When I ran classes in assertiveness and communication skills I used an exercise in body language. One person stood before the class and silently repeated a negative statement about herself to herself. At a point of her own choosing, she switched to a positive statement, again silently. The group’s task was to point out when the switch occurred. It rarely took more than a few seconds for the change in self-talk to show up in her stance and for the group to spot the transition.
Now, research shows that the reverse is also true–changing the way you stand can affect, not only your self-talk, but your levels of confidence and of stress.
Amy Cuddy, Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, conducted an study of a limited number of body postures–ones that indicated power (erect stance, facing forward, hands on hips, for example) and powerlessness (slumped shoulders, looking down, touching neck, for example). Participants held the poses for two minutes. Their testosterone and cortisol levels were measured before and after the posing sessions. Testosterone promotes confidence, cortisol causes feelings of stress.
Just two minutes of posing had the following results:
- High Power Poses: 20% increase in Testosterone and a 25% decrease in Cortisol
- Low Power Poses: 10% decrease in Testosterone and a 15% increase in Cortisol
People who assumed a powerful body posture felt more confident and less stressed. People who assumed a powerless body posture felt less confident and more stressed.
Cuddy passionately argues that you can “fake it until you become it.” In other words, practice body posture changes until those changes become who you are.