The power pose is dead. So what now?

The Guardian - G2 - - Shortcuts -

‘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.

Zoe Wil­liams

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