(10:15) Cuddy and her team ran an experiment - and this is maybe most important for those of you in middle to lower management roles in college athletics - where subjects provided saliva sample, then struck high-power poses (hands on hips, feet spread, taking up as much space as possible or hands behind head, leaning back in a chair) or low-power poses (bent over, shrunken down in a chair or a hand on the neck with the other arm crossed) for two minutes. After the two minutes, the subjects were asked a series of power questions and then given an opportunity to gamble, followed by submitting another saliva sample.
(11:33) “This is what we find: Risk tolerance, which is the gambling, 86% of those in the power position for two minutes will gamble. When you’re in the low-power position, only 60% will gamble. That’s a pretty whopping significant difference.” More, “Here’s what we find with testosterone: From their baseline when they come in, high-power (pose) people had about a 20% increase and low-power (pose) people experience about a 10% decrease. Again, two minutes and you get these changes. Here’s what you get on cortisol: High-power (pose) people experience about a 25% decrease and lower-power (pose) people experience about a 15% increase. Two minutes can lead to these hormonal changes that configure your brain to either be assertive, confident and comfortable or really stress reactive and feeling sort of shut down.”
(12:44) With her point starting to drive home, the next key question is, “Can power posing for a few minutes really change your life in meaningful ways?” Cuddy argues you want to use these principles in social situations where you’re being evaluated. Speaking in front of group or performing well during a job interview are two prime situations.
(14:30) Another study (Cuddy is an academic & researcher, after all), where people were put through job interviews where the interviewer gave them zero non-verbal feedback on their answers. Video recordings of the interviewees were then coded by professionals who knew nothing about the context of the experiment and almost universally voted to hire the interviewees who had more powerful body language during the interview. Again, “it’s not about the content of their speech, it’s about the presence of the speech.”
(15:40) Here’s where the common vernacular of ‘Fake it ‘til you make it’ transforms into, ‘Fake it ‘til you become it.’ Cuddy launches into her personal story of identifying as smart and gifted as a young adult before experiencing a traumatic car crash where she was thrown out of the vehicle and was later told she would never finish college. Four years after the normal matriculation timeline, she finally graduated and ended up at Princeton with the help of an advisor. “I was like, I am not supposed to be here. I am an imposter. The night before my ‘first year talk’ - the ‘first year talk’ is for 20 minutes in front of 20 people - that’s it. I was so afraid of being found out the next day, that I called her and said, ‘I’m quitting.’ She was like, ‘You are not quitting. I took a gamble on you and you are staying. You’re going to stay and this is what you’re going to do. You are going to fake it. You are going to do every talk that you’re ever asked to do. You’re just going to do it and do it and do it, even if you’re terrified and paralyzed and have this out of body experience, until you have this moment and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m doing it. I have become this. I am actually doing this.’”
We all know body language matters. It’s such an obvious thing. Cuddy’s research shows it’s scientifically possible to increase testosterone and decrease cortisol prior to situations of social evaluation. Cuddy’s research also shows how important non-verbals are in positions of power. No matter how silly or ridiculous you may feel power-posing behind your closed office door or in a bathroom stall, you can configure your mind to exhibit more effective body language. Ranging from an internship interview to the first time overseeing a department to presenting in front of a Board of Trustees, Cuddy’s principles can help to prepare your mind and body.
To watch Cuddy’s full TED talk, click here.