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Yes. It's no myth. Your body can persuade your mind, not just the other way around.

There's some convincing evidence.

 As soon as I saw the evidence, I tried it out in one of my presentation skills workshops - and there's no doubting the lift it gave the trainees.

The evidence that body language can boost your confidence

Professor Amy Cuddy, a Harvard research professor, put a group of volunteers through a test. She stood them in a "power pose" for just two minutes, measuring their levels of dominance hormone (testosterone) and stress hormone (cortisol) before and after.

Power pose? There are a few of them, but here's one high-power pose: imagine standing with hands on hips, feet firmly apart, shoulders back, with a relaxed, confident smile, as if you can take anything the universe throws at you. (Low-power? Here's one: sitting with legs pressed together, hand on thigh, elbow tucked in, head slightly bowed, palm of your hand touching your neck.) Wait. Let's be clear that you do the high-power pose in private, before going in front of the audience. Do it in front of real people and they'll call in psychiatric help for you.

Back to Amy Cuddy's experiment.

The results were startling. For the high-power posers testosterone jumped 20% and cortisol dropped 25%. (For the low-power posers it was the opposite - testosterone down 10% and cortisol up 15%.) She also found that the high-power posers became significantly more willing to take risks. Prof. Cuddy was referring to any social risk situation, including presenting.

For presenters it could hardly be more significant. Stand in a powerful pose for just two minutes and your confidence will jump and stress drop. You'll also be more willing to put yourself on the line.

Your body can change your mind

Or more accurately: your mind can tell your body to influence your mind. With a small impulse from your mind to your body (stand in a powerful pose) the body sends a large impulse back to your mind (go ahead and feel confident / in control / courageous / willing to take risks).

As if your body is some kind of amplifier.

Worth trying?

Of course it is, there's nothing to lose and everything to gain. Here are another two more power poses.

First: stand, feet apart, leaning forward with hands apart on the table in front of you, as if phyiscally dominating a meeting.

Second: lean back in a chair, hands behind your head, one leg crossed on the other above the knee. And I suggest you throw in a facial expression of supreme confidence.

I would love to hear how it works for you. Let me know. You can reach me on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Want to know more about the research? Here's Prof Amy Cuddy, talking about it.

Michael

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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