Last weekend, I attended a two day conference. Very rapidly, I became aware of the mini social experiment that was occurring right before my eyes. Within a mere 48 hours, you could tell exactly who were the extroverts, who were the talkers, who felt confused, who were the leaders, the followers, the jokers and the brown-nosers. It was not necessarily what they said, it was more the non-verbals. Standing instead of sitting. Raising hand straight up or propping it up like it was not able to raise on its own. Slumping. All these started to inform my brain who was who in the classroom. And it all could have been assumed just by watching.
Then I read an article in Wired magazine about the research of Amy Cuddy, and then watched her TEDtalk. It turns out you can infer lots of things about a person’s body “language” as I did in my conference. But what’s really cool, what’s news you may even be able to use, is that being in what Cuddy calls “power postures” can actually make you feel more powerful. What?
Cuddy’s research goes on to say that if you assume the power postures she suggests for two minutes, you can feel more assertive, more optimistic, better able to think abstractly, task risks, reduce your cortisol and become less stress reactive. Your brain’s neurochemistry is actually influenced by how you choose to position yourself in the world. So I decided to try this. First, I tried it at work. Didn’t go so well. Our office is so small and four or five people have to share it. So making myself “bigger” in my power postures wasn’t very doable. Plus, I felt weird. It occurred to me that I was used to making myself small at work, partly because of space limitations. But also maybe because all my co-workers are pretty amazing and are doing some really cool stuff, and I can be a bit intimidated by them.
So the next part of the plan involved me doing the power postures before work. Or before a meeting, or anything I might be a little nervous about. And you know what? Even when I was alone and had plenty of space, it was hard for me to do them. I am used to making myself small: curling up, hunching over my smartphone, etc…so it was really tough to make myself do it. Yet another exercise in understanding my brain and how it relates to my body. This research was done in 2012 and I’m off to look up what Cuddy has discovered lately. But I’m pretty sure it’s going to conclude what we all have at some point- you can’t just tell your brain what you want it to do: stop smoking, lose weight, stop yelling at your kids. You have to get your body to listen.
photo by Barbara Paulsen at tandemechoes.com.