how to make yourself powerful: fake it

(Video link here.)   We were knocked out by this must-watch-all-of-it TED talk by Anne Cuddy, a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School, where she studies how nonverbal behavior and snap judgments affect people from the classroom to the boardroom.

The gist: everyone we meet is influenced by our nonverbals, our thoughts and our feelings and our body language and physiology; as we ourselves are.  The talk is full of evidence that “power posing” – acting as “as if” — is not about being fake, but about practicing and accepting a new way of viewing yourself, that can become yourself. The most powerful example is Cuddy’s own extraordinary story of how she put it into action, starting at 15.40.

Though watching the whole talk is essential, the transcript itself is full of useful nuggets:

…What are nonverbal expressions of power and dominance? …in the animal kingdom, they are about expanding. So you make yourself big, you stretch out, you take up space, you’re basically opening up. It’s about opening up.

What do we do when we feel powerless? We do exactly the opposite. We close up. We wrap ourselves up. We make ourselves small. We don’t want to bump into the person next to us… if someone is being really powerful with us, we tend to make ourselves smaller. We don’t mirror them. We do the opposite of them.

….I really wanted to know, can you fake it till you make it? Like, can you do this [act expansive and open and powerful] just for a little while and actually experience a behavioral outcome that makes you seem more powerful?

[When people do this] it’s not about the content of the speech. It’s about the presence that they’re bringing to the speech… People are bringing their true selves, basically. They’re bringing themselves. They bring their ideas, but as themselves, with no residue over them. So this is what’s driving the effect, or mediating the effect……this is not about you talking to other people. It’s you talking to yourself.

But our question really was, do our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves?….can power posing for a few minutes really change your life in meaningful ways? Where can you actually apply this?…

Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes. So this is two minutes. Two minutes, two minutes, two minutes. Before you go into the next stressful evaluative situation, for two minutes, try doing this, in the elevator, in a bathroom stall, at your desk behind closed doors. That’s what you want to do. Configure your brain to cope the best in that situation.


When you are terrified about something you need or want to do, remember what Cuddy’s mentor told her:

‘You are going to fake it. You’re going to do every talk that you ever get asked to do. You’re just going to do it and do it and do it, even if you’re terrified and just paralyzed and having an out-of-body experience, until you have this moment where you say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m doing it. Like, I have become this. I am actually doing this.’

via Swiss Miss

Related posts: more bill murray: ‘being relaxed’ (+ how to get there)
creative process: doing this-or-that ‘in your head’
houdini’s mantra: “my brain is the key that sets me free”
what happens if you say ‘yes, and…’ (instead of ‘no’)? 

7 Responses to how to make yourself powerful: fake it

  1. Cydney 03.04.2013 at 9:34am #

    Thank you! You were missed. I am glad that you are back!

  2. Minna 03.04.2013 at 2:35pm #

    Thanks! This is exactly what I needed to hear right now…I´ve been hesitating about “taking a leap” with my career… Love your blog 🙂
    Minna, Finland

  3. Sally 03.04.2013 at 3:04pm #

    Thank you SO much. It’s good to be back.

  4. Sally 03.04.2013 at 3:04pm #

    Hi Minna, Glad it hit the spot. And glad to know ‘the improvised life’ is resonating in Finland, a country I love. Best success with your “leap”.

  5. Nuvea 03.04.2013 at 9:16pm #

    You rock!! Love your blog, thank you for sharing this!

  6. jody 03.05.2013 at 8:51am #

    yup, you rock!!

  7. David Saltman 03.06.2013 at 1:36pm #

    Great post! This is exactly how Tai Chi works as a healing art. A trauma, physical, emotional or whatever, leaves a mark on the body. You begin with the impact point on the body and work your way outward and inward simultaneously. Body and mind are not only connected, they are commutative.

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