Everybody speaks with their body – whether they are aware of it or not. In fact, body language makes up the majority of our message when we communicate; some experts estimate up to 90% of information received during a conversation comes from the nonverbal.
The message we send with our body shapes how others perceive us – that much is clear. More interestingly, though: If our posture affects what others think of us, can it affect how we view and think of ourselves?
Humans and animals alike display their power through body language – when we are proud and confident we will stand tall, holding up high our head and chest. When we are hunched over and crossing our arms over our chest we may feel insecure or uncomfortable. These are universal signals across cultures. Clearly, our mental state influences our posture. Can our posture influence our mental state?
A Harvard study examined the effect of low-power and high-power poses on others as well as on ourselves. Individuals were asked to adopt a specific pose for two minutes, and were then given the choice to gamble. Those who used high-power poses were found to have an 8% increase in testosterone levels, whereas the low-power group had a 10% decrease. Inversely, the high-power group saw cortisol levels decrease by 25%, while the low-power posers’ levels increased by 15%. The people who used high-power poses were also more willing to take the risk of gambling, at 86% compared to 60% of the other group. These findings support the notion that our body language indeed has a massive impact on how we think and feel about ourselves.
After these findings, the scientists at Harvard wanted to know how power poses can affect a high-stress social interaction, like a job interview. Subjects were instructed to do either a high or low-power pose for two minutes before going into an interview. Later, another group who had no knowledge of the experiment examined the recorded interviews without audio. They were then asked who, based on their body language, they would hire, and indeed, the people who were selected more often to be hired were those who had used the high-power poses. Below is a diagram appropriately titled “Fake it ‘til You Become it”, showing both high and low-power poses and their effect on us.
So, next time you want to feel more confident because you are interviewing for a job, negotiating a sale, or presenting to a client, use a power pose for 2 minutes. ‘Fake it til you become it’ is not just an old saying in sales, but a very real tool to use.