Does Your Body Language Boost Your Confidence?

This is a guest post by John Millen, a Communications Coach, Keynote Speaker and Strategist with The Reputation Group. He works with leaders and their teams to increase their win rates in presentations with clients, employees, investors, media and other critical audiences. This first appeared as a post on The Leader Room.

During my recent leader presentation-training workshop at a Fortune 100 company, a young woman executive talked about the day she "auditioned" for the current position she holds.

It was a significant career leap for "Taylor" and she was asked to give a presentation to the whole hiring team for evaluation. It was a huge opportunity and a very anxious situation. Taylor went into the restroom, checked to make sure no one was in the stalls, and then stood tall looking at herself in the full-length mirror.

She raised her arms up high and said, "You can do this! You are strong!" Then Taylor beat her fists against the mirror and yelled "Win! Win! Win!" (Telling this story Taylor likened it to Eminem in the movie Eight Mile.)

A few minutes later, Taylor walked into the board room completely confident and "killed it," she said.

Her story came up in reference to the TED Talk by Dr. Amy Cuddy, which was part of the homework for participants before our training.

Reading Body Language
I tell this because we are all fascinated by body language: we want to read the body language of others-is she interested in me? Is he lying? We might also wonder what our own body language reveals to others-do I seem nervous? Can she tell I'm disgusted?

What we've paid less attention to is how our body language affects us. Recent research has found that, in fact, our own body language can dramatically affect the way we feel-our confidence and disposition-and the results we achieve in business or social situations.

When you have 20 minutes, I suggest you watch Dr. Cuddy's TED Talk, perhaps with your family. (I have included the video at the bottom of this article.) We practice this in our workshops and I've gotten follow up feedback from participants that it works. I've also used it myself, with positive results.

Hormonal Changes and Increased Confidence
During her insightful TED Talk, Cuddy, a social psychologist and research at the Harvard School of Business, demonstrates that open body language can trigger hormonal changes that will boost confidence and influence others. Her research shows it works in job interviews and can be applied to any social situation.

Dr. Cuddy divides the poses in to high-power and low-power. Her findings indicated that high-power poses trigger hormonal changes that boost personal confidence.

In her research, Cuddy staged mock job interviews and found that participants who for two minutes held a high-power pose had their confidence boosted and were much more likely to be "hired" because they were perceived as more powerful and confident than other participants.

Below my associates and I demonstrate the high and low-power poses. (Many thanks to my friends at Columbus public relations agency FrazierHeiby for modeling-Karlie Frank, Chelsea Hagan, Lara Kretler and Bryan Haviland.) The first pose on the left, with hands on hips, is known as the "Wonder Woman."


What Should You Do With This?
I suggest you try this before your next big event-a business presentation, a social gathering that makes you feel uncomfortable, even a difficult conversation with your partner. All you have to do is stand or sit in one of these high-power poses for two minutes before you approach the situation. That's it.

I would also suggest you check your own body language at random times during the coming week. Maybe set an alarm on your watch or phone and see whether you are in a high-power or low-power pose, especially in meeting or social settings.

Give it try, it can't hurt.

It's true, changing your body language may change your life.

Also, Dr. Cuddy has written a book on using your body language to boost your confidence, titled "Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges." It will be released at the end of the year and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

How about you?
Have you had experience with how your own body language has affected your confidence? Do you know others who power pose in meetings?