Body Language: Fake It ‘Til You Make It

wonder womanThere are so many singing contests on TV these days, but one that really had a different spin, was The Voice. The contest begins with “blind auditions”, meaning the judges cannot observe the performer and must vote based strictly on the sound of the voice WITHOUT seeing what else is being communicated through body language, (a.k.a. physical appearance). It would be really interesting to learn how we would all be “judged” if the words/sounds from our mouths were the only factor at play.

But alas…that is NOT the case. Our body language speaks volumes about us without our lips ever moving. If I were able to see you now, what judgments would I make from your body language as you are reading this?

Are you hunched over your computer?  Legs are arms crossed? Leaning back in your chair? ARE YOU MAKING YOURSELF SMALL OR TAKING UP SPACE?

Amy Cuddy is a social psycologist and associate professor at Harvard Business School and a Hellman Faculty Fellow. She uses experimental methods to investigate how people judge each other and themselves and is an expert in body language. I recently saw her Ted Talk on the subject and found it fascinating. It’s worth a look, especially if you are interviewing for a job or preparing for an important meeting or presentation.

Here are the about what our body language tells the world:

  1. People who are confident and have a sense of “power” make themselves/their personal space bigger – Open arms, upright posture, chin up.
  2. People who are not confident and have a sense of being “powerless” make themselves/their personal space smaller – Arms/legs crossed, hands close to their face or neck, raise their hand only half-way, slump, chin down.
  3. The outcomes people experience in life have a direct correlation to this “powerful/powerless” message their body language transmits!

Given that, Amy Cuddy began to test the theory that “your body can change your mind”. In other words, if you practice these power-poses, you will begin to become more powerful based on an improved state-of-mind and self-confidence – a way to promote positive self-talk.

So where can this really come in handy? In any type of evaluative situations. For example, for a child, the lunchroom or playground. For adults, various social situations, delivering a presentation or engaging in a job interview. Most people can relate to job interviews so Amy Cuddy ran her test by having people go through a high-stress interview situation. Prior to the interview, she had half of her subjects spend 2 minutes in a ” high-power pose”  and half spend 2 minutes in a “low-power pose” just before going into the interview.

There were independent judges, who knew nothing about the experiment being conducted.   The results: the judges consistently selected those who had practiced the high-power pose prior to the interview. Even more interesting, their judgments had really nothing to do with what the person said in the interview. It was based on the person’s presence.

The judges described the candidates as:

  • Comfortable 
  • Authentic
  • Captivating
  • Passionate
  • Confident

Bottom line – when you begin to practice striking the various power poses, it will fundamentally IMPROVE HOW YOU FEEL YOURSELF and you will exude confidence. So, yes, in fact you can “fake it ’til you make it” and enjoy desired outcomes along the way.

So the next time you are prepping for an interview, big presentation or awkward social situation, add one more step in your preparation routine and head for the bathroom, close the door and strike a power pose for at least 2 minutes … and watch the magic happen!

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@people-results.com.

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2 Responses to Body Language: Fake It ‘Til You Make It

  1. sinay says:

    Hi there Martha,

    I also watched the TED talk and you concluded it very well!

    I believe that mimicking a strong and confident body language can help you in the long run as it becomes your standard position. Up to the point that you will no longer need to “fake it”

    There is another interesting talk that focuses on smiling – and it’s supernatural powers here .

    It only shows that we can actually affect our physical and emotional being by changing the way we move and act, not only by standard psychological treatment or drugs.

  2. Thanks for your comments and additional link to another Ted Talk re: the power of smiling! Really interesting stuff!

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