Open Yourself Up to Power

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You have a presentation in ten minutes, your crush is sitting in the front, and your anxiety is hitting harder than Ronda Rousey. You’ve tried all the tricks, from imaging the crowd nude to looking avoiding direct eye contact with the audience, and none seem to work. So how do you keep yourself from stuttering your way into a sudden blackout?

The answer lies in your posture.

There are two types of posing that are indicators of power, high and low power posing. High power posing involves spreading your limbs out to occupy as much space as you can. This doesn’t necessarily mean spreading out like a star as there are many variations of high power posing. With low power posing you essentially do the opposite of high power poses and try to occupy as little space as possible, which mostly involves crossing your arms or hunching over.

(image via: Neatorama)

Humans and animals alike tend to have open postures that occupy space when in a position of power. For example, many species, like the praying mantis will spread their limbs making themselves appear larger to intimidate their prey. On the other side of the spectrum, large company CEOs tend to avoid sitting with their arms folded (which projects low power) and usually stand with widespread limbs in an attempt to occupy as much space as possible, which projects a dominating sense of power. As mentioned by Business Insider, CEOs tend to sit in this fashion because of their narutal position of power. These trends can also be seen in sporting events where winning competitors naturally throw their hands up in a “V” shape after their victory. This “victory pose” is something that’s innate and not learned since it’s something that even blind athletes often perform at the end of a victorious event.

We’ve seen that power dictates posture but does posture dictate power?

Two key chemical characteristics are found in those who are powerful leaders, high levels of testosterone and low levels of cortisol. Low levels of cortisol leads to lower stress levels along with a calmer response to high stress situations and high levels of testosterone are correlated with a stronger sense of dominance. After a trial conducted by researchers at Columbia University, Amy Cuddy and her colleagues discovered that those who participated in high power posing experienced a rise in testosterone by about 19% in both men and women along with a drop in cortisol by as much 25%. Those who performed low power poses experienced a drop in testosterone by about 10% and an increase in cortisol by about 17%. Additionally, those who performed high power poses were more likely to take gambling risk that were far less averse than those who did low power posing. These results back up the fact that the participants who performed high power posess felt more powerful than their low power posing counterparts.

Beyond the science

So you may be wondering how you can include power posing into your already busy routine. All it takes is just 1–3 minutes of performing a high power pose (see below) before any stressful situation be it a job interview, date, whatever. Of course, you may want to seek privacy when performing these poses such as a bathroom (unless you don’t mind others watching you stretch your limbs out).

Some examples of high power poses (top) and low power poses that should be avoided (bottom) include:

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You can modify any of the high power poses to suit your environment or situation but remember that the key is to occupy as much space as possible. Another popular power pose is the “victory pose” (as mentioned above):

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This one is my personal favorite because it makes me feel as if I conquered my task even before it started, giving me a huge confidence boost.

This simple trick works wonders and I hope you will benefit from power posing as much as I have.

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