Usain Bolt bolts across the finish line and immediately raises his arms in victory.
A high school grad receives a letter of acceptance to the first pick on her college list and instinctively punches a fist into the air and yells “Yes!”
Wonder Woman stands in her Wonder Woman pose.
Amy Cuddy, Social Psychologist from Harvard and TED Talk speaker, says that when people feel proud or powerful or victorious they tend to expand their bodies. It got her to thinking that if expanding our bodies when we feel that way is a natural reaction then maybe posing in that way could affect the way we feel and behave.
That’s the idea behind what is called the “Behavioral Approach System.” Cuddy tested the idea in one of the places many people feel powerless and unsure of themselves: the job interview.
A test was set up where one group spent some time in power poses (like sitting up straight, standing tall with arms out) before their interview and another group spent time in non-power poses (like slumping over, looking at the floor).
Each group endured an interview where the one conducting the interview gave absolutely no feedback verbal or non-verbal. She calls this “social quicksand.” If you’ve ever experienced it, you know what she means.
You can guess what happened. The ones who had spent time before their interview in power poses were the ones who would have been hired for the job. It gave Cuddy the idea that at times we need to “fake it till we make it.” Sure, you will still have to come through with the skill or ability or whatever is needed in the situation. But you have to show up in a way that others will respond to in order to get that opportunity.
She calls this “presence” (also the title of her book you can find here). The difference in the two groups in the test was that their “presence” was different. The more employable interviewees were more confident, passionate, enthusiastic, captivating, comfortable, and authentic.
Cuddy teaches that:
Our bodies can change our minds…
…and our minds change our behaviors…
…and behavior changes our outcomes.
If you’ve ever been down and decided you would smile your way into a better day, you understand what she is saying. If you’ve ever felt a lack of confidence entering into a conversation or meeting but before you engaged you stood up straight and lifted your head and then went in with a different attitude, you understand what she is saying.
So what can you do?
- Before you enter a situation where you need to feel confident or powerful expand. Stretch your arms out in your best Usain Bolt imitation. Stand up straight. Pump your fists in the air.
- You may want to do this in a place where no one can see you.
- Spend about two minutes doing this.
Cuddy believes that you can do even better than “fake it till you make it.” She says to go a step further: “Fake it till you become it.”
Try it the next chance you get. You can pose your way into better outcomes. And your world before you might expand as you do.
Question: Think of an upcoming situation where your “presence” needs to be confident. What will you do to “fake it till you become it”?