Have you seen it? The TED Talk with 30 million views? You know, the Wonder Woman power pose? If you have, you have a general idea of what I’m writing about. If not, read on, and then click to the talk after you have read this post.
I was a skeptic at first, resisting anything that popular. Amy Cuddy, a beautiful, warm, appealing and articulate spokesperson for building confidence by striking a Wonder Woman pose, was too good to be true. She had to be selling emotional snake oil. Others are still skeptics, including a tall, handsome trial lawyer in one of our classes two weeks ago. He shook his head and rolled his eyes as we discussed Cuddy’s theories.
But I’ve come around, mostly by reading her best-selling book Presence. She is a clear, concise writer, and her theories are backed by research that is, for the most part, quite good. The bibliography in Presence is excellent, and Brian Johnson and I have combed through it, reading many studies on our long airplane trips this winter and spring. And because we’ve actually been saying for years so much of what Cuddy now preaches, we are comfortable putting our own teaching spin on her ideas, and we welcome her fresh perspective.
One surprising aspect of Cuddy’s book are the illustrations. They resemble drawings we have asked for in our own books and PowerPoint illustrations. Our talented graphic designer Barb Richied of Minneapolis has drawn the lawyers and witnesses in all of our books. Cuddy’s illustrations are similar in style, but of course we think Barb’s drawings are better.
A central premise of Amy Cuddy’s book Presence is that if humans stand tall and stay open, they produce more testosterone, which is a happy, confident hormone. Powerful leaders have an abundance of this hormone. It doesn’t necessarily follow that they are angry or aggressive or mean, but they do have power. Conversely, if humans slump downward, slouching and hunching shoulders and neck forward, they produce cortisol, the hormone of flight, freezing, and fright—all bad and UN-powerful.
We asked Barb to illustrate lawyers displaying these two contrasting poses: tall and confident, and scrunched and fearful. Here are a few. Have you felt this way? Stand or sit as you see these drawings, and think about how you feel. How do you move through space all day?