Watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.
Have you ever wondered why some people appear more impressive than others at first glance? Amy Cuddy's TEDTalk "Body Language Shapes Who We Are" is an amazing example of how empirical research can be practically applied to empower people to become better nonverbal communicators and ultimately change lives. After watching the video, I stood up and clapped at the screen. However strange that may seem, I felt Professor Cuddy deserved at least that much from me.
Cuddy's research and the manner in which she delivered it to the audience are incredibly powerful. Here, I would like to build upon one of my favorite TEDTalks of all time by offering some additional ways of using body language to change your life.
The Body Audit: Increase Your Self-Awareness
At the start of the video, Cuddy asks her audience to check how they are sitting and take note of their posture. This is a very useful exercise and something I advise my clients to do on a daily basis. We form impressions incredibly quickly, so it is vital that we understand the messages that we display.
People are commonly concerned with their body language immediately before a stress-provoking interaction, such as a meeting, presentation or date. However, in order to increase self-awareness and modify the signals you project, you need to pay attention to this issue much more frequently. When having a conversation with your spouse or best friend, or while waiting in a café, ask yourself: "How may my body language be perceived right now? Is what I am displaying reflective of how I want to be perceived?"
The first step in modifying the impressions we give off is to be consciously aware of our signals. Try asking yourself these questions five times a day in a wide range of social interactions. You may be surprised by the answers you uncover.
Do More Than Just Power Pose
After working with thousands of individuals at The Nonverbal Group and leading classes in nonverbal communication, I can tell you that changing your thoughts is vital to any long-term change in behavior. However, because behaviors typically have a powerful effect on feelings and thoughts, modifying them first provides an amazing shortcut to the process. The goal is to use behaviors as a gateway to change thoughts and emotions.
Here are some of the things I do with my clients to transform them into strong nonverbal communicators:
1. Power Pose -- Modify your posture so that you are occupying space in the same fashion that was discussed in Cuddy's TED Talk. It may feel incredibly weird, and at times obnoxious, but that doesn't matter--because it works! Make sure you are alone and imagine the most confident version of yourself. What that person would look like? Now, expand your body and power pose.
2. Move -- Jump up and down, throw some punches or do some push-ups. Movement is an incredible method for reducing anxiety and generating energy that you probably didn't think was there.
3. Eliminate All Negative Thoughts -- Do not let a single negative thought enter your mind. Stick to highlighting your strengths, not weaknesses. Negative thoughts will create negative behaviors, so don't allow yourself to entertain them. While working with thousands of people, I have noticed that negative thoughts are, for the most part, not even grounded in reality.
4. Consider What's the Worst That Can Happen -- Most social anxiety is often irrational. Really ask yourself, "What's the worst that can happen?" If this date doesn't go well or this interview isn't a success, life will still go on -- and you will be fine.
5. Visualize Success -- Imagine what it would be like if every single thing went perfectly. How would you feel? What emotions would accomplishing your goals evoke? Focus on these emotions while trekking toward the summit. There is absolutely nothing standing in the way of accomplishing your goals, except your negative thoughts. Don't let them govern or override your emotions and behavior.
6. Practice -- Practice not only makes perfect, but also allows you to create thoughts that highlight the fact that you are prepared. Then, when you are having that internal dialogue with yourself, you can say, "I've prepared for this, I know what I'm doing, and I'm ready!"
The changes these techniques have on behavior are so profound that sometimes people don't even recognize themselves after implementing them. Give these tips a try and watch yourself transform into a confident, capable and effective nonverbal communicator.
Blake Eastman is the founder and head instructor of The Nonverbal Group, where he conducts independent research and teaches individuals to become more effective communicators through the identification and modification of nonverbal behaviors. In addition to his work at The Nonverbal Group, he teaches psychology at the City University of New York.
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