The door looms tall and foreboding in front of you, your fingers loosely touching the cold metal knob, while you draw in a quick deep breath before turning the handle. You’re not asking for much, just a week off at Christmas, so you can fly home to see your family. He’s totally going to see that it’s a reasonable request, even if it is the busiest week of the year. You push open the door completely confident in your ability to make this happen, until you see him. Seated at his desk, with his hands behind his head like he’s relaxing by the pool in the sun; he is your boss. Although he’s friendly and welcoming, motioning with a smile for you to sit down, he is intimidating. You can’t put your finger on it but every fibre of your being tells you that he is in control, and he knows it. You take a seat in front of him, legs crossed and arms wrapped around your mid section like you’re trying to keep warm. Your confidence is gone and you know the conversation is already over.
Let’s face it, we can’t all be the uber-alpha personality that struts around glowing with confidence all of the time. You know the type: they don’t seem to know anything else other than being successful and confident. When they walk into the room, they seem completely at ease regardless of the situation. Jealousy mounts, and you wonder how they got that way. Were they just born with more confidence, or did they have to learn it?
Research shows that non-verbal behaviour, or as it’s more commonly known, body language, can be a major factor in determining one’s success in life. Amy J.C. Cuddy, an associate professor in the Negotiation, Organizations & Markets unit at Harvard Business School (HBS), has recently done research linking job performance and success with one’s body language. In her October 2012 TED Talk, “Your body language shapes who you are,” she discusses how being aware of your body language can significantly change your life.
According to Cuddy, our body language is unspoken communication and it says something to those around us. It gives people a subconscious perception as to who we are and it also has the ability to change our own body chemistry. She states that when people hold their bodies in very closed positions, we actually change the way our own mind views itself. The tighter and more protected the position, such as legs crossed, arms close to the body or touching our neck when we speak, sends messages of meekness and lack of self-confidence to the brain. When others see this type of body language, they unknowingly lose confidence in our abilities.
We’ve all heard the old saying, fake it till you make it, but according to Cuddy, you should fake it till you become it. She suggests that doing 10 minutes of power-posing every day can help boost your self-confidence and change your body chemistry. She states that if you practice doing the widely known ‘Wonder Woman’ stance; standing with hands on hips, legs spread a shoulder width apart, chest pushed up and chin tilted up, it can make you feel self-assured and powerful. Her research shows that people who did this every day had higher levels of testosterone, which helps give you confidence, and lower levels of cortisol, which is the body chemical responsible for stress. She says that even if you don’t believe it, eventually it will just become who you are, without any conscious effort.
So next time you’re feeling a little bit less than a winner, stand up in front of the mirror, throw your hands in the air and give your best superstar pose. Research shows it may be goofy, but it works. Hey, if it worked for the popular Saturday Night Live character Mary Katherine, in the 1999 slapstick flick Superstar, it could work for you!