We all know body language can be a powerful tool. How we stand, present ourselves and use the space around us gives off a multitude of unspoken signals every single day, to strangers, friends and our colleagues.
In the workplace, your body language plays a huge role not only in how you are perceived by others, but in how you perceive yourself and your own abilities. Developing a strong sense of presence and putting your most authentic self forward can help you tackle those challenges and critical moments with confidence.
Together with TRESemmé, we're powering our presence in the workplace and giving power poses a go. Power poses form part of The Presence MasterClass™, a three-day event held in May and now a free online resource for women everywhere. We trialled this confidence hack and recorded the impact, but first, some backstory on the technique...
Power poses are a series of body postures designed to be held privately for two minutes, prior to a pivotal moment, with the aim of increasing confidence and energy. One of the best known high power poses, nicknamed 'the Wonder Woman', involves standing with feet wide apart, hands on hips, chest out and chin tilted slightly upwards.
Brought to attention by Harvard academic Amy Cuddy’s 2012 study and TED talk (which has racked up more than 53 million hits), the theory is that practising an expansive posture alone for two minutes could lead to increased feelings of power, increased testosterone (the 'dominance' hormone) and lower cortisol (the 'stress' hormone).
While Cuddy’s work has been hotly debated and not everyone is convinced of the effectiveness of power poses, there is still something highly useful in her ideas about non-verbal gestures influencing our own and others' perceptions of us. She argues that regular use of power poses also has an emotional impact, enabling a person to eventually become the presence they are faking.
"When we 'act as if' we are confident, we can start to convince ourselves that we actually are," explains Chloe Brotheridge, hypnotherapist and coach. "Imagine how a confident person stands and moves, and try to emulate that. Hold your head high, have an open body posture and a straight back."
Although awareness of body language in public is key, power poses are a far more personal practice. Cuddy recommends taking two minutes to hold a pose in a private place, be it in the work bathroom before a meeting or in an empty office before a presentation. Some, such as 'the Wonder Woman' are held standing up, while others, such as 'the CEO', where hands are placed behind the head, can be practised sitting down.
Techniques like power poses aren't one size fits all, and it's worth taking a minute or two of your time to experiment and see what works for you. Read on to find out how power poses impacted the working week of three R29 staffers and an attendee of the three-day Presence MasterClass™, held in May. (An online version of the course is now available.)
Sohini, R29 VP Production & Delivery
"It is Monday morning. As I am on the bus to work, I reflect on my day of meetings, numerous emails to answer and the challenging week ahead of me. Cherry on the Monday cake: the day starts with a meeting with a powerful, strong and very smart person, who will expect my A-game.
I remember Amy Cuddy's wise words about people slouching or shying away from someone who is very confident and powerful, instead of mirroring that power. As I am sitting across from that person in our meeting, I consciously start to mirror her confidence and let that be the force that drives me. My posture is straighter, my voice is firmer, I feel an increased sense of confidence and feel more present in the moment.
I have used the Super Woman pose in the past but never have I consciously practised it regularly during the week and for two minutes straight. Over the next few days, I start my morning routines with 1) me time and coffee (needed) and 2) the Super Incredible Woman pose for two minutes. I really try and feel the power that I have within guide me to be positive and confident. I follow this up with my daily gym session. When I arrive at work, I feel full of energy, like I can conquer the world.
Looking back, hitting pause on my very fast-paced life and taking a moment to breathe in that powerful pose gave it time to sink in, making me more grounded physically and mentally. Following it up with a good workout really set me up for the day. It's positive, it's energised, and you feel this inner confidence that you can embrace it all."
Casey, R29 Creative Lead
"I was excited to get involved with this challenge. I think I have a natural inclination to slouch or be very relaxed in a meeting, and as a woman I was keen to learn how to hold myself more powerfully.
The main thing I took from my research was the importance of taking up more space with 'high power' poses. Head held high, own the space around you and project confidence.
Most of my poses I did at my desk before meetings but I also attempted some on my commute home, as I am tired of people taking up my space (amiright?).
I tried the arms above my head pose and hands on my hips pose. As I went into my meeting I didn’t notice a whole world of difference but I did feel generally positive after it – should I give power posing credit for that?
It’s the end of the week and I really can’t say if I’m going to be pulling power poses into my life. But they did make me step back and analyse my posture and body language habits in general, especially in important meetings.
I’ll definitely be walking into meetings with my head held higher and owning my presence more. Just maybe not with my hands on my hips."
Ophelia, R29 Business Development Manager
"I tried both the 'Wonder Woman' and 'hands held above your head' high power poses. I held the poses first thing in the morning, in my bathroom, and then a couple of times throughout the day in the disabled loo at work (especially when things got stressful!).
I absolutely loved doing the hands above my head; it was most effective in making me stand to my full height and opening up my chest, which made me breathe more deeply. Plus, I 100% noticed an impact on my mood and confidence. Aside from all the research into hormones, I think the 'power' in these poses lies in just making you stop, slow down, open up your body and breathe properly for a couple of minutes, which helps your brain get perspective in stressful situations.
I really like the idea of power posing allowing women to take up space. Aside from helping me with stress and confidence, it was kind of magic to look at my body standing in a powerful position for two minutes each day. As a tall woman I’m used to twisting myself into shapes to appear smaller or more feminine.
It also made me reflect on my achievements and how far I’ve come in life instead of having my head stuck in the present tense and the minutiae of my day-to-day routine."
Aneesha Patel-Sadler, CPD and Collaboration Manager
Aneesha attended a live version of The Presence MasterClass back in May, where she was first introduced to Power Poses as part of the three-day workshop.
"Initially it wasn't so easy to do the power poses, I didn't feel that comfortable and I guess I thought somebody could burst into the office at any moment, asking me what on earth I was doing!
However after a few days, it became so much easier. I noticed a stillness and as I stood in my Super Woman pose, my internal dialogue became kinder to me and I noticed my breathing becoming a lot slower, deeper and more relaxed. Like magic, the workshops I was due to deliver and was so fearful of, weren't so scary anymore! There's no way you can stand in this Wonder Woman pose and tell yourself 'you can't do it' – it's impossible!"
The TRESemmé Presence MasterClass™ is a free online resource for women everywhere. Learn what holds you back, combat Imposter Syndrome, and achieve your goals. Visit the free Presence MasterClass™ here.