How To Become Powerful: Start By Sitting In A Powerful Pose

flexing muscles strong

Photo: RightIndex via Flickr

How you sit says a lot about you, both to yourself and to your peers. According to Harvard Business School’s study, “Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance,” sitting in a position that oozes confidence (i.e. legs up on your desk, chest puffed out, or leaning forward) will make people deem you powerful. 

Why? It raises testosterone levels by roughly 20% and lowers the stress hormone cortisol by the same.

The reverse is also true. If you slouch, cross your legs, or look weak, it works against you.  Sitting powerfully for just two minutes can make a psychological difference.

According to the study, “High-power posers were more likely than low-power posers to focus on rewards—
86.36% took an offered gambling risk (only 13.63% were risk averse). In contrast, only 60% of the low-power posers took the risk (and 40% were risk averse). Finally, high-power posers reported feeling significantly more “powerful” and “in charge.”

Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway uses these findings to draw other correlations. “The theory also explains why women don’t do so well at work. It’s not so easy for us to sit legs on the desk if we are wearing a skirt. We aren’t good at gestures of power. And even though we might be skilled at fooling others, we are less good at fooling ourselves.”

The study’s finding isn’t brain surgery. It’s the simple “fake it to make it” approach.  Confidence is a highly attractive, admired trait, probably because it’s something everyone wishes they had more of.

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