Dating back as far as the 1950s, psychologists have connected the idea of your physical position with confidence. For example, people associated the psychology of “walking tall” with confidence. Over the decades, the concept evolved. In addition, movies, television, and social media have projected what confidence looks like. So it’s not much of a surprise when language like “power pose” and “Wonderwoman pose “ have gained new attention to the idea that your physical stance can impact confidence.
But wait. As a speech coach, our team deals with the fear of public speaking daily with hundreds of clients globally. So, we hear it all, and we listen to it intimately.
Speaking for myself, I know many clients who have shared in private how they tried the “wonder woman” pose but still felt very nervous when presenting.
The answer is not to suggest that power poses are ineffective. It’s just that the power pose only addresses people where other concerns are not present.
When looking at how to control the fear of public speaking, we look at the individual rational and irrational thought process, then use a skills-based approach to help the speaker learn to speak confidently. The result of doing this work is a solid and confident speaking experience.
Our belief systems come from many places; we’ve conducted extensive research on the topic and need to go into the details in this blog post. What we can say is that it’s important to identify what your current beliefs are. For example, you might believe, “I believe I’ll be nervous.” We consider this irrational thinking. Not inaccurate. But Irrational. So, what you’ll want to do is replace that self-talk script with something rational, like “I can be nervous and effective at the same time.” That’s rational. But how do you know?
In our experience, the most impactful and long-lasting approach is to take our client through the process of identifying those beliefs and then tackling them one at a time. Therefore, we always incorporate practice and feedback coaching in our sessions.
So for some, the power pose can be helpful. It falls into the category of picture imagining your audience in their underwear, or look good feel good. But doesn’t address the authentic confidence that a speaker gains through vetting and practicing their presentation.
I wouldn’t say they are ineffective. They are. I’ve also heard clients share how the power pose helps them! My primary message is that if you fall into the camp of people where it didn’t do much for you, it’s okay, you are normal, and now you know why.