Go Ahead, Just Stand There

By Koko Wadeson

It turns out that if you do it right, just standing there can be pretty powerful. Think Wonder Woman: chest open but not puffed, legs apart, head level, one or both hands on the hips. Assume that stance and your body will release hormones that make you feel confident and calm. It’s sort of like putting the proverbial cart before the horse: instead of allowing your posture to merely reflect your emotions, you can use it to elevate your mood and generate the self-confidence you need to navigate stressful situations. Because even born leaders like yourself have off days.

Striking a super hero pose might sound silly now, but it can save your bacon the next time you have to pitch an idea to a difficult client, deliver negative feedback to a coworker, or plead your sorry case to a judge. Social science researchers at preeminent business schools (like Harvard) have identified the primary hormones associated with so-called expansive postures as testosterone, which correlates with dominance and a willingness to take risks, and cortisol, which is related to stress. When you gotta deliver, you want your testosterone high and your cortisol low.

The physiological effects of holding a commanding pose for just two minutes last about 20, but the benefits of fine tuning your posture in general are immeasurable. Your mother always said to stand up straight, and she was so right. Your carriage changes your self-perception and influences how favorably others perceive and respond to you. Adopt an expansive posture and you will seem more credible and attractive. But overdo it by going all stiff or alpha primate and you will have exactly the opposite effect.

Seated expansive postures are equally effective, so even if you work alone at a computer in a cave power posing and good alignment should be part of your toolkit for success. Hunching over a keyboard, as many of us do for hours every day, can have a negative affect on how we approach situations and solve problems. It can also constrict creativity. And, of course, slouching is to blame for a lot of neck and back tension. But with a few simple adjustments you can set off a positive cycle and, perhaps, change the trajectory of your career and life.

Posturing is easy, effective, and scientifically validated. So go ahead, just stand there.

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