PRESENCE – AMY CUDDY BOOK REVIEW
Ever heard of TED talks? Amy Cuddy, the author of this book delivered the 2nd most-watched TED talk in history. The title is “Your Body Shapes Who You Are” and I highly recommend you to watch it!
Anyways, the purpose of the book is to show people how to develop their presence, so that they can inspire others, command respect, loved by others, and develop an inner sense of confidence.
Use your body
“As scientists, the first thing we needed was a clear hypothesis. This was our thinking: if nonverbal expressions of power are so hardwired that we instinctively throw our arms up in a V when we win a race—regardless of cultural background, gender, or whether we’ve seen anyone else do it—and if William James was right that our emotions are as much a result as they are a cause of our physical expressions, then what would happen if we adopt expansive postures even when we are feeling powerless? Since we naturally expand our bodies when we feel powerful, do we also naturally feel powerful when we expand our bodies?”
The answer is yes. Cuddy tells us that we can use our physiology to increase our presence. This phenomenon can be described to what researchers call the “bidirectional” relationship between your feelings and your behavior.
When you feel confident and powerful, you naturally expand your body language. Similarly, when you expand your body language, you feel powerful.
I am not going to lie, I already knew about this because this is what Tony Robbins has been teaching for MANY years, but I must say that she did a good job at explaining the science about it. That being said, click here to learn more about my experience at Tony Robbin’s seminar Unleash The Power Within.
Back to the book. The bottom line is that if you want to feel more confident, you just have to expand your body language and you will feel more confident.
Again this is nothing new, but the author does a really good job explaining the science behind it. For example, she explains one study that has been done on this. Individuals were split into two groups.
Group #1; Those with low-power poses. This group was characterized by the fact they were sitting and standing in positions of low power; they took less space, clasped their hands and rest them close to the body…Stood with their legs closed, with arms closed, holding their heads in a downward position
Group #2; Those with high-power poses. This group were also sitting and standing, but they were doing so with a powerful body-language. For those sitting down, they expanded their bodies, took more place, had their legs not crossed, with their hands clasped behind their head. For those standing, they had their hands on their hips. had their chin tilted upwards, and their feet planted wide apart.
Here are the results after only TWO MINUTES in these positions:
The high-power group DECREASED their cortisol level (Cortisol causes stress) by 25% while increasing their testosterone by 19%.
The low-power group INCREASED their cortisol level by 17% and DECREASED their testosterone level by 10%.
I learned from Tony Robbins that the fastest way to change how you feel is to change your physiology, but I never read about the science behind it, and I’m glad I did.
I applied this concept in my life many times and it works. I used to be absolutely terrified by public speaking. When came the time to give a speech, I would often find myself with a really bad posture as I was sitting waiting to be introduced. As soon as I noticed that, I made sure to always sit straight before a speech, expanding my chest as much as possible and as a result, I became less and less stressed before my speeches.
Be careful with technology
The author warns us to be careful with technology like computers and smart phones….The problem with these gadgets is that they affect negatively your posture. The smaller the device, the more we must contract our bodies to use it.
Just go to a coffee shop and you will find that pretty much everybody is hunched over their tiny little smart phone screen or their computers. What you have to realize is that the posture you need to have to read you text messages DOES NOT give you a sense of presence. It actually impairs your ability to expand, and makes you feel powerlessness.
It’s all about excitement
When you are stressed, do you try to calm down? Do you try to eliminate that stress? You probably do and I’m guilty of this too. The problem with this strategy is that anxiety is what psychologists call a high-arousal emotion. When you are anxious, you are in a state of psychological vigilance. You become ultra alert and your heart race. All of this is controlled automatically by your nervous system and it is basically impossible for you to shut off that kind of automatic arousal. Actually, when someone tells you to calm down or when you try to calm down, it REMINDS YOU that you are NOT calm, and it amplifies how you feel.
The author suggests that we should start perceiving stress as excitement instead. She cites the work of Harvard researcher Alison Wood Brooks, who basically says that excitement is another high-arousal emotion that is actually positive instead of negative. The bottom line is that you might not be able to extinguish arousal, but you are able to change the way you INTERPRET IT.
Instead of going from anxiety to calm, why not try to go from anxiety to excitement?
Think about it, what’s the difference between going in a roller coaster and delivering a speech in front of a large group of people? Both are scary! But for some reason, you see the roller coaster as excitement whereas you see public speaking as something negative. The goal is to change how you perceive things and start to see these things as exciting.
This is what Cuddy advice: “imagine approaching it with confidence and excitement instead of doubt and dread. Imagine feeling energized and at ease while you’re there, liberated from your fears about how others might be judging you. And imagine leaving it without regret, satisfied that you did your best, regardless of the measurable outcome. No phantom to be chased; no spirit under the stairs.”
Fake it until you become it
Cuddy says that you should fake it if you really want to make it.
She tells a story about how before a bodybuilding competition, Arnold Schwarzenegger had breakfast with Lou Ferrigno. his competitor at the event. At some point, Lou and his parents asked Arnold how he felt about the event. Want to know what Arnold answered? He told them he already called his mom and told her he won. Obviously, Arnold went on to win the event.
Faking it until you make it is not just about the mindset, it is about your physiology. Want to feel confident even if you are not feeling confident? Well, sit with a straight posture and you WILL feel confident.
“In the first month after my TED talk posted, I heard from an Olympic swimming coach who explained how he’d been using a power posing-type strategy—with great success—for years: encouraging some of his swimmers, beginning on the morning of the race, to physically behave as if they’d won their events. Swimmers, as he pointed out, are notorious for their use of dominant body language in the moments before races, not only to signal their power to their competitors but also to loosen their muscles and pump themselves up. Sometimes they will literally pound their chests, like gorillas. But the approach this coach used—encouraging swimmers to adopt ‘alpha’ nonverbal postures from the minute they wake up on race days—was most helpful to swimmers who’d been thrown off by a poor performance or who were feeling a wave of insecurity and self-doubt.”
Again, I was aware of pretty much of the concepts in this book because I have been following Tony Robbins for many years and this is EXACTLY what he teaches, but Amy Cuddy does an amazing job at describing in details the science behind it.
I highly recommend this book to everybody who want to learn how to feel more confident and present, click HERE to see it on Amazon.
Please leave a comment below or let me know any questions you have. I’d love to hear what you think!