Presence – Amy Cuddy

Does your body impact your mind as your mind impacts your body? Research has shown that it does. Amy Cuddy, in her groundbreaking work has shown how body language can impact confidence. in her book, presence, she shows us how exactly we can help become the best of ourselves. How we can overcome anxiety at our toughest moments and how we can practice getting more confident.

She says that people judge individuals as soon as they meet someone new.

When we meet someone new, we quickly answer two questions: “Can I trust this person?” and “Can I respect this person?” In our research, my colleagues and I have referred to these dimensions as warmth and competence respectively. Usually we think that a person we’ve just met is either more warm than competent or more competent than warm, but not both in equal measure. We like our distinctions to be clear—it’s a human bias. So we classify new acquaintances into types. Tiziana Casciaro, in her research into organizations, refers to these types as lovable fools or competent jerks.2 Occasionally we see people as incompetent and cold—foolish jerks—or as warm and competent—lovable stars. The latter is the golden quadrant, because receiving trust and respect from other people allows you to interact well and get things done. But we don’t value the two traits equally. First we judge warmth or trustworthiness, which we consider to be the more important of the two dimensions. Oscar Ybarra and his colleagues found, for instance, that people process words related to warmth and morality (friendly, honest, and others) faster than words related to competence (creative, skillful, and others).3 Why do we prioritize warmth over competence? Because from an evolutionary perspective, it is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust. If he doesn’t, we’d better keep our distance, because he’s potentially dangerous, especially if he’s competent. We do value people who are capable, especially in circumstances where that trait is necessary, but we only notice that after we’ve judged their trustworthiness.

She introduces us to the controversial topic of body over mind and provides many examples of the same. Her book focuses on how we can put into practice the basic tenets of her research and live a more confident life.

This is how self-fulfilling prophecies work: we have an expectation about who someone is and how she’s likely to behave, then we treat her in a way that is likely to elicit those behaviors, thus confirming our initial expectations… and so on.

As Goodreads perfectly puts it –

“Amy Cuddy has galvanized tens of millions of viewers around the world with her TED talk about “power poses.” Now she presents the enthralling science underlying these and many other fascinating body-mind effects, and teaches us how to use simple techniques to liberate ourselves from fear in high-pressure moments, perform at our best, and connect with and empower others to do the same.

Brilliantly researched, impassioned, and accessible, Presence is filled with stories of individuals who learned how to flourish during the stressful moments that once terrified them. Every reader will learn how to approach their biggest challenges with confidence instead of dread, and to leave them with satisfaction instead of regret.”

Here is her TED Talk: