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Posture for Power

First impressions are formed within the first four seconds of contact.

When Harry met Sally’s eyes, the research tells us that all their senses combined to form a view on the other. Sight (83%), hearing (11%), smell (3%), touch (2%) and, yes, even taste (1%). This process is innate and bubbles up from our subconscious to shape our perceptions of others. It also portrays our own feelings through our postures.

It’s helpful to understand that first encounters strongly affect a person’s perception of you. Not just what you say, but how you hold yourself, the tone of your voice, your gestures and eye contact, your facial expressions and posture. Such body language is known as non-verbal communication and makes up two thirds of all communication between us.

For infants, non-verbal communication is learned from their immediate environment, making the face rather than voice dominant. As children become verbal communicators, they begin to look at facial expressions, vocal tones, and other non-verbal elements more subconsciously. By the time we’re adults, it’s pure instinct.

In the workplace, effective communication is crucial. Executives need honed skills to persuasively communicate initiatives, to gain acceptance, credibility and trust. Managers read their employees body language to adopt the right tone in delivering a difficult message. Interviewers need to use all their senses when judging a candidate for a job.

Accumulating research has revealed that body position, postures, gestures and facial expressions can indeed influence how you think, feel and even behave. Hence communicating positive non-verbal cues when speaking with employees can increase employee morale and performance.

When words and gestures match, your message has impact as well as benefits to your health.

Power poses and confidence.

Need to deliver a positive message? Then use various expansive ‘power’ poses, which involve open positions, with arms and elbows away from the body and chin raised, as opposed to closed postures where the legs or arms are crossed, the head is down and the body slumped or slouched over.

For example, a study published in 2010 (Journal Psychological Science), found that people who sat or stood in expansive poses for just one minute not only felt more powerful and in charge, but also had an increase in testosterone and a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol.

The paper concluded, “By simply changing physical posture, an individual prepares his or her mental and physiological systems to endure difficult and stressful situations.”

So try it:

Just sitting up straight, a simple power pose may increase your self-confidence according to a study in 2009 (in the European Journal of Social Psychology).

Participants wrote down their strengths and weaknesses and described themselves in a variety of ways, including whether they were good candidates for a job. Those who did the task while sitting up straight, chest out (‘confident’ posture) rated themselves higher and had more confidence in their self-attitudes than those who sat slumped, with face looking down (‘doubtful’ posture).

Carney, D. R., Cuddy, A. J. C., Yap, A. J. (2010). Power posing brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological Science, 21, 1363-1368.
Ohio State University. (2009, October 5). Body Posture Affects Confidence In Your Own Thoughts, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 19, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091005111627.htm

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