Amy Cuddy is a Harvard Professor who spoke at TED talk on the power of body language – now the second most-viewed TED Talk in history – with almost 31 million unique views. Amy Cuddy shares the secrets of power poses in her New York Times bestseller, “Presence”.
Today's show is all about women who are blazing trails.
We're going to start things off with a Harvard professor who did a 20-minute TED Talk in Scotland in 2012 on the power of body language.
Little did she know then that she had just delivered the talk that would change her own life, as well as millions of others.
Fast forward 3 and 1/2 years.
Amy Cuddy's TED Talk has become the second most viewed in TED Talk history, with almost 31 million unique views.
Amy's new book Presence is already a New York Times bestseller, and I had a chance to talk with Amy when she was in Toronto launching her book.
And I asked her, what's behind the title?
I think it's really about being in that moment.
So I know that we've talked about this idea of presence for quite a while in our culture, but I think that it's taken on this sort of grand meaning that it's something you strive for your entire life and may never get to, when really it's about the present, right?
So it should be about the next moment.
And when people are present psychologically, they're able to respond and interact with what is actually happening in that moment, which makes them far more effective.
And it allows them to be who they are, so they leave the situation feeling like I showed them who I am and I can live with the outcome.
So presence is really about the ability to access your skills, your knowledge, your best self, and bring it forth when you need to.
Now, you are very much known, I should add, for the TED Talk that you did, I think third most viewed TED Talk ever, which is-- second.
Let it always stay there, because no one wants to be in number 1 position.
Because then you get knocked off, is that way?
It's just a little more-- I don't know.
It just seems a little more stressful.
I'd rather be in second.
So second most viewed TED Talk.
And your talk was amazing, by the way.
It was great to watch.
You talk about the importance of physical presence.
And you know, simply stand tall and you'll be more successful.
And I'm completely paraphrasing, but is that the essence of it?
I mean, the essence is that-- I mean, first of all, to be present, you need to be physically present, right?
Some of these pieces are so simple.
But the part that I think people aren't aware of is that when you are really stressed out in these challenging situations, like job interviews or pitches or auditions, your mind really-- you abandon yourself into this cycle of what do they think of me and how can I change myself to fit in with that?
So by relying instead on your body to tell you that you're OK, it's actually a smart way to do it.
So your body speaks to your mind as much as your mind speaks to your body.
So we've got these universal emotions that are expressed the same way across cultures, and it's hardwired.
The link between those body expressions and emotions, it's just there.
So if we stand in a powerful way, our body is telling our mind we have power.
We've won already.
And so suddenly you feel more confident and you act as a person with power would behave.
But tell me what that means.
You say a person with power behaves.
So I stand up taller, I put my shoulders back, and I'm going to ask you for some different kinds of ways how that manifests.
But what actually physically or chemically happens to you when you do that?
Well, there are a lot of things that probably happen.
And a lot of this is very early research.
But one of the things that happens when people feel powerful is that their testosterone levels rise and their cortisol levels drop, which means-- testosterone is sort of the dominance hormone and cortisol is the stress hormone.
So you're becoming kind of assertive and not stress-reactive, so you're calm and confident.
And that's what is happening sort of physiologically when you feel powerful.
Another thing that's happening is that your nervous system is being calmed by your breathing and other signals that are telling you you're OK, you don't need to fight or flee.
So you actually by changing your posture, it actually changes maybe how you act, how you're seen.
And therefore, what you often talk about is, maybe, how successful you can be in your career, your life, those kinds of things.
So it just incrementally-- it changes the way you feel.
It changes the way you behave, how people then respond to you, how you see yourself.
And over time, that really adds up.
And you do become more successful by focusing on each of these present moments.
And doing that a little bit each time, you really change your life.
You have talked about, and you talk about in your book, one of the many things you can do is that physical presence is important.
Be out there and expand, and you will see your life expand as a result.
What does that look like?
For someone who's watching, how can they stand, how can they be?
Could you show us?
Well, it's really so simple.
But it really is just-- so if you're standing-- I mean, for example, stand with your feet on the ground solidly apart, instead of wrapping your ankles.
I often see women standing this way.
Hands on the hips, shoulders back, the chest open, your chin up, although you don't want to be looking down your nose, because that doesn't come across well.
So, you know, anything that is expansive, that's moving your limbs away from the body, that's opening the shoulders and the chest, is associated with power in your brain.
So that is signaling back to your brain-- And this is hard-wired, right?
Doesn't matter what culture you're from, this is the way it works.
Go ahead, sorry.
So although, you know, that's what you do-- so this is what you do in private, where there are no cultural norms that you have to deal with.
When you're actually in an interaction, going standing like Wonder Woman in a job interview is not going to go over very well.
So then you want to just be square and open and solid.
But yeah, culture obviously is going to influence what is seen as acceptable.
So for example, imagine a Japanese CEO versus an American CEO from Texas.
You're going to see very different body language, both associated with power, but very different.
And that's where the culture comes in.
Let me ask you just a last question.
Your video, as I say, is second most viewed on TED Talk.
A lot of people have seen it.
And a lot of people have said it's made a profound difference for them in their lives.
I mean, small, incremental changes-- shoulders back-- and suddenly they're doing better in their job and a lot of things.
What stories have you heard from people in terms of how it's helped them?
One that really touched me recently, I was giving a talk and somebody came up to me afterwards.
It was a middle-aged man who was-- he was crying.
And he said, I just-- and I could tell that this was not somebody who normally would do this, right?
So he came up and said, I want to thank you for giving me my father back.
And I asked him to tell me more.
And he said, he has Alzheimer's-- and by the way, I'm not a clinician, so I can't-- I'm sharing the story, but I think there's something to this.
He said, Alzheimer's just makes you feel so powerless.
And you know, I see his body language change.
And so I saw your talk and I thought, I have to get my dad to power pose every morning.
So every morning for five minutes he holds with me a powerful pose.
And he said, for five minutes I have my father back.
He's proud and strong and clear.
He's the father that I knew before.
And I just know that I'm going to have that every day, at least for now, so thank you for that.
Quite the story there.
Luckily, they cut out the part that I was crying when I actually heard that story.
Incredible woman and incredible work she's doing.