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Fake it Until You Become it

This article was originally published in Lot’s Wife Edition 5: Identity

Do you have stage fright, shake with fear at the prospect of going to a job interview, or feel like you are somewhere you just don’t belong? It turns out that we can learn a lot from our animal friends to help us out with these situations. Next time you watch an animal documentary, watch how the gorillas beating their chests showing who is boss. Although we don’t go around beating our chests (at least I hope you don’t), humans also express power nonverbally. Learning how to use posture and gesture to our advantage could be a starting point to success and attacking life in the right way. Here’s how.

According to researchers Dana R. Carney and Amy J.C. Cuddy, who undertook a psychological study into power poses, all you have to do is change the way you stand or sit. If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. They say that by assuming simple one-minute high power poses before any situation, your feeling of power will increase as well as your tolerance for risk. Cuddy explains that “high-power poses cause an increase in testosterone and a decrease in cortisol, which leaves people feeling significantly more powerful and in charge, and ready to take more of a risk than those who did low-power poses”.

How are you sitting right now? Uncross those legs, push your shoulders back like your mother told you, keep your chest proud and be open to your surroundings. Another way of doing this is by standing up in the ‘superman’ position, with your fists on your hips and your legs apart. Yes, there is a risk of looking slightly ridiculous, but if you do this for one minute in an empty room, it may just be worth your while.

Let’s put it into a real-life situation. You have a job interview and you’ve turned up 15 minutes early because you’re greatest employee they’ll ever have. Go to the bathroom and take a minute to stand in the superman position. Channel the power, get that testosterone pumping and feel invincible. According to Cuddy you will walk into that interview a lot better than you would have before doing this. So, rather than just ‘faking it until you make it’, you have embodied the person you felt you were when you were doing the pose, and have essentially faked it for one minute until you became it.

Retail store manager, Jenny Winter, agrees with the study and says that actions speak louder than words. “The relevance of speech can vary depending on the position being applied for. Whereas body language is important regardless of the role as an indicator of confidence, willingness, and attentiveness”, she says.

It’s not just in work situations, however, that this comes in handy. Harry Prouse, student at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, aspires to work as a professional performer in the Australian entertainment industry. Auditioning is a frequent occurrence and he uses this technique to help him with the process. Prouse believes that body language has a lot to do with how he will perform.

“I have always tried to go into an interview/audition with a strong posture and positive body language so that I am able to be looked at as someone that wants to be there, a person that will reflect a brand or values of a company. I feel the panel has always responded well to this, and has never taken it as overconfident or arrogance.”

Before your next interview, audition, performance, meeting or even if it’s just walking into a place you feel uncomfortable in, see if it will work for you and take the test yourself. When you’re alone, stand in one of these high-power positions, or come up with one that works for you and see if it makes a difference. The only thing you have to lose is one minute of your time. About the time it takes to send a message to your friend looking for sympathy.

Emily Neilsen

The author Emily Neilsen

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