Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are ~ Amy Cuddy
One of my favourite TED Talks, okay I have lots of favourite TED Talks. It turns out what you can learn in 18 minutes truly change your life. This one in fact has impacted my daily interactions and lead me to attend more workshops on non-verbal communication. Did you know how you carry yourself and how you stand can change not only the way you think about yourself but the hormone levels in your body? Strong leaders are able to clearly communicate their message and this includes the non-verbal aspects, as well. I do have to warn you, once you learn more about body language it has the potential to change the way you see the world. Do you think two minutes of power posing can change how you feel? Are you ready?
Cuddy noted in her 2012 TED Talk that “we make sweeping judgement and inferences from body language” (time 2.04). From deciding whether or not we like someone, to whether a physician is nice (turns out nice Doctors are sued less often) or if we will vote for a political candidate, those seconds before you speak shape lasting impressions. As a social scientist, Cuddy wondered “do our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves?” (time 6:57). Can you fake till you make it?
By examining levels of “testosterone, which is the dominance hormone, and cortisol, which is the stress hormone” (time 7:57), Cuddy tracked hormone levels in both powerful and powerless people. Research showed that “powerful and effective leaders also have high testosterone and low cortisol” (time 7:57). Based on her team’s experiments, Cuddy had people pose in high power and low power poses for two minutes prior to the testing of hormone levels and then in the second experiment an independent panel of body language experts evaluated them during an intense interview. What she found was that 2 minutes of power posing (think wonder women) changes your hormone levels. Power posing increases testosterone and decreases cortisol, whereas weaker poses like hunching over and checking your phone in the waiting room have the opposite effect (Time 11:44).
Cuddy explained “that our bodies can change our minds and our minds can change our behaviour, and our behaviour can change our outcomes” (15:35). Anyone can be a leader but part of that is in our minds. People respond to our non verbal communication, so paying attention to the signals you are sending makes a difference in the congruency of the messages you convey. As Amy Cuddy says, “don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it” (time 19:14).
The more I learn about body language the more I understand how nonverbal communication impacts our daily interactions. Many leadership theories talk about the charisma and other dominant characteristics of leaders, while only a few acknowledge body language directly. It’s importance is embedded into every interaction a leader has with a follower. In fact, Cuddy explains that if one person has bigger body language the other person doesn’t mirror it rather they do the opposite and become smaller (4:55). Learning how to read the nonverbal signals in the room isn’t easy and learning how to respond is even harder but in the end your conscious body language choices will become more automatic and you will change your relationships with those around you.
Now imagine yourself as a teacher or team leader that’s aware of body language. The ability to consciously share the strategies with those around you has the potential to change their self-confidence. It has the potential to transform your team.