If you’re not hunched over your computer at work, you’re probably slouching at a near-horizontal angle.
Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy wants you to banish both of those habits — for the sake of your confidence.
Cuddy is the author of “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges,” a book on the subtle yet powerful ways our posture can influence thoughts and emotions.
We don’t just make ourselves smaller when we feel powerless, Cuddy argues. We can create a sense of powerlessness when we put our bodies in those positions.
At a recent talk at New York’s 92Y, Cuddy outlined several small adjustments people can make at work to help give them a jolt of presence, and perhaps even productivity.
1. Sit up straight
“I can’t believe I’m saying this,” Cuddy laughs. “But sit up straight.”
“Presence” suggests that expansive postures — Cuddy’s famous example is the Wonder Woman pose — make us feel more in charge. When we slouch in our cushy office chair, in other words, we send a message to our brains that we are small and feeble.
Keeping an erect spine, preferably with an arm on each armrest, instead suggests alertness.
2. Keep items slightly out of reach
The best way to keep an expansive posture is to force yourself into it.
Cuddy’s advice is to put your essential items — pens, paper, your phone — just far enough away so that you have to take up more space to grab them.
If everything is within arm’s reach at all times, it’s too easy to stay constricted in your body movements.
3. Put pictures higher up
If you’re lucky enough to have room to go vertical with your knick-knacks, Cuddy advises you to keep pictures of family and friends as high as possible, “so that you have to look up.”
Even that simple act of leaning back to see your loved ones can lead to greater feelings of presence, Cuddy argues.
While it may be more satisfying to have the frames situated right next to your monitor, the confidence-boosting move is to elevate them.
4. Walk as much as possible
If you’re a serial sloucher, consider avoiding the chair altogether and opting for a standing desk. If that fails, just get up and walk around.
In Cuddy’s talk, she told the story of her first date with her now-husband. Instead of sitting in a cramped coffee shop, they went for a walk. According to Cuddy’s research, the act of walking promotes greater blood flow to the brain.
People who walk during their meetings are almost guaranteed to feel more present, Cuddy says.
So become expansive, and feel confident.