The power pose is dead. So what now?
‘Feeling powerful may feel good, but on its own does not translate into powerful or effective behaviours.” Thus concludes Joseph Cesario, associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, which has generated no fewer than 11 studies of the “power stance”.
Pre-2010, that wouldn’t need to be said, any more than “feeling like you can fly may feel good, but does not on its own get you into the air”. However, this decade was revolutionised by the work of social psychologist Amy Cuddy, and her 2012 Ted talk, which has now been watched by 42 million people, all of them standing like horny gorillas at a public event near you.
Her toplines: feelings of power, whether chronic (you’re a CEO) or acute (you’ve just won a marathon) naturally self-express in an open stance, arms out, hips out, chin out, everything out; people exhibiting this stance have raised testosterone (dominance hormone) and lowered cortisol (stress hormone), so everything goes their way. Her conclusion was that if you simulate the power stance, you will reap its benefits in how you feel. That is not what has been disproved – well, not specifically. The MSU body of research says that you can feel however you like and it will make no difference to the world around you.
But how else to assert your dominance in the public sphere?
Posh up your accent: A failsafe way to indicate that the power belongs to you, regardless of what a total fist you’re making of it. Tread carefully though; if you are already Jacob Rees-mogg, a posher accent will go out of human range, and only stoats will be able to hear you.
Flank yourself with muscular heavies: Do not combine this with the Beyoncé power stance (legs wide apart, toes slightly in), otherwise they’ll look like backing singers. A caption competition waiting to happen. Resign: Sometimes true power is in realising you have lost all your power. Just throwing that out there for conference season.