Saturday, October 20, 2012

Powering Posing: Could it Help You Heal?

Have you been to an appointment with your medical provider and ended up feeling very unsatisfied with the visit? Could it be because you were afraid to ask questions? Were you trying hard to please the provider by telling them what you thought they wanted to hear versus what was actually happening? Have you found yourself being intimidated by talking to the insurance company,? The appointment secretary,? Your boss? Or, the person who you are the caregiver for?

 If you answer yes to any of these questions, learning how to power pose, and doing so for two minutes prior to your appointment or encounter, might be helpful.

If you are humming to yourself Madonna’s famous lines from Vogue of “Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it,” you aren’t alone. While writing this post, the tune kept on going through my head so I had to go watch the video. Definitely lots of power posing going on there.

New research shows that it's possible to summon an extra surge of power and sense of well-being when it's needed by assuming power poses (think Wonder Woman and Superman stance or Madonna striding on to stage with her hands in the air). "Our research has broad implications for people who suffer from feelings of powerlessness and low self-esteem due to their hierarchical rank or lack of resources," says Harvard Business School assistant professor Amy J.C. Cuddy, one of the researchers on this new study.

Cuddy knows something about chronic conditions. A ballet dancer at the University of Colorado at Boulder, a car accident completely changed her career direction, as she sustained severe head trauma when the driver of the car she was in fell asleep.

“It’s hard to predict the outcome after that type of injury, and there’s not much they can do for you.” Cuddy had to take years off from school and “relearn how to learn,” she explains. “I knew I was gifted—I knew my IQ, and didn’t think it could change. But it went down by two standard deviations after the injury. I worked hard to recover those abilities and studied circles around everyone. I listened to Mozart—I was willing to try anything!” Two years later her IQ was back. And she could dance again. She returned to college as a 22-year-old junior whose experience with brain trauma had galvanized an interest in psychology. A job in a neuropsychology lab proved dull, but she found her passion in social psychology. Harvard Magazine 

As she described in her TED talk, Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, Cuddy felt like she didn’t belong after her brain injury. It was through her own struggles that she learned that “faking it till you make it” does work. More on this shortly.

In "Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance", Cuddy shows that simply holding one's body in expansive, "high-power" poses for as little as two minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone (the hormone linked to power and dominance in the animal and human worlds) and lower levels of cortisol (the "stress" hormone that can, over time, cause impaired immune functioning, hypertension, and memory loss). The result? In addition to causing the desired hormonal shift, the power poses led to increased feelings of power and a greater tolerance for risk. Working Knowledge: The Thinking That Leads 

People are more likely to be influenced by how they feel about you rather than by what you are saying. Consequently, this research has significant implications for people who feel powerlessness, have low self esteem or lack resources-all common in those affected by chronic conditions. 

While you can read more about the research at the links at the end of this article, below are some ideas on how to bring this into those situations, which you find stressful or where you feel vulnerable or weak. While Cuddy mentions in one of her presentations, how a person used these techniques as part of her preparation for her appointments with her doctor, with great results, I’d love to hear from those of you who try this.

• Just prior to you appointment, phone call, date or whatever else it may be, don’t haunch over your chair checking text messages, reviewing your notes, crossing your legs and crunching yourself into a little ball and appearing as small as possible. Instead, try one of the following:
-       Walk around with your arms up.
-       Stand like Wonder Woman or Superman-tall, feet apart and hands on hips
-       Sit with your feet up and relaxing (hands behind your head if possible)
-       Stand on your tiptoes with your hands in the air

If you haven’t watched the Madonna video of “Vogue,” check it out as the arms in the air says it all. Of course the lyrics have their own empowerment message:
All you need is your own imagination
So use it that’s what it’s for (that’s what it’s for)
Go insider, for your finest inspiration
Your dreams will open the door (open up the door)

If makes no difference if you’re black or white
If you’re a boy or a girl
If the music’s pumping it will give you new life
You’re a superstar, yes, that’s what you are, you know it.

Do this for two minutes just prior to the encounter as the initial effects seem to last 15 or 30 minutes.

• When you are sitting in your appointment, sit tall, don’t cross your legs or wrap your arms around your body. Instead, rest your arms on the chair.

One of the points that Cuddy makes is you can “fake it until you make.”  Basically, if you assume positions and behaviors that change how encounters go, do it long enough and you ultimately will change your brain and outlook. She provides some excellent examples of this from her own life and that of her students. It’s worth it to check out her presentations bellows:

Leadership Advice: Strike a Pose 

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