The Key to Your Success May Be in a 1-Minute Exercise
If you are feeling particularly vulnerable at work due to a daunting presentation or an otherwise difficult task, you may want to follow the advice of Cuddy and colleagues (Carney, Cuddy, & Yap, 2010; Cuddy, 2012; Cuddy, Wilmuth, Yap, & Carney, 2015) and embrace what they call power posing. Power posing refers to maintaining a posture that connotes strength and power, with body language signifying openness and confidence.
To emulate a high power posture, stand with wide open limbs, leaning into a desk, palms flat, making your body expansive. In a seated version of a power posture, try kicking your feet up on top of a desk and leaning back in a chair, fingers laced behind your head.
Carney et al. (2010) found stark differences in bodily responses and monitored behaviors between groups who spent one minute posing in the high power postures described above and groups who spent one minute posing in low power postures. (Low power postures involve a shrinking and slouching of the body.) The high power posers had elevated testosterone levels, lower cortisol levels, and increased feelings of power. In a simple gambling experiment, those who had been primed by standing in a high power pose showed an increased willingness to take risks.
In a second experiment, Cuddy et al. (2015) utilized variations on high and low power poses and tied them into a mock job interview. In the high power pose condition, participants stood with their legs wide and hands on their hips. In the low power pose, participants stood with their arms wrapped around their torsos and their feet crossed. After standing in their assigned position for one minute, participants were instructed to stand in whatever posture they desired and give a five-minute speech on the reasons why they were superior candidates and should be hired for their dream job. These speeches were videotaped and later coded by researchers who were unaware of the participants’ previously assigned posture. Those who had stood in the high power poses prior to the interview performed remarkably better on the subsequent interview than those who had been primed standing in the low power poses.
In her TED Talk, Cuddy (2012) is careful to advise those going to a job interview not to walk into the room assuming a domineering pose. Instead, she suggests that interviewees take two minutes to themselves in private, such as in the bathroom, and stand in a power posture, priming themselves for the upcoming interview. Cuddy’s advice is particularly salient in light of subsequent analysis in the job interview condition. Researchers found no relationship between high power poses taken during the job interview and interview performance. Perhaps waiting to stand in a power pose during the stressful event is too late. Perhaps one needs to inoculate themselves from the imminent stress prior to being in the situation.
The next time you find yourself faced with a stressful task at work, consider taking a minute or two to duck into a private area and assume a high power pose, expanding your body and stimulating neuroendocrine and behavioral change. This extra exercise may influence your performance and give that added boost of success.
Cuddy, A. (2012). Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en
Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J. C., & Yap, A. J. (2010). Power posing: Brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological Science, 21, 1363–1368.
Cuddy, A. J. C., Wilmuth, C. A., Yap, A. J, & Carney, D. R. (2015). Preparatory power posing affects nonverbal presence and job interview performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(4), 1286-1295.
Image by Swissmiss Studios