Written by Jeff Roberts
When I watched social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk about how our body language shapes who we are, I was moved, to say the least.
Her candid story about overcoming her insecurities and self-doubt, and the knowledge about body language that she conveyed through her personal story, have both proven to be invaluable sources of information that have stuck with me to this day, the same of which surely applies to the 27+ million people who also happened to watch the 20-minute talk.
In the video, Cuddy explains that when we make specific poses, such as holding our hands on our hips, our body responds biochemically by releasing the hormone testosterone. Conversely, when we make a pose that sees us withered inwards or closed off, our body responds by releasing the hormone cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone.”
For instance, “making yourself big” by doing the wonder-woman pose (hands on hips) for just two minutes before a meeting changes the brain in ways that build courage, reduce anxiety, and inspire leadership. “We tested it in the lab — it really works,” Cuddy said on stage.
A paper that she wrote in 2010 with the researchers Dana R. Carney and Andy J. Yap found that lab participants who spent two minutes in a room alone doing high-power poses (feet on the desk with fingers laced behind the head is another one) increased testosterone levels by about 20 percent and lowered the stress hormone cortisol by about 25 percent.
Numerous well-documented follow-up studies by other prominent scholars showed significant effects on behaviour outcomes. In one, students assigned to adopt upright, open postures were more likely to pick seats at the front of a classroom and saw themselves as better leaders than their slouched counterparts. In another, baseball pitchers who evinced more submissive postures were perceived by competitors to be less competent.
Cuddy also brings up a surprising observation about men and women in her Harvard University classroom, that women in particular often shrink in these settings compared to most men, who tend to shoot their arms up straight to answer questions, while the women tend toward a bent-elbow wave. Touching the face or neck or crossing the ankles while sitting are more examples of postures associated with “powerlessness and intimidation, and keep people back from expressing who they really are,” said Cuddy.
While most go their entire lives unaware of these subtleties, understanding how our body language impacts our demeanor as well as how we are being perceived by others is an invaluable tool that, once mastered, can positively affect both your personal life and your career.
Here are 6 effective tips to help improve your body language in any situation. Enjoy!
1) Assume a power position.
As previously mentioned, assuming a position of power, such as standing while placing your hands on your hips or leaning back in a chair with your hands behind your head, changes your brain chemistry to make you feel more powerful. Try doing one of these poses before your next meeting, job interview, or public speaking event and see if you notice the difference!
2) Changing your facial expression changes your emotions.
In his article article, 8 Powerful Ways to Improve Your Body Language, author Jeff Haden explains that “frowning, grimacing, glowering, and other negative facial expressions send a signal to your brain that whatever you’re doing is difficult. That causes your brain to send cortisol into your bloodstream, which raises your stress levels.“
So by smiling even when you may not feel like it, your body repays you the favor.
Besides that, humans act as mirrors to one another, so by smiling, you encourage others to smile along with you, and who doesn’t appreciate a good ol’ smile?
3) To increase active participation, signal that you are listening.
When someone is speaking, it’s important that they know you are listening to them – after all, one of the basic human needs is to be heard. To signal that you are listening when someone is speaking, maintain eye contact and be sure not to fidget, and avoid looking at your phone or watch, as well as anyone who isn’t speaking.
Leaning forward, nodding, and tilting your head are other nonverbal ways to show you’re engaged and paying attention.
4) To show agreement, mirror their expression and posture.
Carol Kinsey Goman wrote in her article, 10 Powerful Body Language Tips, that “when clients or business colleagues unconsciously imitate your body language, it’s their way of nonverbally saying that they like or agree with you. When you mirror other people with intent, it can be an important part of building rapport and nurturing feelings of mutuality.”
Mirroring starts by observing a person’s facial and body gestures and then subtly letting your body take on similar expressions and postures. Doing so will make the other person feel understood and accepted.
5) Use your hands to help others follow what you are saying.
Using hand gestures not only emphasizes your points, it also acts as a nonverbal signal that helps others follow what you are saying.
In her article, Talk With Your Hands? You’re Doing It Right, Jessica Love of Discover Magazine explains how gestures may work by helping us organize our thoughts, perhaps by “chunking” or otherwise guiding them into more easily processed units.
When speech planning gets hairy, gestures usher in efficiency, sparing us resources to retrieve a word from the deepest reaches of memory, or avoid a grammatical speech error, or simply put things as eloquently as we’d like.
So using hand gestures while you speak benefits both you and the people listening.
6) Avoid closed-in postures as well as touching your neck or face.
Sitting in a concave position (shoulders forward and with your arms or legs closed) signals reservation to an observer, so try to maintain an open position when speaking to someone.
Furthermore, touching your neck or face while speaking to someone usually signifies that you are nervous, as touching these nerve sensitive areas has a calming affect. To avoid looking uncomfortable, try to keep your hands below your shoulders and away from your face.
Becoming aware of your body language in social settings can immediately shift how you feel and how you are perceived by others, and hopefully these tips serve as a reminder to be more conscious of how you are communicating non verbally. Now try and see how implementing these little tweaks can make the biggest difference in your daily interactions!
Do you have any body language tips that have helped you in social settings? Share with us in the comment section below!
Originally posted @ Collective Evolution