Can it really be as simple as this? When we are happy, powerful, and feel like we are winning, we extend our hands into a victorious V shape, lift our chin slightly, and broaden our chest. When we feel powerless, our body positions itself differently: We close up, we wrap ourselves up, we make ourselves small. To become more powerful then, all we need to do is strike a powerful pose, and fake it till we become it.
This is the idea behind Amy Cuddy’s book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. The book’s main tenet is this: By assuming a pose associated with power, you can actually make yourself feel more powerful before an important job interview or presentation. Somehow, power posing inspires you to be more authentic, more passionate and more present, Cuddy asserts, thereby enabling you to demonstrate your worth with ease and conviction.
On the other hand, feeling insecure, powerless, and not enough drains power away. “In pressure-filled situations, when we are distracted by thinking about possible outcomes of our performance, our skills are measurably diminished,” Cuddy writes. “When we explicitly monitor ourselves, second by second, any task that requires memory and focused attention will suffer.” Self-doubt makes us less effective and triggers a negative feedback loop. Our perceived lack of power dilutes our self-confidence. We feel blocked, we become less present, we grow increasingly self-absorbed, and shut down. All this leads to even more disappointment and feelings of powerlessness.
But there is a way to break the cycle. Here are a few of our favorite tips from Cuddy to manifesting a bolder, bigger you.
1. Focus less on the impression you're making on others and more on the impression you're making on yourself.
Concentrating on—and trying to influence—how others see us takes up all our mental and emotional bandwidth. The preoccupation with status robs us of our inherent authenticity. The focus becomes trying to figure out what they're thinking of us, what we should say next, what we should have said a moment ago, and so on. Instead, Cuddy recommends focusing on feeling strong and comfortable – and on trusting ourselves. When we do this, we can be fluid, more genuine, and better able to connect. That makes us far more engaging.
2. Don’t be in it to win it
Focusing on the outcome, such as winning the job, the raise, the game, the argument, the next date shifts us out of the moment. When we hyper focus on winning, Cuddy says “we're likely to leave that challenging moment with a sense of regret – feeling like we didn't really show them our best selves. Focusing too much on the end result also undermines our performance and, ironically, our chance of getting the desired outcome.”
3. Present with strong, open posture.
The best stance for presenting to an audience—and convening engagement—is a confident one. Cuddy says, “When we present with weak, slouchy, or closed posture, we not only signal insecurity and fear, we also signal disinterest and disrespect, which can be even more costly.”
4. Take a power pause
When we feel powerful, we allow ourselves to occupy more temporal space. In other words, we don't rush. As Cuddy says, “We speak more slowly, taking the time to respond and interact thoughtfully and clearly, and we don't fear pauses. In fact, pauses are quite powerful: they act as punctuation marks that can help us to emphasize particularly important points.” Speaking in a rhythm that feels natural to us, rather than feeling we have to hurry so as not to waste people’s time, increases our sense of confidence.