Amy Cuddy — Your body language shapes who you are


By Emma Serlin
July 9, 2019

Is it possible to turn your nerves into swagger in just two minutes?

In one of the most popular Ted Talk’s of all time, Amy Cuddy explores the science of body language and how our physical stance can effect not just how others see us, but how we feel about ourselves. It’s a talk which puts science behind an idea that we at London Speech Workshop use often in our work – the significant impact of working from the outside in to change how you feel.

Her journey starts at Harvard. Whilst some people came in to class with a big, open, and powerful stance, others came in with a small stance, crouched over and seemingly apologising for occupying any space at all. These opposing powerful and power-less stances were mirrored in the levels of participation by each group—how much they joined in discussion and brought their personality to the table. Since half their grade was based on participation levels, she became determined to examine it further.

She explains that we know that our body language effects how people perceive us, but she was interested in exploring two specific questions:

  1. Can it effect how we feel about ourselves?
  2. Can we be influenced by our own non-verbal cues?

Amy’s findings were of sufficient interest to shake up the scientific community, and the world beyond. She found that you could take any individual, and if they were to hold a power position for two minutes, say arms outstretched and legs wide then that individual would not only feel more confident, but their bodies would show a chemical reaction supporting that confidence. They measured two specific hormones—cortisol and testosterone. They found that after a mere two minutes of holding a power position, the testosterone hormone would have gone up (typically associated with male dominance and status), and the cortisol hormone (typically associated with stress) had gone down.

Furthermore, they found these power gestures, again two minutes in a bathroom arms akimbo, would influence others in an interview situation. In mock interviews, evaluators without exception said they would hire those who had taken on a powerful position for two minutes prior to the interview.

So how can this help you? Well, first step is to try it. Next time you have an interview, or a daunting situation, try striking an unashamed powerful pose (in a quiet space where you cannot be seen) and holding it for a couple of minutes. You will likely find that you feel different, a shift has occurred. By striking this pose you have sent signals to your nervous system that you are confident and relaxed, which in turns shifts your hormones accordingly, and starts to make you FEEL different. Its like when you fake smile and it sends endorphins into your brain. This is what at London Speech Workshop we call working from the outside in.

Watch the TED talk here to find out how we can use our bodies to feel better, more confident, and ace that interview. A pretty good 2 minute life-hack.

Source: TED Global 2012 Amy Cuddy : Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, June 2012

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