Last month I got into a vigorous debate with Amy Cuddy about her famous Ted talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.” I was concerned about the potential downsides of the power poses Cuddy recommends and challenged the value of adopting the power poses used in her studies. Recent research published by Cuddy and colleagues vindicates my concerns.
Problems With Power Poses
There are two big problems with adopting power poses: (1) power corrupts and (2) power poses don’t work!
1. Power Corrupts
The concern I expressed in my earlier article was that adopting power poses might make people feel more confident, but would also make them come across as dominant jerks. This turns out to be true. The latest research by Andy Yapp at the MIT Sloan School of Management and others shows that people who assume high-power poses are more likely to steal money, cheat on tests and commit traffic violations in driving simulations.
The last thing we need is more self-centered, powerful people stealing and cheating their way through life.
2. Power Poses Don’t Work
Other troubling research comes from Dr. Briñol and his colleagues at the University of Madrid.
Briñol’s research confirmed that power posing by people who already had high self-esteem increased their self-confidence.
However, power posing had exactly the opposite effect on people who had low self-esteem: it decreased their self-confidence!
Much of the American research on power posing was conducted with students from elite universities like Columbia, Berkeley and Harvard. Sure, for those people, who already have a high degree of accomplishment, power posing usually works.
For more average people, trying to adopt power poses actually saps your self-confidence.
How To Be Powerful
So what can you do to build your power and self-confidence in ways that are good for you and also society?
1. Compassionate Power
The problem with the power poses in Cuddy’s studies is that they encourage people to close off their hearts and perceive other people as inferior.
The key to positive power is to have compassion, or an open heart.
2. Build Self-Confidence
In attempts to build self-confidence, the ‘fake it till you make it’ approach backfires.
This is demonstrated by studies showing that using positive affirmations reduces self-confidence further for people who already have low self-confidence. Similarly, Briñol’s work shows that faking powerful body language is damaging for people with low self-esteem.
So what can you do?
Rather than ‘faking’ it, re-connect with the negative emotions trapped in your body so that you can release and transform them – replacing negative emotions with powerful, genuine self-confidence. My course, Self-Confidence Made Easier and Easier, will show you how to accomplish that.