I had a big aha at last month’s ATD Baton Rouge meeting. The topic was effective communication and the speaker showed the Amy Cuddy TED talk on body language and power posing. She also emphasized some of Cuddy’s points about posture that makes you small versus posture that expands your presence. As she was saying ‘don’t huddle over and cross your arms in front of you’, I realized I had no choice but pull myself inward in the way she was describing because I was freezing.
This is not unusual for me in public places because I tend to dress for the weather and if the forecast is for 90 degrees outside, I wear short sleeves and sandals. Unfortunately, hot outside means cold inside.
My aha was that being cold results in me being small. I had actually watched Cuddy’s TED talk several times before but it had never occurred to me how much temperature affects my posture. Here in South Louisiana, the norm in public spaces is A/C blasting so I am regularly chilly. It started me wondering if this could be the case for other women as well.
My theory was tested a week later at a seminar in a hotel meeting room where 3/4 of about 40 attendees were female. The forecast high temperature for the day was 87 so the hotel responded by setting the thermostat to arctic. The women in the room were icebergs and I observed their posture for about four hours as we suffered through the cold. Most were hunched over, arms crossed in front, legs and ankles crossed, sitting on their hands, hands balled into fists – all in an effort to warm up. These are also what Amy Cuddy calls closed postures and they detract from a person’s ‘presence’. The men that day weren’t terribly affected by the cold because they were wearing suits or sport coats.
I could theorize that cold public places are part of a larger effort to keep women’s power in check or mention how some have suggested air conditioning use contributes to global warming but I won’t.
My conclusion here is simple. If you tend to be cold, take a jacket or a wrap. At the very least keep one in the car. Wear sleeves and closed toe shoes with socks or stockings – a real departure from my preferred style. I’m realizing that although it’s great to dress summer cool, it’s better to be comfortably able to sit or stand in a way that expands presence (i.e., power pose). As Cuddy’s research found, our nonverbals do affect how we think and feel about ourselves.
It would be remiss of me to not share the latest developments on Cuddy’s work which suggest possible scientific overreach (not a good thing in the world of social science research). However, my anecdotal experience and observations support the concept of power posing so let’s consider this yet another instance of post-truth. 😉
What is your experience with power postures and presence? Would love to hear your ideas and tips. Please share in the comments section below.