What secret power does Wonder Woman have that you already have, too?

Motivational speaker and peak performance coach Tony Robbins has been saying for years that we have so much more control over how we feel than we realise.  He teaches people to hold their bodies “as if” they are totally confident – shoulders back, head high, standing tall.  He even throws in a few fist pumps for good measure.  The theory:  moving your body “as if” you are confident will make you confident.

Science has now proven that Robbins had it right.  You can increase confidence and power by simply tweaking your posture.

Specifically, you can “Power Pose.”

The science of Power Posing

Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist Amy Cuddy and her fellow researchers studied the impact of body posture on our confidence levels.  They had subjects assume a particular posture for just two minutes, and then they measured the subjects’ levels of testosterone (associated with dominance and power) and cortisol (associated with stress).  The subjects also underwent a behavioural test to measure their level of risk tolerance.

The result: how you position your body significantly impacts your body chemistry, how you feel, and how you behave.

Cuddy and her research partners called the postures that increase feelings of power “Power Poses.”

Expand to be powerful

Poses that expand your body, meaning your body takes up more space, have the effect of increasing your feelings of power.  Putting your feet up on a desk and putting your hands behind your head is an example of a power pose.  So is the Wonder Woman stance:  feet shoulder width apart, standing tall with hands on hips, head slightly tilted up.

Subjects who assumed power poses for two minutes reported an increase in their feeling of power.   Their levels of testosterone increased, their levels of cortisol decreased, and they were more risk tolerant.

Contract to feel powerless

Poses that make your body look smaller, contracting to take up less space, result in a reduction in feelings of power.  So looking small makes you feel small.  Examples include folding your arms across your body or sitting hunched over with your hands together.

Subjects who assumed low-power poses for two minutes reported feeling less powerful.  Their levels of testosterone decreased, their levels of cortisol increased, and they were less risk tolerant.

Power poses and perception

The subjects studied were also put through a high stress job interview situation in the lab and the interviews were recorded.  The video recordings of the interviews were then watched by people where were blind to the study being done.  Consistently, the subjects who had assumed the power poses were judged as worthy of hire, while the subjects who assumed low-power poses were not.

Take back control of your confidence

In order to build your confidence before a stressful situation, like a difficult performance conversation with a team member or an important presentation, find yourself a quiet place where you can be alone and assume a power pose for two minutes.  Lock yourself in a meeting room.  Go into the washroom and assume the Wonder Woman stance in a stall.

Let your body posture support the action you’re about to take.

It only takes two minutes.

(Note: I highly recommend you watch Amy Cuddy’s TED presentation, which you can view here, so that you can see the power poses in action.)