I invite you to try this right now: Sit in a chair with your legs crossed or close together, bring your elbows into your waist, clasp your hands together and place them on your lap, then round your shoulders and drop your head. Now say, “I am confident and powerful.”
Well . . . you don’t look it.
Closed postures reflect low power. In that slumped posture – regardless of anything you said — most people would judge you as submissive and powerless. Just as important, in that position you would begin to actually feel less confident and sure of yourself.
An Ohio State University study found that people who were slumped over their desks were less likely to believe the positive comments they wrote about their qualifications for a job. Those who sat up straight were more likely to accept their own statements as valid.
Blame it on “embodied cognition,” the idea that the mind is not only connected to the body but that the body influences the mind.
The science behind this has been documented in various studies including that at Harvard and Columbia Business Schools in which researchers looked at the physical and emotional effects of holding both high and low power poses.
High power posers (who held a “Superman” or “Wonder Woman” posture with legs apart, shoulders back, and hands on hips) not only looked more powerful, they felt it – the result of higher levels of testosterone, the power and dominance hormone, and lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.
Low power posers, on the other hand, experienced significant drops in testosterone and increasesin cortisol – which left them looking and feeling less powerful and more vulnerable.
Slumping may even make you feel depressed. A study at Queens University in which subjects walked on a treadmill found that those who were encouraged to walk with a more slumped body posture remembered more negative words on a follow-up test. Those who walked with an upright posture recalled more positive words. To the researchers, this was evidence that assuming a “happier” posture helped create happier people.
This agrees with findings from research at Ohio State University that assessed how posture affected an individual’s ability to generate positive and negative thoughts. Sitting up straight, participants found it easier to conjure up positive thoughts and memories.