Behavioral Psychology and The Power Pose

pennyLEADERSHIP, Reduce Stress, STRESS MANAGEMENTLeave a Comment

man sitting in his office chair

How To Use The Power Pose

Human behavior is fascinating right? I think so too. About 10 years ago, I decided to immerse myself in understanding how and why we do what we do. My studies took me a little deeper into body language and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) which a form of behavioral psychology studying the way we think, communicate, and patterns of behavior. It was during this part of my journey that I came to learn about the impact of power poses.

man wearing corporate attire doing a power posePower poses are a way to make yourself appear and feel more powerful and more confident. Yes, with simple positioning of your body you can change how you feel and the way others perceive you. This can come in handy just about anywhere you can think of in life. It is an amazing resource for leaders and managers. I liken a power pose to an adult pacifier because it can shift our mood in a moment. The coolest thing about it is we have it with us all the time and can access it in a pinch.

Tony Robbins is one of my mentors and I worked as a coach for one of his organizations, Business Breakthroughs for many years. If you have ever attended a live Tony Robbins event, you understand that he teaches his participants how to use power poses and in practicing this throughout the event he gets the participants to feel a certain way throughout the event. He will tell you through the leadership training to “make your move” which meant to call upon that power pose. He is training you to use this powerful tool when you leave his event. Brilliant.

You might be thinking, this is too good to be true. If that were true everyone would be using power poses, right. Why wouldn’t you? You don’t because you (and I) forget to use your resources at times. For instance, when we are stressed, we lose get fuzzy from fight or flight mode responses. Ever stand up to do a presentation that you thought you knew pretty well but because of the stress you forgot to mention some of the key points. I can recall a few situations where this happened to me. You wonder who was at that meeting because it wasn’t you that prepared for the presentation. It isn’t enough just to know it. You need to practice it. I tell CEOs that I am teaching them how to improve the impact of their presentations to practice it. Practice not only the presentation but how you will get in the zone, access that power and confidence, shift your state of mind, access high energy before you start your presentation. Practice the power poses and power moves. My brother is very analytical and he says to me “This is all BS. Show me the evidence”. Well it does work and there is plenty of evidence and the poses even have names.

It’s All in the Science

There is scientific evidence that proves that power poses reduce stress and improve confidence.

Science tells us that doing any of the poses can lower cortisol which is the stress hormone. See how powerful this can be at work with the stress levels at an all-time high.

A study conducted by Amy Cuddy, who is a social psychologist, proved that sitting or standing in a power position for only two minutes, raised testosterone levels and lowered cortisol. These lowered levels of cortisol can increase one’s tolerance for risk. Instead of worrying about what risks come with a bad presentation, putting yourself in a power pose can change that and you won’t worry so much about the actual risk. So now that you know this, does it really improve your work performance? Thinking about confidence in general, good things tend to happen when you’re confident. Having the mindset that you can do it and will be successful usually leads to a better result.

The experiment conducted by Cuddy and two other colleagues showed that men and women who were put in power positions chose to roll the dice, literally, and it was found that the levels of testosterone in both genders was raised by nineteen percent. 86 percent chose to roll the dice compared to the 60 percent who were not subject to the power poses.

What are the Power Poses?

According to Cuddy, power poses are more open and expansive so it is fairly easy to distinguish power poses from regular posture or even someone who is shy and has low self-esteem. Your legs and arms are going away from your body whereas someone who is not as confident may have their arms and legs crossed or close to their body.
Amy Cuddy presented these findings during a TedTalk and gave examples of people doing power poses and what they looked sitting in his office chair Any Cuddy named her “CEO” pose after seeing a picture of Oprah being a total boss. The pose is leaning back in a chair with arms extended over the back. Another power sitting pose is sitting with hands behind your head and her feet on the desk. Present Obama is often seen in the expansive pose. Poses such as ‘The Wonder Woman’, “Pride” and ‘The Loomer’ are some of the most popular ones.

The “Wonder Woman” can be described as setting your feet apart, putting your hand on your hips, and tilting your chin upward. This pose is meant to make you feel powerful in general. Guys, Superman uses it to so feel free to use this pose to step into your power. It really works. I use this in workshops to show people the power our physiology has on our minds. We can change the way we feel in a moment with this pose. Go on, stand up and do it now and you will see.

“Pride” is an instinctive reaction; even people born blind naturally raise their arms up in the air in a V-shape and raise their chin when they are in celebration just like you see an Olympic champion as they cross the finish line. I often use this before I go on stage and run up the aisle with my hands raised it the air to boost my energy as I start.

“The Loomer” is simply standing up and leaning forward, placing your hands on the table or desk. The pose is typically used when trying to land a major deal or to show off dominance in a meeting.

Let’s look at the times you might need to access a power pose.

Before any of the following events or activities will help you be at your best:

  • An interview
  • A difficult discussion at work or at home
  • Performance review
  • Your first day at work, school. or anywhere for that matter
  • Presentation
  • Sales meeting
  • Team meeting
  • Management training programs
  • Anything you are procrastinating on
  • Walking in the door after a long day

I am sure you can think of some others too.

The power is this, we can immediately change our body chemistry and as a result, change the way we will experience any event. Think about it. If you are feeling insecure, timid, and doubting you will experience an interview in a very different way than if you go in feeling confident, powerful, and bold. Your results will also be dramatically different. Wouldn’t you want to choose your experience? Now you can.

So the next time you’re feeling low on confidence, your procrastinating, you need a boost in time management, want to enhance your leadership presence in a meeting, or even want to reduce stress bring out a power pose and in as little as two minutes you’ll be ready to tackle the rest of your day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.