What are you doing with your body at this very moment? Are you sitting or standing? If your standing, is your weight equally distributed between your feet or are you placing the majority of your weight on a single foot? What about your arms – crossed, by your side, on your neck, or in your lap?
You’ve already heard/seen the stats on the impact of nonverbal communication. The cliff’s notes version is that experts estimate that:
- Two-thirds of our communication is nonverbal
- Most first impressions are formed within the first 4 seconds of contact (can’t say much in 4 seconds)
- Nonverbal cues impact how much we like and trust others, as well as how we rate the competence of others
Nonverbals tell us a great deal about the people we’re interacting with AND tell the people we’re interacting with a great deal about ourselves.
But did you know that your own body language/positioning also informs your evaluations of yourself? That’s right, kids – your body’s positioning, facial expressions, gestures, etc. also tell your brain how to feel about yourself.
Sounds like some wacky Inception ####, right? Here’s how it works —
The way you feel at any given moment is not just impacted by what’s going on in your world moment to moment. Your mood is also impacted by how you’re holding your body. Studies show that engaging the same muscles required for smiling (or frowning) for 2 minutes results in a mood improvement (deterioration). Here’s another piece of evidence – MBA students who exhibit high power body posture outperform their low power body posture peers regardless of entrance test scores, intelligence, etc. That’s right — what you’re doing with your body right now is telling your brain how you should feel right now.
Back to what you’re doing with your body. Check out the high and low power poses in the images from a TED Talk given by social psychologist Amy Cuddy. Does your body language look more like something in the left or the right column of images?
- High power poses (left column) are relaxed and open. These poses project confidence and competence.
- Low power poses (right column) are guarded and closed. These poses project vulnerability and inability.
Again – what makes this so interesting and useful is that these poses a) communicate to others about how we’re feeling and who we are, and b) reinforce and can change how we feel about ourselves. Since we also know that feelings of self-efficacy have a very real impact on our effectiveness – this matters.
So what can you do with this weird science?
- If you’re mood is less than stellar – force yourself to hold a goofy smile. Hold it for at least 2 minutes. Do it when you’re alone so no one thinks you’re losing your marbles/a serial killers (it is the Halloween season folks).
- If you’ve got a big presentation/meeting and you’re feeling nervous or unsure – strike a power pose. Hold a high power pose for 2 full minutes and you’re likely to experience a change that can make you more effective. Again – probably better off finding a private space to hold for that 2 minute period.
You’ve heard the advice to fake it til you make it. My advice to you today is that you fake it til you feel it. Use your facial expressions and posture. Not only will those around you buy it, after a few minutes, your brain will catch up and match it.