We’ve all had a moment at work (or in life) where we felt like we were about to sink into the floor in some kind of unseen puddle of awkwardness or fear. It’s never fun, is it? One of my least favorite sensations is to be sitting in a meeting with something valuable to contribute to the conversation, but for whatever reason, unable to work up the confidence to spit it out.
In her TED Talk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy discusses a life hack that we can all benefit from. Her research centers around body language and its effects on body chemistry, specifically levels of testosterone and cortisol in the brain. She and her colleagues conducted a study with two groups of people, all of whom were going into high pressure job interview situations.
Group one was instructed to sit in a chair, at a table, in a very submissive posture (head down, shoulders curved forward, legs crossed and arms tight to the body). They held these positions for two minutes, and then went into the interview. Group two did just the opposite. For two minutes they sat in dominant or “power” positions at the same table (legs outstretched, even up on the table top in some cases, arms out and raised above the head, shoulders back, chin up and smiling). After all the interviews were completed, the interviewers (who had been kept uninformed of the purpose and content of the study) unanimously ranked the folks from group two (the dominant group) more highly than group one.
What does this tell us?
Cuddy’s research has shown a direct correlation between these two different types of postures and the fluctuation of those two chemicals in the brain. Higher testosterone levels are tied to feelings of confidence, while high levels of cortisol relate directly to experiencing high levels of stress. Simply explained, “power” postures themselves have been proven to increase the body’s production of testosterone, and decrease cortisol. The opposite is also true, submissive postures increase cortisol production and decrease testosterone.
Why is this important?
This specific study has shown that just holding a “power” posture for just two minutes can dramatically affect these chemical levels. It’s a simple life hack, with a lot of potential applications, outside of a job interview. I’d love to see you all try it yourselves… the next time you’re on the way to any kind of stressful situation, or use the confidence you gain to follow your passions in life. You can simply duck into a bathroom stall, or take a moment to stretch out in a power position in your car. Let us know how it works in the comment, or on Twitter, using hashtag #DHlifehacks!