Negotiation topics in business: Power and bargaining strategy
How do relative perceptions of power and powerlessness manifest themselves in body language? According to Amy Cuddy, social psychologist, Harvard Business School assistant professor and Program on Negotiation faculty member, how you behave not only impacts the perception others have of your relative strength or weakness, but also affects your negotiating skills and negotiation tactics. Behavioral cues are “highly specific, evolved nonverbal displays” that demonstrate an individual’s assessment of his strength or weakness at a subconscious level.
Perceptions of power and body language
Amy Cuddy, in collaboration with Dana Carney, began to notice differing levels of participation among members of her class and, in particular, that those willing to more actively participate exhibited certain body cues. This led her and her collaborator to ask the question: Do perceptions of power in a given situation change by changing body language?
The team began by examining testosterone and cortisol levels in participants prior to beginning the experiment. Testosterone is a hormone signaling dominance while cortisol is an indicator of stress. The experiment hoped to find fluctuations in the levels of these hormones after performing certain posing exercises intended to either increase or decrease one’s perception of power.
One group engaged in what were called high-powered poses, while the other performed what were deemed low-power poses. Cuddy and Carney’s findings show that there was a fluctuation in hormone levels indicating dominance when participants were asked to pose in a high-powered fashion.
Cuddy and Carney are not interested so much in making power-posers even more powerful but rather the team wants to know if engaging in these exercises can help those people who have perceptions of lower-power or status to participate, whether it be in class, group meetings, or job interviews.
Power-posing to improve performance in these various venues may give participants lacking in power or status the ability to function beyond their actual position and would hopefully lead to improved negotiating skills and negotiation tactics, job interview performance, class participation, and overall success in matters requiring authority and confidence.
Originally published September 2014.