Power Body Language

26.04.2016 |

Episode #4 of the course The secrets of body language by Vanessa Van Edwards


Do you look like a loser?

Or worse, do you feel like a loser?

A few months ago, I was speaking at a leadership conference and met the keynote speaker, a big-shot CEO. We were chatting about the conference sessions, and he mentioned one in particular that was not very well attended. “You know why no one wanted to go to that session? It’s because the guy leading it was a real loser!”

I was shocked by his statement and asked him why he thought the speaker was a loser. He said something that has stuck with me ever since:

“He feels like he doesn’t belong; he feels like he isn’t qualified. He feels like a loser, and so that’s exactly what happens.”

If you want to get dates, win business, and influence people, you have to prep your confidence, both inside and out.

But how do you cultivate a confident presence and mentality? Let me show you how.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia wanted to find out:

Is body language learned, or is it innate? 

To do this, they studied congenitally-blind athletes (athletes who have been blind since birth). They specifically looked at their nonverbal behavior during a win and during defeat. They found that when a blind athlete won, they would raise their hands to the sky in the classic pride expression:

4.1 The secrets of body language

When a blind athlete lost, they would roll their body into the fetal position, the classic expression of loss:

4.2 The secrets of body language

Remember, these blind athletes had never seen anyone win or lose a race. They were acting instinctively. This finding is amazing because it proves that nonverbal behavior once assumed to be acquired through environment is in fact innate.

I want you to look and feel like a winner. Are you going to networking events, parties, and meetings like you’ve just won a race or like you’ve been defeated?

Winner body language not only makes you appear more confident, but it can also make you feel more confident.

Amy Cuddy and Harvard Business School had a group of participants come to their lab. They split the participants into two groups—a high power body language (or “winner”) group and a low power body language (or “loser”) group.

4.3 The secrets of body language4.4 The secrets of body language

Before the experiment began, the researchers tested the saliva of each participant, specifically looking at two hormones:

• Cortisol

• Testosterone

Cortisol is the stress hormone. It makes our mouth go dry and our heart beat faster, and it inhibits the immune system.

Testosterone is the power hormone. It gives us endurance and sharpens our cognitive abilities.

Researchers then asked the participants to stand in their “winner” and “loser” positions for two minutes. Then, the groups were asked to gamble in a small game. And finally, their saliva was tested one more time.

What did Amy and her team find?

The high power posers took 86% more risk in the gambling game compared to the low power posers. Standing like a winner helped them feel luckier! This group also had an:

• Increase in testosterone levels

• Decrease in cortisol levels

The low power posers saw an opposite effect:

• Decrease in testosterone levels

• Increase in cortisol levels

To break it down simply for you, the participants who stood like a winner for two minutes felt more powerful and less stressed. The participants who stood in low power or defeated body language for two minutes had a spike in the stress hormone and a decrease in the power hormone.

Special Note: You may have seen some news surrounding Amy Cuddy and this experiment. We are waiting for the results to be replicated and are doing our own literature deep dive of all body language research to be sure the information we provide you is scientifically accurate and relevant.

Body language isn’t simply a mindset or something nice to have. This is ingrained within each of you, and it’s possible that it can actually change your physiology, meaning that when you look like a winner, you feel like one too.

Before your next date, business meeting, or any big thing, channel your inner winner with a pre-power pose. Pick your favorite:

4.5 The secrets of body language Once you’re at the date, meeting, or party, assume your launch stance. A launch stance is a toned-down version of the big pre-power pose. The best part is that you are still practicing open, powerful body language that will help you continue to look and feel confident:

4.6 The secrets of body language

When we’re nervous or uncomfortable, it’s easy to neglect our inner winner. But with practice and preparation, you can be a winner every time.

Challenge: Pre-power pose before a big thing you have this week!



P.S. Want even more? Check out my article How to Look (and Feel) Confident.


Recommended book

“Unmasking the Face: A Guide to Recognizing Emotions From Facial Expressions” by Paul Ekman


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