NOTE: Since I wrote this post, some details of Cuddy’s research have come under harsh attack from her peers, as described in The New York Times on October 22, 2017. (“The public nature of the attacks against Cuddy have reverberated among social psychologists, raising questions about the effects of harsh discourse on the field and particularly on women.”) Whatever you think of this critique, and the bullying way it was framed, Cuddy’s essential insight — that your posture influences your level of confidence — is rock solid, and can help you become a more powerful and persuasive public speaker.
Who Is Amy Cuddy and Why Are So Many People Talking About Her?
Amy Cuddy is a former Harvard professor who’s done some research that could change the way you feel about public speaking — and yourself.
She looks at the relationship between posture and confidence, and has concluded that the big deal about confident posture is not the impact it has on your listeners (or whoever you’re interacting with), but the impact it has on you.
To put that differently, when you act more confidently than you feel, you’re not primarily doing this to “fool” other people. You’re doing it to encourage yourself to become who you want to be!
That’s why Cuddy doesn’t say “Fake it ’till you make it.” She says, “Fake it ’till you become it,” and then she shows us how.
Amy Cuddy’s Ideas Are Easy to Apply
There are lots of ways to learn more about Amy Cuddy’s conclusions and how to put them to work for you. You can:
- Visit her web site,
- Read her scholarly articles, or
- View the TED talk she gave in 2012 (as I write this, more than 31 million people have seen it; and if you want to know more about TED talks, here’s how they’re different from business presentations).
But my favorite way to introduce Amy Cuddy is this 2013 Business Insider pictorial by Henry Blodget. You can read it in about two minutes, and the ideas are crystal clear!
You don’t even need to read the words to recognize that each of these images represents either dominance (someone who has power and isn’t afraid to use it) or submission (someone who’s aware of the other person’s power).
And while it may be uncomfortable to admit that, in some ways, we function on exactly that basic of a level, Amy Cuddy’s exploration of what we signal with our posture can help you move into a more powerful category.
Can You Use Amy Cuddy’s Insights and Still Be Authentic?
Remember that, when we were born, none of us had any hesitation about speaking our minds (if you doubt this, spend some time with any baby and notice that they don’t stop screaming until they get what they want).
From that perspective, “fake it ’till you become it” is simply a method for returning to the level of unself-conscious power that was your birthright.
As long as you apply this method in a way that feels authentic to you, you’ll be fine.
You Are the Best Judge of How To “Fake It ‘Till You Become It”
The best way to make any change is to push gently at your own boundaries, and move them back one small step at a time, and public speaking is no different.
So instead of blindly copying Amy Cuddy-approved poses — sticking your chest out, or standing with your arms thrown wide — make small, incremental changes to the way you already do things. Your short-term goal is to:
- Stand taller,
- Speak more firmly, and
- Move with a sense of purpose.
But ultimately, your goal is to feel and act more confidently, with more genuine pride in what you contribute. If you “fake it ’till you become it” with respect for who you are right now, you will become a more powerful you!
And if I can help, just let me know.
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