Social media has a curious impact on our relationship. We gain the skill to make friends online, but at the same time, we are losing the art of building relationships in real life. We all judge others by their body language. Research showed that we could predict how likely a doctor will get sued by watching a 30-second video of their bedside manner.
What about us? Do we judge ourselves by our own body language? Can we improve the way we feel about ourselves and robot-proof our career in the process?
I tried these power poses for 2 minutes. It feels great, but the effect eventually fades throughout the day. I want to feel great all day, and it's not possible to hide in the bathroom and do this every couple of hours.
The search to robot-proof my career by improving my body language was on. A few months ago, I found myself sitting on a special chair in the studio of my very patient Alexander Technique Teacher Leah as one of her few non-actor clients.
Leah moved my head a bit and asked, "You have neck pain?"
Leah: Well, your head is tilting upwards on your left side, compressing your neck.
Me: Oh......people probably think that I'm an insufferable know-it-all...
I spent a few months with Leah and I relearned how to sit, walk and go down the stairs. I feel myself changing slowly -- calmer, happier, more confident, and friends who haven't seen me for a while notice that I am friendlier and more alive. As an introvert, I have mastered the art of pretending to be comfortable in a networking event, and to my surprise, now I am trying to feel easy in my own skin standing there with a cocktail glass.
The challenge of power poses is that they convey a sense of aggression that doesn't sit well when they are used by women on a regular basis. Research has shown that women need to balance warmth and power in the professional environment, and those who displayed an excessive amount of power are not well liked by others.
These are the few tips I have learned along the way.
When you're in an intense discussion today, take one second to check on yourself: are you breathing?
When Leah gave me this homework, I thought she was crazy. Days went by, and I was surprised by how much I held my breath when I'm in a situation that requires full attention - working on a powerpoint deck towards a 15 min deadline, being grilled at a meeting.
Just remind yourself to breathe and keep breathing, just like Christina Legarde, Managing Director of IMF did so gracefully, and you will be ok.
2. Pose for Power, not Dominance
Many power poses make us look like an Alpha Gorilla, who is trying to scare others to step back into line. There is a time and place for "taking up as much space as possible" power postures, but if we use it regularly, I'm fairly sure people will think that we are arrogant jerks.
Pose for Power is taking up the space that is yours, not less, and not more. Michelle Obama, First Lady of the United States, embodies both grace and power.
3. Pull back your shoulder, relax your arms, hands, and legs
Try this: how do you feel when you cross your arm? Subconsciously, you are probably feeling unsafe, and want to protect yourself.
What if you pull your shoulder forward and let your own body collapse? I feel like I'm hunkering down for a nuclear holocaust.
There is one trick that makes me feel -- and look -- all the time, and you can do it anywhere. Pull your shoulders back and relax, just like Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook showed in the picture. It is as simple as that.
4. Power poses re-wire my brain for good
I was never someone who come across as lacking confidence, but I always notice that outward exuberance is partly overcompensating a level of insecurity in me.
So did the power poses make me feel authentically confident? Have I faked it until I become it? I find it so much easier to connect with new friends, as I'm not too pre-occupied checking to see if my shoulder is pulled back and relax than judging myself in the interaction.
And just like Nooyi Indra, CEO of PepsiCo demonstrated, a genuine smile is always the best body language you can start practicing today.
Smile to make yourself happy and not to please others. It is scientifically proven that smile releases oxytocin from your brain that makes you feel good.
Lesson 1: Improve my body language makes me feel confident, powerful, and connected to others. A great first step to robot proof my career.
Have you tried the 2-minute exercise to notice your posture and make yourself more open? How do you feel?