Power poses help calm nerves

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

If you get nervous about anything — but particularly public speaking or job interviews — then consider trying some power poses…

I’ve recently wrapped up a third year as debate club coach for my local high school. I love working with these 25 or so kids! They’re so much fun and so smart.

We held our year-end party recently, and I always provide snacks and videos. Last year, I had them watch the TED-Talk featuring Shawn Achor. He’s a funny and engaging speaker. You might enjoy his talk, too. He argues that good work doesn’t make us happy. Instead, when we’re happier, we do better work. Writers take note. This applies to writing, too.

This year, I had the kids watch an Amy Cuddy video (that’s her, pictured above.) Are you familiar with Cuddy’s work on power poses? She’s proven in a lab that standing in a “powerful” position — arms and legs wide, body taking up as much space as possible (think: Mick Jagger or Oprah Winfrey) — makes us feel more powerful and perform more effectively in stressful situations.

As Cuddy suggests, I advise all my students to spend two minutes in such a position before competing in any debate. I’ve been telling them this all year but had no idea how many had actually been doing it. At the party, however, one of the students told me a story.

She had been applying for an internship at a local company and they had discouraged her because she was only in grade 10. Despite this, she talked her way into an interview. She was very nervous beforehand so decided to do the power posing. “It completely changed my attitude,” she said. “I went into the interview like a different person.”

Oh, and she landed the job. If you get nervous before public speaking, or before job interviews, I suggest you try some of the power poses Amy Cuddy suggests. They really work.