The Power of Presence

I recently had the pleasure of attending a sold-out event sponsored by The Commonwealth Institute, a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance businesswomen in leadership positions. Between coffee, orange juice, and a delicious breakfast, we enjoyed a presentation from Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School professor and social psychologist. Cuddy discussed her best-selling book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges and the impact of non-verbal expressions on important life decisions.

We were instructed to focus on the power of body language and saw many interesting demonstrations of “power poses.” Cuddy’s research shows there is actually a physiological impact of standing in a power pose for just a few minutes – our bodies will naturally produce more testosterone (the dominance hormone) and a decreased amount of cortisol (the stress hormone). Studies show that people with this combination of high testosterone and low cortisol tend to be powerful and effective leaders who are assertive, confident, and optimistic.

What are some simple techniques you can use to tap into the power of presence? Well, try standing up and throwing your hands in the air, like you just don’t care…no, seriously, it helps!  And your mother was right when she told you to sit up straight – your posture can shape how others perceive you and how you perceive yourself. The next time you have a big meeting or presentation, spend a few minutes in a power pose. It can make a world of difference in the way you perform and interact with people. Instead of approaching nerve-wracking situations with fear or anxiety, tap into your mind-body connection and “fake it until you become it.”

Cuddy’s 2012 TED Talk entitled, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” is one of the most viewed TED Talks of all time, with more than 32 million views and is well worth watching.

“When our body language is confident and open, other people respond in kind, unconsciously reinforcing not only their perception of us but also our perception of ourselves.”
― Amy Cuddy, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges