Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Power. It's that intangible thing that so many people strive for. For some people, feeling a sense of control -- over themselves, others, situations or all of the above -- is a natural thing. For others, it doesn't come as easy.

In her TEDTalk (above), social psychologist Amy Cuddy shares an easy way that anyone can change not only others' perceptions of them, but the way they feel about themselves -- spending two minutes "power posing" with their arms or elbows out, their chin lifted and their posture expansive. Cuddy's research, done in collaboration with Dana Carney, has shown that adopting the body language associated with dominance for just 120 seconds is enough to create a 20 percent increase in testosterone and a 25 percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol. In other words, adopting these postures makes a person feel more powerful.

But for those who already project power and competence to the world through their bodies, there is another, perhaps harder challenge: communicating warmth.

In October, Cuddy sat down for a Q&A with the TED Blog and made a truly fascinating point: that many leaders focus so much on demonstrating power and competence that they fail to communicate warmth and trustworthiness. And as Cuddy explains, warmth may actually be a truer, deeper source of power to begin with.

Says Cuddy, "You must understand the people you're trying to influence or lead by building trust first before demonstrating competence and power. You must be able to show them that you understand them -- and, better yet, that you can relate to them. By doing that, you're laying the groundwork for trust. And it's only then that they can really hear you and be open to your ideas. Trust is the conduit for influence; it's the medium through which ideas travel. If they don't trust you, your ideas are just dead in the water. If they trust you, they're open and they can hear what you're offering. Having the best idea is worth nothing if people don't trust you.