Do you have someone in your life who’s constantly reminding you to stop slouching and sit up straight? You should probably give that kind individual a hug. He or she has been giving you one of the easiest, least-known secrets to professional success. Read on to find out how good (and bad) posture impacts how others feel about you and even how you feel about yourself.
Fascinating Posture Facts
Posture is a powerful thing. From a purely physical standpoint, good posture helps us to avoid chronic pain, lower fatigue and improve support for our organs. It also allows us to breathe easier, which promotes good circulation throughout our bodies. Posture affects us indirectly as well. First, it plays a huge role in how others perceive us. This issue of posture perception is such a big deal that social psychologist Amy Cuddy spoke extensively about it in her TED Talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” (the video of which now has more than 31 million views online).
In the talk, Amy suggests that we tend to make sweeping judgments about others based on body language alone. And those judgments can have a major impact on pretty important life events, such as whether or not we get a job, a promotion or even asked out on a date. One of Amy’s key points in her TED Talk wasn’t about how posture affects the way others see us — it was about how posture affects the way we see ourselves.
According to Dutch behavioral scientist Erik Peper, we’re more likely to remember positive memories or think more positively in general when we sit up or stand up straight. Similarly, an article by The Wall Street Journal explains that “when you slouch, you project an attitude of depression and low motivation. When you sit up straight … psychologically, your attitude is better.”
Striking a Power Pose
Posture is more than just sitting up or standing up straight. It’s about how you position your entire body. Are your legs crossed or spread out? Are your arms tucked in across your chest or held casually behind your head? These positions, which Amy calls power poses, play a huge role in how others perceive us as well as how we perceive ourselves.
There are two types of power poses: high and low. High power poses are open, relaxed stances that tend to take up more space, such as arms behind the head, legs spread, feet propped up and arms on waist. Conversely, low power poses are closed of and guarded: arms crossed, ankles crossed, head down, etc. By assuming a high power pose, we can impact our hormone levels, feel more powerful and in control, and lower our aversion to taking risks. As discussed in a Forbes article on body language tips for career success, displaying power poses for as little as two minutes “stimulates higher levels of testosterone — the hormone linked to power and dominance — and lowers levels of cortisol, a stress hormone” for both men and women. That means that by simply changing the position of our bodies, we are subconsciously influencing our own thinking and decision-making.
Changing your posture may be the quickest way to alter your outlook and impact how others see you — particularly in a professional setting.
And all it takes is forming a habit. Start with sitting up straight for two minutes every hour. Gradually increase the amount of time you sit up straight until your body naturally assumes a position of good posture. Then, try to work in a few power poses. According to science, success is just a straightened spine and a wide stance away!