How Changing Your Body Language Can Bring Success in Life and Love
Is your body language stopping you cold? Are your habitual body positions holding you back in love, life and in your career? Does continually slouching in your chair at work contribute to you feeling overwhelmed or depressed? Does jumping up and down and doing fists pumps into the air make you feel more powerful?
In the last few years, a number of studies on body language have revealed not only how powerful body language is as a communication tool, but how you, as an individual, can shift the trajectory of your life and how you feel simply by changing your body language.
Dr. Amy Cuddy, a professor and researcher at Harvard, did a now well-known TED Talk called "Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are." It’s one of the top 15 most viewed TED Talks ever.
In it, she reveals several powerful tips for using your body language consciously to land a job or to overcome the handicaps that life hands you. She uses her own personal history of being involved in an accident that damaged her brain and left doctor's telling her she'd never be able to reach her professional goals as an example of the power of body language. By understanding how to use her body to empower herself, she's been able to accomplish things that were thought impossible.
Body language is universal, cultural and individual, and it's impact on our lives is constant. Every single day, people are relating to you based on your body language and you're not even aware of your silent, powerful and unconscious use everywhere you go.
Research shows that even individuals that are born blind use universal body language gestures. The expression of emotion through our body is a powerful form of release of both positive emotion, like that expressed when a race is won, to the feelings of loss and failure, by someone who loses in the same race.
Amy Cuddy's work introduced us to the concept of Power Poses and Power Posing. Think about Superman or Wonder Woman: They stand tall, shoulders back, feet spread and pointing forward, head upright and hands placed firmly on the hips. You feel the power just thinking about the picture right?
What research now shows is that body positions can trigger certain hormones, which then trigger certain feeling or emotional states. Simply put, a power pose makes you feel powerful. Let's dig deeper and look at five reasons you need to change your body language.
#1: You'll Get Better Results at Work (And Dating!)
Adopt and use power poses everywhere you go. Your body can be your ally to help power you through tough situations. The real power of body language is demonstrated with Dr. Cuddy's research results, that show when individuals applying for a job power-posed for two minutes prior to being interviewed, the interviewer chose all of the power posers to move forward in the interview process. On the other hand, none of those instructed to sit using body language exemplifying powerlessness were chosen.
Powerful body language yields powerful results.
#2: Body Language, Not Facial Expressions, Will Tell You More About Intense Emotions
A popular TV Series called "Lie To Me" told the story of the world's foremost expert on reading facial micro-expressions. It's a fascinating show, but for the average Joe and Jane, we're not going to be able to read micro-expressions very often, as they last less than a millesecond (on average) and require training to really understand accurately.
That leaves us with a much bigger canvas to look at — someone's body. Alexander Todorov, a professor of psychology at Princeton, has determined that body language more accurately conveys intense emotions. This flies in the face of what most of us believe, which is that the face tells us all we need to know about how a person feels. Through a series of experiments, Todorov showed that intense facial expressions cannot be accurately correlated to body language. So, emotions like winning and losing can look the same in the face but the body will display very different signals for losing or winning.
When someone has a really intense look on their face, don't focus there. Pay attention to what that person’s body is doing to really know if he or she is mad, sad, happy or something else.
#3: Body Language Can Reveal Your Insecurities
If you don't like yourself, your body language will tell me — sometimes within the minute I meet you, but usually within a short time. If you are lacking in confidence, your body language will give you away, and smart people are looking at these clues.
Clues that you're feeling overwhelmed, less than confident or unsure about yourself include :
- Any self-comforting gestures where you rub yourself. This includes rubbing your arm, rubbing your hands together, rubbing your neck, playing with your hair, playing with jewelry, and/or rubbing your thighs. Self-comforting happens very unconsciously, so it's important that you decide to do something else with your hands besides touch yourself in tough situations like a first date or job interview.
- Using the fig-leaf gesture when you're lined up for pictures or in a standing situation where you feel exposed. The fig-leaf gesture is crossing your hands over your genital area when you standing. It communicates fear, weakness and a need to hide your body. Stop it! If you must do something with your hands, put them behind your back and don't cross them in front of your chest.
- Crossing your arms. Everyone thinks they know this as a defensive position, but sometimes it's just an unconscious way to comfort and protect yourself. Drop your arms and get used to having them hang by your sides.
- Slouching at your desk. Slouching is a loser pose. Get rid of it!
These negative body gestures and postures aren't helping your cause. You're being read as needy, unsure, defensive and insecure. It's in your self-interest to learn and use body language that is more confident and powerful because it will actually help you feel that way.
#4: A Repertoire of Power Poses Will Help You Succeed
If you're set on dropping the poses that leave you feeling powerless, here are some ideas for replacing them.
- Of course, adopt and use Amy Cuddy’s power pose. Whether you're going with Superman or Wonder Woman, you can take and use these poses everywhere you go. You may downplay them in certain situations, but think about how you can use these in meetings at work, dating situations, or when dealing with tough family situations where you might have backed down in the past. It's simple to arrive at your destination a few minutes early and head to the bathroom to power pose in private for a couple of minutes before meetings or dates begin.
- In place of the fig leaf, go for the thumb in your belt loop pose. This is a big power move pose as it draws attention to your genitals. You could also put your hand in your pocket with your thumbs hanging out. This pose communicates confidence and power. It also gives you something to do with your hands besides retreating to crossed arms or that silly fig leaf.
- Sit up straight at your desk and make sure to stand up straight. It takes practice if you're not used to it, but it changes your body language significantly and you'll notice people treating you differently.
- Finally, if you can, stand. Stand tall and straight with your feet at least shoulder width apart. This is taking the power pose and ratcheting it down a bit by not putting your hands on your hips. It still communicates power, confidence and a readiness to take action.
#5: Practice Posing Will Make Shake Up Your World
Practice is important and is going to make all the difference for you. First, assume your usual body language. Imagine being at a meeting, on a date, or somewhere that would usually be a bit tense for you. How do you look?
Next, step back and power-pose for a least two minutes doing a Superman or Wonderwoman pose. Then play with the power poses suggested above. Watch yourself, try them on in different ways, and get your imagination involved by pretending you are your most favorite and confident person in the world, whether that's President Obama, Richard Branson, Oprah, or someone close to home.
Turn on music that makes you feel really good and imagine yourself in different scenarios showing up using power poses instead of powerless poses. You'll start to have different results show up in your real life, too.
Your body and your imagination together form the most powerful duo you have for changing the outcomes of your life. It's free, it's available, and you'll feel differently in minutes. Don't wait. Start now!