You’re sitting in an unfamiliar building waiting to start your job interview, your mind is running through everything you have prepared one last time but what is your body doing? Are you hunched over staring down at the floor, crossing your legs, holding onto your arms, looking at your mobile? Body language plays a big role in shaping who you are, it not only affects how others perceive you but also changes how we see ourselves.
“The handshake of the host affects the taste of the roast” Benjamin Franklin
Non-verbal communication can have a significant effect on other people – their perception, experience and decisions, the relationships we have with them and our influence upon them and vice-versa. It’s often the presence an individual brings with what they say during a meeting or discussion and not just the speech itself that will drive the decision being made.
Awkward interactions, smiles, handshakes (or lack of a handshake) can make quite an impression and are memorable – not for the right reasons. It’s normal to want to curl up into a ball or blend in with the wallpaper whenever you are feeling nervous, anxious or less than confident, but what if you could counteract this tendency by using your body to trick your mind into acting and believing you are more confident than you feel.
We’ve all met someone who walks into a room and draws your attention without saying a word. You often notice yourself sitting up straighter with them, speaking more clearly and engaging with more confidence. It’s their presence that draws you in.
Our minds change our bodies, but can our bodies change our minds?
We don’t always notice how our feeling are presented in the way we behave. Although it may seem like our thoughts are hidden, we are subconsciously expressing these through our actions.
Body-mind approaches such as power posing rely on the body, which has a more primitive and direct link to the mind, to tell our minds that we are behaving confidently and tricking the mind into believing you are confident. Adopting the body language of a powerful person, even when you don’t feel confident, can change the way other people act towards you, which in turn reinforces your confident behaviour. When you pretend to be powerful or happy then you will start to feel more powerful and happy.
Fake it until you become it
It’s not about acting like a fraud – it’s about learning to believe in yourself. Do it enough so that you internalise it and eventually become it and are no longer faking it. Whether it be on a bus journey while walking down the street or meeting someone for an interview, improving your posture standing up straight and smiling can improve your mood and project confidence.
The next time you’re feeling anxious, a few minutes before your next presentation, interview, or meeting, take a moment to adjust your posture and stand in a powerful position. Spend 2 minutes putting your hands on your hips, keeping your chin up and your chest out. Don’t leave that situation thinking you didn’t show them who you are and feeling like you didn’t do your best. You only have one chance to make a positive first impression.
Watch social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on how your body language shapes who you are, click here.