TED Talk rock star Amy Cuddy is on a press tour talking about her new book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. It’s a fleshed-out version of the messages she shared in her insanely successful 2012 TED Talk, including much of the research underlying her theory about how the body influences the mind. So far nearly 30 million people have watched her talk – already the second most-watched TED Talk ever – and no doubt many more will in coming days as she travels around the country promoting her book. Cuddy is a 43-year-old Harvard social psychologist who studies body language and how people judge and influence one another. Her interest in psychology came from a personal trauma. As a college sophomore, she was in car crash and suffered a severe brain injury. That led to years of slow recovery, marked by setbacks and frustration. Eventually she finished college and went on to grad school to study psychology. She researched how human behavior and the way we use our bodies affect how we feel about ourselves, and the way we are seen by others. And she became a Harvard Business School professor. But she was dogged by insecurity, the sense that she was “an impostor” who didn’t belong there and didn’t deserve her success. It took years to overcome those feelings. She did it by barreling through – “fake it ’til you make it,” or as she says, “fake it till you become it” – mustering the confidence even when she didn’t feel it. Based on her research, Cuddy developed her theory of “power poses.” Simply sitting up straight, throwing your shoulders back, and holding your arms wide triggers hormonal changes, she says. Your body generates confidence-building testosterone and suppresses anxiety-making cortisol. These “tiny tweaks” can cause big changes in the way we behave. “Expanding our bodies makes us more assertive and confident,” Cuddy says. Her argument boils down to this:
- Our bodies change our minds
- Our minds change our behavior
- Our behavior changes our outcomes
So the next time you go into a high-stakes situation like a job interview, a speech, or a pitch, try the Superhero pose – chest out, hands on hips, legs apart, chin up. See if it makes you feel better. Do it in private – in an elevator, at your desk behind a closed door, in the bathroom stall. If you look goofy, no one will ever know. But if you come out looking like a warrior, people will pay attention.
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