What does wonder woman, chimpanzees and Usain Bolt all in have in common?
They strike power poses.
Chances are you may know someone who strikes such poses (legs and arms spread out, hands on hips or behind one’s head, chest puffed up, etc). These people typically exude power and dominance.
But the good news is you don’t need to have super powers or high status to experience power and confidence.
In fact, new research findings suggest that holding these power postures can generate feelings of power, even in the most meek and mild of us.
Academics from Columbia and Harvard Universities conducted an experiment in which participants had to strike either two high power poses or two low power poses for a 2 minute period. The participants were told that the study was about exploring the placement of electrocardiography electrodes on various parts of the body (so they were unaware that the experiment was actually on power posing). The experimenter manipulated the participants posture to be in either two high or low power poses (check out the examples by the faceless man below).
What did they find?
The participants who had been in the high power poses experienced positive psychological, physiological and behavioural changes. For example, they experienced increases in testosterone (i.e. the dominance hormone), decreases in the stress hormone cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance of risk.
So how can power posing help you to do well in exams, interviews and life in general?
If you feel stressed when it comes to taking exams, being interviewed or giving a presentation, you may have thoughts such as “Will I do OK?”, “Can I do this?” or even worse “I’m going to fail”. None of these thoughts help you and they certainly don’t leave you with a sense of power.
But by taking 2 minutes to strike a power pose, you can decrease your stress levels and put yourself in a confident state in which you feel ready to tackle the exam or anything else life throws your way.
This all sounds a little gimmicky, I know, but the research clearly shows that we are influenced by our own posture. When we adopt high power poses positive psychological and physiological changes happen. On the other hand, hunched, closed postures lead to higher stress levels and lower feelings of power.
Why does this matter?
Well, high stress levels before an exam, interview or presentation is never a good idea as you run the risk of your mind going blank. I’ve been there and trust me, it’s not fun!
Researcher Amy Cuddy says in her TED talk–
“Our bodies change our minds, and our minds can change our behaviour and our behaviour can change our outcomes”
She also advises us not to power pose in public as chances are you may come across as slightly arrogant. Instead, try power posing before an exam, interview or presentation in the privacy of a toilet cubicle. I tried this last week before delivering a talk to a group of 60 year 12 boys on their first day back at school after the holiday break. It worked a treat!
Here’s the thing though: You can do all the power posing in the world, but if you don’t bother to do some study and/or preparation, power posing won’t help very much (if at all). The bottom line is you need to do some solid work/preparation.
What can throw many of us when it comes to taking exams or being interviewed is a bad case of nerves. This is where power posing comes in handy though. Power posing will enable you to walk into a range of situations feeling confident and calm, and ready to give it your best shot. And at the end of the day, that’s all you can really do.
Just remember, all it takes is 2 minutes. Two high power poses. One pose per minute right before the important event. This is probably the simplest strategy for boosting confidence I’ve come across and strangely enough, it works. Test it out and let me know how you go.