Posture Over Power for Success

So often we rely on title or rank to determine eligibility. Those who have the right credentials can proceed, while the rest of us must stand aside, bemoaning that we may never have what it takes to succeed.

Posture doesn’t just convey confidence, it has a strong effect on making us think and act in more powerful ways. How is your posture right now?

But is that entirely true? Are title and rank sole determinants of success?

Asking that question, researchers conducted three experiments to explore the effects of body posture versus role on power-related behaviors.

The first two experiments placed participants in expansive (i.e. open) or constricted (i.e. closed) body postures, while also placing them in a high or low power role. For example, in the expansive posture condition, participants were asked to place one arm on the armrest of a chair and the other arm on the back of a nearby chair; they were also told to cross their legs so the ankle of one leg rested on the thigh of the other leg and stretched beyond the leg of the chair. Conversely, in the constricted posture condition, participants were asked to place their hands under their thighs, drop their shoulders and place their legs together.

What Galinsky and his team found should have us all sitting a little straighter. During various tasks such as a word completion exercise and a blackjack game, participants with open body postures were thinking about more power-related words and generally took more action than those with closed body postures. While people in a high-power role reported feeling more powerful than did those in a low-power role, this had little effect on the action they took (Galinsky et al., 2017).

The takeaway, notes Galinsky, is that role and posture independently affect our sense of power, but posture is more responsible for activating power-related behaviors (Galinsky et al., 2017).

In a third experiment, the researchers asked participants to verbally record a time when they were in a high or low-powered position while adopting either expansive or constricted body postures. Next, they asked them whether or not they would take action in three different scenarios.

Here again, posture won out. Participants in the expansive body posture condition took action more often than those with constricted postures, regardless of whether they recalled a time of being in a high or low-powered role (Galinsky et al., 2017).

“Going into the research we figured role would make a big difference, but shockingly the effect of posture dominated the effect of role in each and every study” (Galinsky et al., 2017).

We cannot control rank, and we cannot immediately change title. What we can do, and what Galinsky says may be our best choice, is adopt a posture that conveys confidence.

Posture, according to Galinsky, doesn’t just convey confidence, it has a strong effect on making us think and act in a more powerful way. And it may just be the difference between getting the job, and getting passed over.

Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Course:

Poise: The Psychology of Posture is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that explores how body language can be used to better understand our clients and improve their lives.

It is said that non-verbal communication represents two-thirds of all communication. Whether it be through gestures, posture, facial expressions, personal space or eye contact, how we position and move our bodies sends a message to those we are speaking to. Our poise is often a very telling look into how we feel, and can be used as a tool to assess, and even change, psychological state.

This course will explore the body language of poise – how we hold ourselves, position our bodies, sit, stand, walk, and carry ourselves – to examine the link between posture and psychology, an exciting new field called psychobiomechanics. We will look at the research on psychobiomechanics and the science behind body/mind (also known as bottom-up) approaches. Then we will explore what poise can tell us about how to detect common psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, fear, anger, and mistrust. Lastly, we will learn the powerful skills needed to utilize poise to overcome fear, build confidence, connect with others, and call upon our best selves. Course #21-27 | 2018 | 31 pages | 15 posttest questions

Click here to learn more.

Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Professional Development Resources maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Professional Development Resources is also approved by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC ACEP #5590); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB Provider #1046, ACE Program); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA Provider #3159); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR Provider #PR001); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy (#BAP346), Psychology & School Psychology (#50-1635), Dietetics & Nutrition (#50-1635), and Occupational Therapy Practice (#34); the Georgia State Board of Occupational Therapy; the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed mental health counselors (#MHC-0135); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board (#RCST100501); the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs (#193); the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists (#114) and State Board of Social Worker Examiners (#5678); and is CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).

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