Stop the presses. I am so bummed to have to tell you this, but Amy Cuddy’s Power Posing has been debunked.
I originally wrote about it a year ago. Ms. Cuddy, a Harvard professor/scientific researcher, YouTube celebrity, and best-selling author, reported that we could prepare for a challenging event by power posing for two minutes. If we stood with hands on hips, feet apart, chin lifted like Wonder Woman, or with our arms in the air in the “victory” pose, our body chemistry would temporarily change, increasing testosterone and reducing cortisol, the stress hormone.
Unfortunately, it is said that her research was flawed. The results couldn’t be replicated.
So, What Do We Do Now?
The good news is that science still matters. Besides, we still have many smart strategies to amp up our confidence before a challenging event. I’d like to share mine with you.
Born Shy, Still Introverted, Yet I Succeeded
As a little girl, I was so shy I clung to my mother’s skirt. Also, I’m a true introvert. People are surprised when they learn this. They say I’m a natural in front of audiences, or that I appear to really enjoy networking and socializing. In fact, I had to learn to do it because of my job. As I became more confident, I actually began to enjoy it.
Five Tips to Build Confidence
I’m still an introvert, shy to the core, but these five strategies help me every time I have a challenging interaction with other people, be it public speaking, a networking event, a book signing, or a big family party.
Think of your subconscious as a frightened six-year-old. Without a positive script to follow, she’ll rehearse her fears over and over again before the big event, ready to sabotage you on that day. So instead, supply her with a new, optimistic script.
As soon as you accept the invitation, create a mental movie of the event. Lie down on the sofa, close your eyes, and see yourself walking into the room, smiling and happy. See yourself greeted by supportive, smiling people.
See the event, start to finish, without words – like a movie with the sound turned off. All is upbeat and happy. At the end, see yourself walk away with a cheerful wave and a grin. See people watching you leave the room, smiling and glad that you were there. Repeat this five-minute exercise every day leading up to the event. By the time you get there, it will feel as if you’ve done it before–successfully.
2. Find Your Purpose
A sense of purpose will make you feel less self-conscious. Focus on the message instead of yourself. Example: “I’m here to support my friend,” or “I’m here to educate the audience about X.” You’re doing a good deed!
3. Remember the Logistics
Visualization can alert you to the physical aspects of your upcoming event. For example, if it’s a personal appearance, don’t wear the bra whose strap always falls down, or the slim-cut slacks that seem to shrink, cutting off your breath as the hours pass. Been there, done that!
Organize your purse for quick access. Have reading glasses, tissues, pen/pencil close at hand so you don’t have to fumble.
If I’m giving a talk, I try to make sure there’ll be a wearable microphone or one that’s anchored on the podium, so my hands are free to shuffle my notes, take a sip of water, or straighten my damn bra strap.
4. Think of Conversational Gambits Ahead of Time
Before social events, my husband and I rehearse the names and backgrounds of the people who are likely to be there and we think of topics we can ask them about: “Didn’t Theresa just take over that daycare center? And her husband is Steve, the policeman, right?” “We could talk about Amy’s trip to Hawaii.” “Or John’s new grandchild. A girl, right?” It’s so helpful to have an idea of what you might say to the other person, who will likely relax and open up. Then you’re both happy.
5. Remember Your Physical Impression
Don’t use self-defeating gestures. For example, I always fidget. I’ll spin my wedding ring, or mindlessly pick at a cuticle. Neither conveys confidence. Instead, I’ve learned to clasp my hands in front of me, like putting them under arrest. Lastly, remember good posture, and breathe!
Ending on a Happy Note
Despite my disappointment in Cuddy’s research, I still believe in her guidance. As she says, “Carrying yourself in a powerful way directs your feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and body to feel powerful and be present (and even perform better).” I have long employed her strategy of “faking it until we become it.” You can become more confident, and the results can last. My friend Nanci, who first tipped me off to the debunking, told me this is called “attribution bias,” which means if we believe something helps us, it will. So, if it helps you to pose like Wonder Woman, do it!
Now, let’s learn from each other. What strategies do you use to amp up your self-confidence before a challenging event? What tips can you share with us?
This post originally appeared on a fabulous website, SixtyAndMe.com. If you’re more of a watcher than a reader, here’s Margaret Manning, the founder, telling it in her own words.