Happier Body Language in the Workplace


Summary: Body posture can influence mood more than one might expect.

Key Take Aways:

– Assuming power poses for two minutes before a job interview or presentation may increase confidence and relaxation.

– The habit of slouching may be connected to feeling down and less energetic.

It isn’t surprising there are so many good TED talks, but if you are interested in body language and psychology the one given by Harvard business professor Amy Cuddy is especially intriguing and even moving. She and her colleagues conducted research focused on body postures and mood when individuals are being evaluated by others.

The research subjects were given a number of body postures to assume for two minutes before a mock job interview where they gave speeches. The subjects that were assigned to do power poses before the interview received better evaluations, meaning they were more likely to get job offers.

Professor Cuddy was quote on the Harvard Business School website, “We used to think that emotion ended on the face. Now there is established research showing that while it’s true that facial expressions reflect how you feel, you can also ‘fake it until you make it.’ In other words, you can smile long enough that it makes you feel happy. This work extends that finding on facial feedback, which is decades old, by focusing on postures and measuring neuroendocrine levels.”

A common view is that confidence before a job interview or performance evaluation comes from positive self-talk or pumping oneself up with supportive statements. However, Cuddy’s research indicated that body postures can influence moods and hormone levels positively as well.

On her Harvard faculty profile there is a succinct summary of this research study on power poses which, “… changes our testosterone and cortisol levels, increases our appetite for risk, causes us to perform better in job interviews, and generally configures our brains to cope well in stressful situations. ” Cortisol is a stress hormone and when it is elevated people generally are less happy, more irritable and have a more difficult time sleeping.

A somewhat similar study at San Francisco State University found people who slouched reported feeling more depressed and having less energy than those who didn’t, when walking down a hall. The author of a book on body posture, Janice Novak said in the context of the workplace your body language impacts how others perceive you, “You don’t want to walk into somebody’s office slouching and bent over, because people really do perceive you as not as vital.” (Source: NBC News) If these two research studies are correct, it may pay to be mindful of body posture and practice some power poses, such as the Victory or Wonder Woman poses before a job interview, presentation, important meeting or job evaluation.

Image Credit: Kadellar, Wiki Commons