What you can learn from Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk – Your body language shapes who you are

This TED Talk by Amy Cuddy on how deeply your body language affects you is one of the most viewed TED Talks of all time.

Summary

Professor Cuddy demonstrates just how closely linked the physical is with the psychological.

We heard of psychosomatic, where your mind can influence your body, eg when anxiety affects your bodily health.

Cuddy explains how our body language affects our mental states, i.e. the reverse is also true.

For example, if you’re hunched over, with your shoulders rolled forward, looking down at the ground, it’s likely that you’re in a nervous state of mind.

Now exaggerate the opposite posture. Sit back, lean backwards, open up your chest, breathe deeply and you’re likely now feeling more relaxed, less anxious and more at ease.

We can exaggerate this further.

There’s a universal pose for victory and feeling victorious. Studies show that even those unable to see make this pose.

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Try this pose for 30 seconds. Really lean back and feel the victory.

How do you feel now? Pretty good I bet!

The causation flows both ways. Feeling powerful makes you more likely to exhibit powerful poses.

But interestingly, posing powerfully can make you feel more powerful!

What can we learn from Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on Body Language?

Immediate applications

If you’re an anxious person or lacking in confidence, this has the potential to change your life.

You know now that your body can genuinely influence how you feel.

This gives you a framework and a toolkit to almost instantly change your mental state.

So before an interview, go to the bathroom and power pose. Do a few minutes of the victory pose.

In the interview itself, recognise that at the bare minimum, how you sit has consequences.

If you’re hunched over and making yourself feel small, that’s how you’re going to feel and this will translate to the interviewer.

Similarly, without going overboard, sit in a powerful way. Legs apart, head up, shoulders and back square.

If you get nervous on dates, do the same. Stop yourself fidgeting, looking at your hands, and guard against a slumping posture.

In general, try being mindful of your posture and how you hold your body.

I have quite bad posture.

When I’m sitting at my desk, I tend to hunch forward. I don’t hold my head up. I lean on my left elbow.

Whilst cooking today, I realised that my posture was poor. I corrected it immediately but it’s amazing how quickly I regressed to poor posture.

Catch yourself during the day.

How are you sitting or standing now? Could your posture be better? Improve it now!

Reinforces just how linked mind and body are

There are plenty of recent books that deepen our understanding of how the body and mind work together (or against each other).

For example, see Coates’ The Hour Between Dog and Wolf for how physical hormonal states such as testosterone and cortisol affect our mental states.

Cuddy’s findings on body language might just be the tip of the iceberg.

In the same way that power poses encourage powerful feelings, imagine what the associated body language is for feeling relaxed, or for feeling creative, or feeling joyful?

Learn more

Check out the TED page for this talk.

Here’s Amy Cuddy’s HBS profile.

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