A TED Talk A Day, Day 42: We often hear about doing things before we feel it — fake it till you make it — but our natural reaction is to think it’s, well, fake. That it’s embarrassing and hypocritical. In this talk Amy Cuddy tells us how physically acting the way we want to be can actually influence our minds and our outcomes.

  1. We are fascinated by body language, or non-verbal communication. Especially when things get awkward!
  2. From body language, we make judgements and inferences, that often influence meaningful life outcomes — like who we hire/promote, who we go on a date with, and whether relationships will work. Even body language judgements in photos can affect outcomes.
  3. But we are also influenced by our own “non-verbals”.
  4. Shows of power and dominance often involve opening up and taking up space — both for humans and in the animal kingdom.
  5. We do the opposite when we feel powerless — we close up and make ourselves small.
  6. We have a tendency to complement someone else’s non-verbals. When someone shows dominance, we tend to make ourselves smaller. (We do the opposite)
  7. So the question is: can we “fake it till we make it”? Can we perform actions that show dominance to experience behavioural outcomes that makes us seem more powerful?
  8. The minds of the powerful differ from the minds of the powerless: they are more assertive, more confident, more optimistic, are able to think more abstractly. They also have high testosterone and low cortisol levels.
  9. The mind shapes the body, but the body also shapes the mind. Role changes can influence hormonal levels (like testosterone and cortisol).
  10. Different power poses can be change us: in Cuddy’s experiment with power poses, she found that people who perform high power poses were more likely to take a gamble after, and also experience an increase in testosterone level, and a decrease in cortisol. The reverse was true for people who did low power poses.
  11. In another experiment, people did high power poses before an interview, and it turns out those who did were favoured, even after taking into account evaluations of how good the content of what they said was. Presence made the difference; and this is related to characteristics like being passionate, enthusiastic, confident, captivating, authentic, and comfortable made a difference.
  12. Fake it till you become it. Don’t fake it till you make it, fake it till you become it. In a more personal turn to the talk, Cuddy relates how she had struggled to make it professional, and was close to giving up when someone told her to just do it regardless of how she felt, until she could do it. She does, and only years later does she realise that she no longer feels like she doesn’t belong where she is. So even though power poses don’t feel natural, we can do them as part of the process to become more powerful.
  13. Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes. These high power poses only require two minutes, but that can significantly create big outcomes if we use them at the right time.

Suggested action step: Fake it till I become it. Be the way I want to be even if I don’t feel that way yet.