The NY Times just ran a fascinating article about Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy, whose TED conference video is the second most viewed of all time.
Cuddy, who is also a social psychologist, preaches about the importance of non-verbal communication in business settings.
In fact, her TED talk focused on various power poses all of us can use to differentiate ourselves and impress prospective clients, employers and that name-dropping, loud talker at a weekend cocktail reception. One pose is called the Wonder Woman and involves standing with your hands on hips and legs wide. I assume the WW costume is optional.
Cuddy says businesspeople need to make themselves ‘big’ in the two minutes before a meeting begins. Becoming big could mean everything from standing straighter, flexing one’s muscles or merely visualizing how effective you’ll be in the soon-to-occur meeting.
Cuddy has field tested her theories and found that thinking big and adopting a strong body posture will build courage, reduce anxiety and inspire leadership. In fact, lab participants who spent two minutes alone in a room doing high-power poses such as putting their feet on a desk increased testosterone levels by about 20 percent and lowered the stress hormone cortisol by about 25 percent. I think NFL players discovered power posing long ago.
Cuddy’s workshop was so effective with 1,500 Zappos employees that clusters of male and female employees later stood outside the auditorium where she spoke and either stretched out like starfish or struck the Wonder Woman pose. That must have been some off-site.
I’m a big believer in establishing a strong non-verbal presence in any sort of meeting. There’s no question it sends the right message at the right time to the right decision-makers. In fact, we incorporate some of Cuddy’s suggestions in our own comedy training workshops.
As Cuddy tells her audiences, striking the correct posture works. “Let your body tell you you’re powerful and deserving, and you become more present, enthusiastic and authentically yourself,” she said.
That sounds like great advice for any college student, mid-career veteran or recently retired Baby Boomer seeking to reinvent herself. As for me, I just struck a Wonder Woman pose on a New Jersey Transit train and noticed several fellow passengers moved out of my way.
So, what’s your power pose?