close off, and hide their body. For instance, when a cobra is in protection mode it rears up, flares its hood and hisses. When an ape wants to exhibit dominance it stands up, throws its shoulders back, and maybe even beats its chest (yes, think King Kong). A submissive ape will cower and cover their head. Other submissive animals might lay on their back and expose their stomachs to their dominant rival.
When an athlete is successful they will universally expand themselves, open their arms, stand upright, smile. When a leader gives an effective speech she is upright, commanding, direct. People who embody powerful body language feel more powerful, think more optimistically, and are willing to take risks. People who habitually demonstrate submissive or weak body language reflect weak views of themselves and their ability to achieve in life.
Further, we tend to compliment each other. If one person is demonstrating expansive body language, the person they are talking to will tend to reflect a smaller, more submissive one - and vice versa.
Cuddy states that even our biochemical makeup changes with body language. People who habitaully stand in powerful body language have higher testosterone levels (the “power” hormone) and lower cortisol levels (the “fear” based hormone). When we cower our cortisol levels spike up and our testosterone levels lower.
Cuddy goes on to say we can “fake it till we become it”, meaning, if you are habitually holding yourself in submissive body language, you can force yourself to stand in power positions before stressful situations such as job interviews or speeches. These small “tweaks” on your body can help your testosterone levels rise, your cortisol levels drop, your brain change, your presence in a room enlarge, and your performance dramatically improve. Stand up, don’t be afraid to fake it till you become the powerful person you are meant to be. We need you to be the power house you are, and give others the permission to be the power house they are
Click in the picture below to see Amy Cuddy give her TED TALK: