If you act confident do you feel confident? According to Amy Cuddy, social psychologist, and Harvard expert on behavioral science of power, presence, and prejudice… in a word – yes! In 2 minutes! We can take our cues from the animal kingdom. When animals project confidence and authority, they expand, take up space and make themselves look bigger.
“A typical dominance display begins with the chimpanzee standing up straight with hair bristling (pilo-erection), shoulders hunched, and a compressed lips face so that his body looks larger and his face meaner.”
“Birds display similar behaviour. An angry bird may stretch up tall or crouch into an attack position, or it may sharply flick its tail or spread its wings to make itself appear larger and more threatening.”
High-Power Poses vs. Low-Power Poses
Cuddy conducted studies designed to answer the question “ Could people fake power, and have that lead them to feel more powerful? Or could people fake submissive behaviour and that would lead them to feel more weak and submissive.” The short version is does acting confident make you feel more confident?
In the study people assumed high-power and low-power poses for a mere 2 minutes and were then asked to gamble. Her studies revealed that of the people who assumed high-power positions, 86% were more risk tolerant, and chose to gamble. Physiologically, their testosterone levels increased by 8%. Cortisol (fight or flight, stress response) levels decreased. Similarly, of the people who posed in low-power positions for 2 minutes, only 60% chose to gamble, testosterone levels lowered, cortisol levels rose.
Public Perception of High-Power Poses
Cuddy used this same test of assuming high-power positions for 2 minutes prior to job interviews and speeches. Predicably, judges always evaluated high-position posers with superior scores. It appears humans and animals are genetically wired to view people or animals who assume power poses as powerful and confident.
That’s not to say identifying and reframing beliefs, thoughts and visualization techniques won’t be helpful techniques in modifying beliefs and behaviour. But let’s face it, they take time and practice. When tasked with giving a public presentation, having a 2- minute confidence building power pose in your arsenal is much faster short cut to feeling instantly more confident than years of self reflection.
Act Confident to Feel Confident
Barbara Sher former beloved speaker, career/lifestyle coach, and author described this type of high-power posing as “acting as if”. Meaning acting as if you are confident and successful to feel more confident. Early in her career she coached a group of unemployed adults. Part of the coaching was to have them assume confident postures during their interviews and when hired, at work. They discovered acting “as if” made it easier for to achieve success in interviews. Acting “as if” eventually led them to believe they were successful. The more popular term for this is “fake it till you make it.” Or to quote the Adidas’s slogan “ just do it”.
Practice Makes Permanent
The more you practice acting confident, the more often you will feel confident
Essentially, the first few times you assume a high-power pose, it will feel contrived. However, the more often you assume this position, the more it integrates with who you are, how you behave, and how you perceive yourself. It becomes your regular behaviour. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. Acting confident makes you feel more confident. Practice makes permanent.
That begs the question – did Superman and Wonder Woman really feel confident? Or were they just assuming a confident posture to make us think they were confident?
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