Power Poses: Making the Most of Your Physical Presence

By Sarah Stukan

This semester, I am enrolled in an undergraduate business administration course at Berkeley-Haas taught by Professor Bill Fanning that is titled “Consumer Behavior.” The class covers an expansive range of topics ranging from learning, memory, and decision making to personality, attitudes, and culture. Recently, we discussed the importance of projecting warmth and competence in high stakes settings to attain success.

So, how can we develop these qualities for our next job interview or project presentation?

One strategy (as you have probably gathered from the title) is power posing!

An expert that is often referenced for knowledge on this topic is social psychologist Amy Cuddy. She has an extensive TED talk about the in’s and out’s of power posing and the science behind them: 

 
 

Here’s my list of takeaways from Amy’s speech and other studies on the topic:

  • High power postures are expansive, tall, and stretched out whereas in powerless postures an individual makes themself closed up, wrapped up, and small.

  • Our hormone profile actually changes when we adopt a high power pose: we experience boosted testosterone and lower cortisol levels.

  • Tiny changes people make can lead to a dramatic outcomes: individuals in studies who posed for just two minutes were more likely to enact a trait associated with dominant individuals and reported feeling more powerful.

  • A natural mechanism called “mirroring” ensures that people who observe an empowered individual are more likely to reciprocate that feeling and initiate a social interaction.

  • In total, standing in a posture of confidence — even when we don't feel confident — can boost feelings of confidence and might have an impact on our chances for success.

Take a look at this essential list of power poses and be sure to try one out before your next high pressured circumstance. (My personal favorite is the “Wonder Woman.”) You might find that using a bit of your preparation time to strike an unusual posture may make all the difference in the outcome!

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