Thursday, 21 November 2013

Psychology of Confidence

Confidence scientifically separates successful people from those who are not.


We are all fascinated by body language. I have often found myself searching pop psychology articles for hidden body language expressions that give insight into a person’s unconscious thinking. And in fairness, from people’s body language we do make sweeping inferences… Check this guy out for example -------->


Then this guy-------------------------------------------->

Who would you rather approach to ask for some change?

In the above examples you have made conscious decisions based on body language and expression. But, the problem is that in normal everyday life, we don’t react to body language at a conscious and aware level, instead we normally react to body language at an unconscious and unaware level.

It is one of the unconscious ways people will judge you. Studies show that it also has an impact on our chances for success (e.g. when being judged in social situations like an interview or meeting your partners parents).

Dr. Cuddy a lecturer from Harvard suggests that your body language shapes who you are. Simply, people make sweeping unconscious inferences based on your body language.

Coming back to confidence then.

How powerful and confident do these guys seem?--->

Not so much, this is because they are closed off, they have wrapped themselves up in insecurities because they (at some level) feel vulnerable. But the problem is that they are also communicating these feelings of insecurity to people around them, and they are unattractive traits which other people judge you by in social situations.


What about these guys now---------------------->

They are open and subjectively I feel they look confident.

This "V"sign ------------------------->
is also a sign of confidence and powerful celebration. Interestingly both blind and non-blind people do this in celebration. More than anything it demonstrates that body language is a form of communication we have evolutionarily inherited
Dr Cuddy, has demonstrated in scientific research studies that with confident body language, what she calls “power posing” (as we see in the pictures above) other people unconsciously view us in a positive manor. In a study conducted by Dr Cuddy, two groups of candidates approached an interview with contrasting body language.. The confident candidate always got hired (as you were expecting). However, what blows my mind, is that the confident candidate always got hired regardless of the person’s qualifications or experience. Simply, the power posing body language gave off the impression of passion and enthusiasm and interviewers found them captivating, comfortable, authentic and confident.

So is that it then? Just fake it? Fake your insecurities by blanketing them with positive and confident body language in social situations forever? Fake it till you make it? I personally feel that presenting myself in this way continuously would make me feel like a fraud. However, this is where Cuddy’s study excels. Dr Cuddy established that your body language shapes who you are. She demonstrated that “power posing” -- standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident affects our testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain (the brain chemistry that is associated with confidence and success) and actually makes us feel confident. What we are getting at here, is that by deliberately positioning our bodies in certain ways, our bodies can actually change our brain chemistry like an ordinary pill/tablet would. It changes our brain chemistry to make us feel more confident.

 This new way of positioning yourself is like training. It takes practice. Truth be told I tried it out for an assistant psychologist interview I had. This is going to sound really weird, but I was so nervous and felt that I had no chance of getting the job and that I didn’t even have the skills or knowledge to do it. So what I did was, just before I was due to go into be interviewed I went to the toilet, locked myself in the room and power posed in front of a mirror. Crazily, I started to feel more at ease, and comfortable in the fact that I could have a go at this interview…. I got the job and beat over 150 candidates for the position (most of whom I was told had more experience than me!).

This power posing is something I use each time I am nervous of a particular social interaction (e.g. meeting a girlfriends parents, or before giving a presentation). It’s made me feel a lot more comfortable in these situations. So I always feel better in myself. However, it’s other people saying that I look so confident all the time that really baffles me, because I still feel a little anxious. However this is diminishing the more I do it. And soon, with more practice and repetition, I know I will feel fully confident.

See Dr Cuddies TED talk here 

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