I had prepared my elevator pitch and I had conducted mock interviews with my headhunter aunt. A pen sat uncapped on the legal pad on my desk, ready to jot down important notes during the phone interview I was about to have for an internship with a national newspaper. By all accounts I was ready for my interview, but in the last two minutes before my future supervisor was to call, I stood tall with my hands on my hips like a petite Wonder Woman. I stretched my arms wide and spread my legs, making my body as expansive as possible.
This is called power posing, and though it seems a little strange, it’s more valuable than you might think. Championed by Harvard Business School Professor Amy Cuddy, power posing is essentially part of the “fake it ’til you make it” mentality now backed by research.
A quick science primer: Testosterone is a hormone that is associated in the brain with dominance and power while cortisol is associated with anxiety. In a piece for the Harvard Business Review, Cuddy explains a Harvard study which found that perceived leaders of both genders had higher levels of testosterone than cortisol—a ratio that made it easier to speak confidently and make risky decisions.
The study also found that adopting a power pose like the Wonder Woman for even two minutes before entering a high-stress situation can help boost testosterone levels by 20 percent and decrease cortisol by 25 percent. On the flip side, adopting a low-power pose, like crossing your legs or hunching over in your seat, can have the opposite effect.
But what does this mean for you?
It means that when you have a presentation, a meeting, or even an interview coming up, taking two minutes to pose powerfully might be the difference between dominating the conversation (in a good way) and nervously stuttering through it.
I am a very typical introvert; I have a quiet voice and I am often reluctant to speak up too much in meetings for fear of saying the wrong thing. I admit it’s a silly fear, but one that is characteristic of my personality nonetheless. Since my internship interview was over the phone though, I knew I would have to project my personality as much as possible through my voice, so I took a page out of Cuddy’s book and tried to make myself as big as possible.
Whether it was the placebo effect or not, I noticed I felt more relaxed and confident during the call than in previous phone interviews—and two hours later my interviewer called back with an official offer from the company.
I can’t guarantee that power posing is the key to professional success; I was likely offered the position based on my experience and skills rather than how comfortable I sounded on the phone, but as any career advisor will tell you, charisma is at least half the battle. And if there is something you can do to improve your chances of succeeding, why wouldn’t you give it a shot?
You already know what you’re doing. Now it’s time to show it. Here are a few power posing tips you can try next time you need them:
Take a moment alone. If you can slip away to the restroom for a minute, assume a Wonder Woman pose in the stall. While standing there, don’t recap your facts or strategy, just think about how great and powerful you are.
Stay powerful in the heat of the moment. Take stock of your body language during the meeting and adjust if you find you’ve naturally assumed a low-power pose.
Fake it. The root of power posing is the idea that you’ll “fake it ‘til you make it.” If you don’t feel like two minutes of Wonder Woman are helpful at all, keep with it. If you pretend you feel confident, you can trick your mind into believing it, too.
What’s your power pose? Describe it in the comments!
This article originally published at LEVO LEAGUE
by Alex Laughlin