The Art of Nonverbal Power Dynamics

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Amy Cuddy, an associate professor at Harvard Business School and a renowned TED speaker, recently gave a talk at the Women Presidents' Organization Conference 2016 on the topic of nonverbal power dynamics, also known (outside of academic circles) as body language. If you've ever doubted the potential of the mind-body connection, her research may convince you that your thought process -- combined with some small adjustments to how you stand -- can have an outsized impact on your personal and professional life.

Cuddy and a select group of social psychology professors study the science behind body language. Her research suggests that standing in certain postures can affect the levels of hormones such as testosterone and cortisol in the brain, impacting how we feel about ourselves.

In turn, our postures impact the moods of those around us. If you want to inspire your team, a confident pose during meetings can do as much as a rousing phrase. Conversely, slouching and folding your arms over your chest conveys weakness, and those in the room will react accordingly.

"Social scientists have spent a lot of time looking at the effects of our body language on judgements," Cuddy said during her TED talk. "Those judgements can predict really meaningful life outcomes" such as who we hire, ask on a date, or even elect to higher office. Just a split-second glimpse of someone is enough to make a lasting conclusion.

During that TED talk, Cuddy showed several slides of study subjects assuming a variety of poses. Adopting a so-called "power pose" is often a matter of a few small tweaks to your body, such as straightening your spine or rearranging your legs. Once you're aware of strong and weak body language, you instantly recognize how prominent figures in politics and business frequently adopt positions of strength in public, the better to convey their dominion (or hide their own anxiety).

According to Cuddy, anyone can "fake it until they make it." Even if you're overwhelmed or apprehensive, a new posture can radically change the outcome of the situation, and amplify your chances of success. By standing stronger, you feel stronger, think stronger, and become more connected with those around you.

Amy Cuddy is a Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist. Cuddy studies how nonverbal behavior and snap judgments influence people. Her research has been published in top academic journals and covered by NPR, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Wired, Fast Company, and more. Cuddy has been named a Game Changer by Time, a Rising Star by the Association for Psychological Science, one of 50 Women Who Are Changing the World by Business Insider, and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

Janet Odgis is the President and Creative Director of Odgis + Co, an award-winning certified woman-owned design firm based in New York City. For 30 years she has worked with some of the world's most prestigious corporations reinventing ways to define and express their brand. We Make Business Beautiful.