Recap: The “Power Posing” backlash

power posing

We know our mind can change our body, but can our body change our mind? According to Amy Cuddy, and other researchers before her, it absolutely can.
We admire Amy Cuddy; we show her Ted Talk, discuss her book Presence, and reference power posing during our workshops. We see tremendous value in what she’s made accessible to the public: the ability to use our body to effectively change our state of mind.
Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk is one of the most-watched, with almost 40 million views. She’s received praise for her work on body language from all over the world. Recently, Dana Carney, co-author of the 2010 study that brought power posing to prominence, came forward to denounce the study itself, calling it flawed and announcing that she didn’t think the power posing effect was legitimate.
We’ve received many questions about this since professor Carney came forward with her statement, and we believe it is imperative that we examine both the allegations themselves and Amy Cuddy’s response.

What Dana Carney said

Dana Carney came forward in September 2016 and expressed the following, which was supported by a full statement:
“1. I do not have any faith in the embodied effects of ‘power poses.’ I do not think the effect is real.
2. I do not study the embodied effects of power poses.
3. I discourage others from studying power poses.
4. I do not teach power poses in my classes anymore.
5. I do not talk about power poses in the media and haven’t for over 5 years (well before skepticism set in)
6. I have on my website and my downloadable CV my skepticism about the effect and links to both the failed replication by Ranehill et al. and to Simmons & Simonsohn’s p-curve paper suggesting no effect. And this document.”

She drew these conclusions by acknowledging some flaws in the research design. For example, Carney mentions that too many people involved in the study were aware of the hypothesis, and this may have impacted how people performed during the study itself (i.e. by showing an unconscious bias).

What Amy Cuddy said

Amy Cuddy made her surprise known when Carney’s allegations began to surface. Specifically, Cuddy stated:
“The key finding, the one that I would call ‘the power posing effect,’ is simple: adopting expansive postures causes people to feel more powerful. Since my coauthors and I first published our evidence, this effect has been replicated in at least nine published studies and in at least four unpublished studies from nine different labs.”
She and her team conducted a systematic review and statistical analysis of power posing studies, and found evidence that adopting expansive postures, or “power posing,” does increase feelings of power. In addition, Cuddy hired a statistician at Harvard to conduct an independent audit of the 2010 research study. You can find that analysis here.
Cuddy also stated that when speaking now about power posing, she highlights what she believes are the strongest effects, and those which have yet to be determined:
“…while I am confident about the key power posing effect on feelings of power and the overall evidential value of the literature, I am agnostic about the effects of expansive posture on hormones. The jury is still out. We have conflicting evidence, which is fascinating and means it could go either way.”

What CCI says

Upon reading both Carney’s comments, as well as Cuddy’s response, CCI has formed a clear opinion on the matter.
We often engage in power posing ourselves – before workshops, seminars and keynotes – and can say with confidence that power posing works, for us, by increasing our confidence and ease when we present. Based on this fact alone, power posing holds tremendous value within our organization, and is the basis for us wanting to spread the word to our clients and participants.
Think about the animal kingdom and how many species engage in ‘power posing’ to exert dominance or increase confidence: gorillas beat their chests to intimidate; grizzly’s stand on their two hind legs to appear large and aggressive; peacocks open their beautiful feathers wide to attract a mate. And then, of course, there’s Tarzan!
Positive effects of power posing can be seen everywhere, even on Wall Street, where “fearless girl” stands tall in her power pose, defiant against the raging bull that faces her. This is an extraordinary, and timely, personification of the “power” of poser posing. When looking at “fearless girl,” the power of body language cannot go unnoticed: the message would be entirely different should the girl be standing, slouching, and with her hands by her sides. You can tell, by looking at her face, that she feels powerful.
Everybody and every body is different, and power posing may work for some and not others. We suggest that before discounting it based on Carney’s reaction, try it for yourself, and see how it makes you feel.

Silence Speaks Volumes

Recently I read an anecdote about the power of silence. It described an event with thousands of people crowded into one room, with everyone chatting at once and no one paying attention to the individuals speaking at the front of the room. Three speakers failed to get the attention of the crowd – until, at last, one speaker simply stood in silence in front of the microphone. Soon after, all eyes were on him and you could hear a pin drop in the room. He achieved this using no words at all.

This story inspired me to think of the great value of silence in business, and what using silence can accomplish: not only to capture the attention of a crowd, but also to demonstrate respect, speak using other forms of non-verbal communication, and help you be the most articulate you can be. In this post, we talk about a few of the many ways that silence matters in business.

Quotation-Mahatma-Gandhi-silence-Meetville-Quotes-38492


Stay Silent – and Listen Up
In a conversation, sometimes the most important thing you can contribute is simply listening. To remain silent and listen may seem like no contribution at all, but it takes effort to be fully present in a conversation – and the rewards pay off.

 

  • What can you expect to learn from another individual, whether a mentor, colleague, superior, or friend, if you constantly feel the need to assert your own opinion? Especially in a professional setting with new or unfamiliar information, keep your ears open constantly. By taking in the most knowledge as possible from others, you will continue to learn and grow – which will lead to upward mobility in your career.
  • Show the utmost respect to the person you are conversing with by silencing your other conversations. Unless absolutely necessary, take your cell phone off the table during meetings. When someone comes to your office to talk, darken your computer screen or close your laptop. This will help you focus on the individual and will make your meetings more efficient, too.
  • For more on the importance of listening, check out or blog post on Why Engaged Listening Matters in Business.

Choosing Words Carefully
Never be afraid letting a conversation hang in brief silence before answering a question or responding to a comment. In fact, you should get used to it!

  • Before immediately jumping to respond to a question or comment, take a moment to reflect on your words. Not only will this help you to craft a more articulate response, it will also incite the attention of others. People will begin to notice that you take time, energy, and thought into answering a question – and that you are not simply blurting out the first thing that pops into your mind.
  • This is an especially important tip during a job interview or a first-time meeting with a client. It creates a positive first impression that you are a thoughtful, conscious individual. This first impression will inform your professional relationships and will work to your advantage.

Silence Speaks for Itself
When you are silent, in no way does it mean you are not communicating. The next time you are not talking, pay close attention to how you may be speaking without words.

  • Body language, even when standing still, says a lot about you and your attitude. Are you standing with slouched shoulders, arms crossed, or fidgeting? If so, others may perceive you as bored or apathetic. Or, is your posture aligned, your shoulders back, and hands on your hips or at your sides? This suggests you are confident, prepared, and alert.
  • When listening to someone, eye contact is key to let that person know that you are interested in and engaged with what they are saying. If you are truly listening but your eyes are wandering around the room, the speaker might suspect your indifference.

Your professional image speaks volumes about you. If you do not take the time to polish your image by paying attention to dress codes, fit and cut of clothing, age-appropriate attire, and grooming, your image can silently override anything you have to say – no matter how articulate you are.