Social psychologist Amy Cuddy says body language has the power to influence life’s biggest moments. Who gets hired, who gets promoted or who gets asked on a date can all be determined by what kind of energy the body pushes out—and this happens before a person can walk over to say hello.
Fortunately, anyone can train their body to send out the right message. In this TED Talk, Cuddy shares the benefits of power posing and how mastering non-verbal communication could change one’s life.
To pinpoint exactly how this happens, how people can take control of their life with their bodies, Cuddy experiments with a common phrase: Fake it ‘till you make it. She wanted to know just how far tweaking one’s body language could go toward achieving a goal.
“So we know that our nonverbals govern how other people think and feel about us. There”s a lot of evidence,” she says. “But our question really was, do our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves?”
Cuddy says there’s some truth to that—the basic evidence appears in the form of smiling to become happy or standing like Superman to feel powerful, but the real proof can be seen on a chemical level. In an experiment, Cuddy had participants do high power and low power poses for two minutes before collecting saliva samples. She found the power posers were more likely to take risks and experienced increases in testosterone, the power hormone. The people in low power positions experienced an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone.
“But the next question, of course, is, can power posing for a few minutes really change your life in meaningful ways?” Cuddy says. “This is in the lab, it”s this little task, it”s just a couple of minutes. Where can you actually apply this?”
To find out, Cuddy set up another experiment. Candidates were placed in stressful job interviews with interviewers who displayed no positive body language. In the end, those who had done power poses beforehand were the hirable favorites—not for the content of their responses, but the confidence they emitted.
But when a goal is finally achieved, Cuddy says a transformation should take place to avoid imposter syndrome, a feeling that makes people think their accomplishments are undeserved.
“Don”t fake it till you make it,” Cuddy says. “Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize [it].”
Related: You Can Have More—If You Become More
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.