Sunday, November 14, 2010

Look Confident, Be Confident

Check out this fascinating article from the most recent issue of Harvard Magazine, "The Psyche on Automatic," by Craig Lambert.

Lambert explores the nature of first impressions through examining the research of social psychologist Amy Cuddy.

Cuddy explains, for example, that nonverbal cues are critical determinants of whether a person is viewed as "high power" or "low power:"

“In all animal species, postures that are expansive, open, and take up more space are associated with high power and dominance,” she says. “Postures that are contractive—limbs touching torso, protecting the vital organs, taking up minimal space—are associated with low power, being at the bottom of the hierarchy. Any animal you can think of, when it’s prey, makes itself as small as possible...

In primates, these postures also correlate with testosterone and cortisol levels. Expansive, high-power postures mean (in both sexes) high testosterone, a hormone that animal and human studies connect with dominance and power, and low levels of cortisol (the “stress” hormone), while the inverse holds for contractive, low-power postures."

What's more, Cuddy explains that taking on a posture of dominance is not only a sign of confidence, but can actually increase your level of confidence:

In a recent paper published in Psychological Science, Cuddy, Dana R. Carney, and Andy J. Yap (both of Columbia) report how they measured hormone levels of 42 male and female research subjects, placed the subjects in two high-power or low-power poses for a minute per pose, then re-measured their hormone levels 17 minutes later. They also offered subjects a chance to gamble, rolling a die to double a $2 stake.

The results were astonishing: a mere two minutes in high- or low-power poses caused testosterone to rise and cortisol to decrease—or the reverse. Those in high-power stances were also more likely to gamble, enacting a trait (risk taking) associated with dominant individuals; they also reported feeling more powerful. “If you get this effect in two minutes, imagine what you get sitting in the CEO’s chair for a year,” Cuddy says.

From the Green Room: Right before you get up to speak, get your body into it's most confident state. This is a simple way to increase your level of confidence - and your potential for success - each and every time you speak.


Evgenya Shkolnik said...

This makes so much sense. Too bad shoulder pads for women are out of style now. Do you have any additional tips for women who generally take up less space than men?

Evgenya Shkolnik said...

p.s. And although women do take more space when visibly pregnant, I find that tends to be counter-productive in this context.

Sarah Gershman said...

Thanks for your comments, Evgenya! Here are a few things women can do to raise their status in a speaking situation:

Practice using your chest voice (the lower registers of your voice)

Practice keeping your head still while talking.

Make focused, direct eye contact.

Happy Thanksgiving!

evgenya shkolnik said...

And one more, don't fiddle with your hair! I've seen women do this and it's just bad on many fronts.

happy thanksgiving!