I’m convinced Eminem was going into a job interview when he wrote ‘Lose Yourself.’
“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy…He’s nervous, but on the surface, he looks calm and ready.”
We’ve all felt it. I mean, there’s nothing like dressing up in uncomfortable clothes and being evaluated in front of a panel of people to give your anxiety a spike. No matter how qualified you are, it’s stressful. But what if I told you that there was one simple thing you could do that would significantly up your chances of getting it, and all it would take was two minutes?
You probably don’t believe me, but here me out.
Amy Cuddy, social psychologist and Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, has spent a long time researching body language. In particular, she’s studied the role of nonverbal expressions of power and dominance in the business world.
We all know the significance of nonverbal communication for how we are perceived. As Cuddy has famously said, “Our nonverbals govern how people think and feel about us.” But she wanted to find out whether the same is true for how we think and feel about ourselves.
To do so, she conducted an experiment with two groups of people.
The first group were asked to hold high-power poses like this one…
While the second were told to undertake low-power poses more like this…
After two minutes, she measured the levels of testosterone (the power/dominance hormone) and cortisol (the stress hormone) in their brains. Cuddy found that both groups experienced significant physiological changes. Those holding the high-power poses elicited a 20% increase in testosterone and a 25% decrease in cortisol. On the other hand, the individuals holding low-power poses experienced a 10% decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in cortisol.
Cuddy’s results showed that just as our minds can change our bodies, so too can our bodies change our minds. By adopting nonverbal expressions we can actually instigate hormonal changes that configure our brain to be either confident, comfortable and assertive or stress reactive and withdrawn.
But she didn’t stop there.
Cuddy wanted to know if this hormonal change could actually alter our behaviour and consequently, our outcomes. So, she conducted the experiment again but this time, after holding the poses, each individual was put through a stressful job interview.
And the results? Every person who held a high-power pose was more likely to be hired. The employers, along with the assessors watching the tapes, consistently evaluated them more positively overall. Why? They were seen to be more confident, authentic, comfortable, passionate, exciting and captivating. While they were still measured on their competence (content of speech, qualifications, experience etc.), it was their presence which was altered and which ultimately got them the job.
So before your next stressful, evaluative situation, channel superwoman. Stand with your hands wide and head held high for two minutes and you’ll be so confident you too could save the world…or at least run it, hey Beyonce.