Remember when mom and dad annoyingly told you to “Sit straight!” “Don’t slouch!” “Walk straight!” and you ignored them? Well, this is for all those moms and dads, who, I hate to break it to you, were onto something bigger than just impressing your nosy relatives with your height.
People, for the most part, know that social settings require a certain degree of finesse – talk, listen, smile, respond, repeat and most of the time this approach works. Random social situations aren’t make or break situations, so even if we depart from the norm, it doesn’t really matter. One social situation that can be a make or break situation, however, is job interviews. And while there is no definitive right way to give a successful interview, scientists have discovered one piece of the puzzle that can help tilt interviews in the favor of the interviewee.
So, going back to our parents being annoying, it turns out that your body posture can predict your job outcome. How? We’ll get to that in The Thought Process. So, patience young one. Anyway, an interesting study by Dr. Amy Cuddy (Harvard Univ), Dr. Caroline Wilmuth (Harvard Univ), Dr Andy Yap (INSEAD) and Dr Dana Carney (Univ of Berkeley) revealed that power posing before a mock job interview increased the changes of those participants being seen as more confident, more captivating and more enthusiastic, and hence more likely to be hired.
The Thought Process
The idea goes that if we feel more empowered personally, we feel more confident and enthusiastic and can be our best selves relatively free from being conscious.
As the paper pointed out, there is a ton of research out there that shows that when we feel more powerful (personally), we are less stressed, we feel more in control and even our chemical make up is different. When we are more personally powerful, we feel less anxious, there is lesser production of cortisol (also known to induce stress) and more testosterone. Therefore, any thought processes or behaviors that can help you feel empowered in turn, make you more confident (Duh, right? It’s always easier in retrospect)
What They Did
61 participants at a University were paid 15$ to participate in a study where they were asked to stand in either high power poses or low power poses for five minutes.
High power poses are expansive, where people open up their bodies and take up more physical space (like, if you win something and you jump up high with your hands in the air – you open your body, chest out and hand wide open. But that’s still no excuse to continue manspreading). Low power poses are more constricted where people tend to wrap their arms around their bodies and essentially make themselves smaller (think of what you do when you’re really embarrassed and you walk with a slouch and your head down).
These participants were videotaped while standing in either the low or high power poses and were then asked to prepare a 5 minute answer to the question ‘Why should we hire you?” while still standing in their positions. These participants were taken to the evaluation room and found themselves answering the question in front of two trained evaluators who gave no verbal or non-verbal feedback.
The video tapes of these participants were then coded by trained individuals who were asked to find why and which of the participants they would hire. The trained coders had no idea what the experiment was about and which participant had had which pose before coming into the videotaped interview.
What They Found
Coders gave higher ratings to participants who had held high power poses for 5 minutes before the job interview, than those who held low power poses.
What That Means For Us
Now, to the most important part of the entire article.
That means that we can consciously increase the amount of personal power that we have in our life situations. How we see ourselves can be something we train for and work towards.
- When you sit, sit straight. Take up the appropriate amount of physical and mental space that you need (especially women and non gender binary individuals. We usually take up lesser mental and physical space in the world. No one is asking you to take over someone else’s space or bring anyone else down. The idea is to claim your space and empower yourself.)
- Everyday, compel yourself to do a high power pose (hand on hips and legs shoulder length apart, or legs shoulder length apart and hands above your head, like a star!) before starting your day.
- Before any important interaction, don’t slouch over your phone, instead sit up straight or stand straight.
- Your brain and body influence each other. So how you stand and sit can influence how powerful you feel.
Also, I think we should have a hashtag campaign and bring awareness to claiming your space. Whenever you read this article, please post a #ClaimYourSpace story.
So, I hope you learned something fun and will apply it to your life. If you have any #ClaimYourSpace stories, share them on twitter and Instagram! Also, share this article with friends and family who can benefit from it. I’ll see you soon with new research.
Till then, keep learning!
Cuddy, A. J., Wilmuth, C. A., Yap, A. J., & Carney, D. R. (2015). Preparatory power posing affects nonverbal presence and job interview performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(4), 1286-1295. doi:10.1037/a0038543