Stress levels and power poses
Amy Cuddy a social psychologist lecturing at Harvard Business School, has proven that you can fake it until you become it. In experiments conducted with Dana Carney, she proved that striking ‘power poses’ for just 2 minutes before an interview, can increase the projection of self-confidence and the chances of being hired. This is basically how the experiment went:
1) Subjects had to prepare a 5 minute presentation about their dream job before a job interview, in which they were to be evaluated, filmed and hired on the strength of how they appeared on camera. At this point, some people develop shingles…
2) They then had to convince 2 evaluators why they thought they were suited to this dream job without lying or misrepresentation. If you think this is stressful, hold on, it gets worse.
3) The evaluators were trained to show no non-verbal expression. This would usually spike the stress hormone, cortisol. For many, this is like sinking in ‘social quicksand’;
4) The interview was filmed and watched by two further evaluators who assessed the performance of the interviewees, or masochists, whichever term you find more accurate.
5) Apart from the requirement of remaining conscious throughout, the interviewees prepared the speech and were then split into two groups. There was the control group and one that performed 2 minute ‘power posing exercises’, holding 2 such postures for a total of 180 seconds.
All exercises were performed before the interview, rather so that interviewees weren’t labelled insane…
Those that were chosen by the evaluators, who were totally unaware of the interviewee preparation and control group, were those that stuck the power poses before the meeting. Now, that doesn’t mean that the power posers walked in like cowboys or Wonderwomen. What happened was that they simply manifested a comfort in their own skin, and real zest.
It is these latter two factors, that further research has shown, that are the sole qualities that can win pitches. Content matters of course, but it pales into less significance in the presence of a lack of awkwardness and the presence of enthusiasm.
What this means for your Pitches, Presentations and Interviews:
Preparing for even 2 minutes before a pitch, presentation or interview can change your behaviour. Here’s how you do it:
- Before an interview: stand up in the waiting room. Moving around will help with the nerves and when you’re being fetched, you’re not peering over your I-Phone, hunched and looking up like an abandoned puppy, but you are literally and metaphorically on the same level as your interviewer, from the start.
- Ensuring that you do a posture check, checking that you’re shoulder are low, back straight, eyes straight ahead and torso open will make you feel more confident than when you’re hunched and looking down.
- Space, power and status are related:a) in a presentation, you can control your nerves rather than have them control you simply by moving around. This releases energy, ridding you of shaky voice, hands and legs, as well as projecting an appearance of self-assurance. Weirdly enough, you start to feel that self-assurance.b) in an interview, pressing yourself against the desk like in the picture below can make you feel like you’re in combat with the interviewer.
It can also give your the appearance of a school child hauled up in front of the head teacher. Your breathing will also more likely to be around the chest area, which generates adrenalin, making it more difficult to control nerves and shakiness in the voice and body:
The position below will help you to breath deeper, giving you a steadiness and confidence:You’ll also have the room to be more physically expressive, avoiding whacking the desk when you need to use gesture. For panel interviews, simply move the chair back further from the table for the same reason and so that you don’t have to turn your head 180 degrees like some horror film puppet in order to address the panel. And lastly….
- Smile. Even a fake smile, such as the one you make when you hold a pencil between your teeth, will generate serotonin, the feel-good hormone. It also gives your voice a lift when speaking so you sound more upbeat as well. Instant feedback to which you and others will react.
These small tweaks will create big changes in your behaviour, which in turn, will create different outcomes, so your body language can, in the most subtle of ways, change your life.
For more information and illustrations of power poses, see Amy Cuddy’s 17 minute video below. At 11:11 mins, she talks about the interview experiment.