Presence is everything in business.
In my time in real estate I learned that the way you carry yourself, along with the way your client, customer, partner, etc. perceives you, shapes how successful your interactions with them are going to be. I always knew that if I presented the best possible version of myself that I'd close more deals, build better relationships, and develop meaningful leads.
What I didn't know was that there was scientific proof to back my ideas.
What I used to call "presence" I've now come to understand as non-verbal language, more commonly referred to as body language. Our body language communicates who we are to others, that I always knew, but what I didn't realize is that my body language was communicating messages to myself.
A while back I came across a TED Talk from Amy Cuddy explaining how our posture and body language impact our behavior. The following are a few key takeaways from her talk:
Testosterone vs Cortisol
Testosterone is the hormone that produces confidence and competitive drive in humans. Higher testosterone levels will lend to higher self-confidence.
Cortisol is the hormone that produces stress, and more of it means a more stress filled mental state. Powerful and effective leaders have high testosterone, and less cortisol.
Powerful leaders experience stress but they manage it, and in doing so also reduce the physiological factors that increase stress levels.
Risk tolerance increases
High power postures resulted in 86 percent of study participants being willing to participate in a risk or gamble involved in the study. On the other hand, low power postures resulted in only 63 percent willingness to take a gamble.
Business is a series of risk assessments. If your hormonal make-up is clouding your ability to assess risk and make decisions then you may miss out on key growth opportunities.
Take it to the next level
Don't just use a simple biohack and leave it at that. While it may have a powerful impact, make sure you update your beliefs about yourself as well.
From Cuddy's research and my own personal experience I've put together these three suggestions for entrepreneurs who want to improve their influence and success with just a few simple biohacks.
1. Ditch your phone before a pitch/interview/meeting
Cuddy's research revealed that hunched or closed postures are low-power poses that will increase your cortisol levels. Since we usually hunch over our phones while waiting for our meetings, we're more likely to experience pre-meeting stress/jitters if we're checking our phones.
I have two other reasons from my own experiences.
First, being on your phone causes distraction. It rarely involves the upcoming meeting and therefore distracts you from your most immediate goal. Practice sitting alone with your thoughts from time to time so it doesn't feel so alien when you are waiting for in interview.
Second, people are on their phones way to often, so if a potential client or employer's first impression is of you buried in your phone they might have some initial reservations about you.
Watch your body language to ensure that you are maintaining powerful (yet subtle) postures when interacting with others in professional contexts.
Standing tall and broad like Wonder Woman or Superman is a great confidence booster before a meeting, but may look a little out of place during interactions with others. Make sure you stand tall, keep your shoulders spread and smile and you'll be able to maintain to confidence you practiced just before the meeting.
2. Mentally prepare yourself for evaluative situations
Practice good posture before you enter into evaluative situations like pitches and interviews, but don't wait until the day of to prepare mentally.
Scenarios like these can be high stress, my recommendation is that you let go of worrying about other people's perceptions of you long before the meeting. This will help support the physical work your doing to build confidence.
3. Shut out the belief that you are an imposter or not good enough
I once watched a talk from a technical recruiter at Twitter about her interactions with senior-level engineers at the company.
She shared that as an experiment she once asked every engineer in the room to close their eyes, then raise their hands if they thought they were imposters or underqualified for their positions. Every engineer raised their hand.
Feelings of inadequacy can strike at any stage in a person's career, whether they are just starting out, or in a high-powered role at a significant company.
The key is turning that problem on it's head and believing that you can be confident at any level of experience as well. In doing so you'll push yourself to achieve by learning what you don't know already, and bringing your teams and customers along with you.
Body language, posture and facial expression all impact the way others perceive you. Having a positive, self-confident view of yourself helps magnify these benefits and launch you into success in evaluative situations.
By following these recommendations and leveraging findings from Cuddy's research, you can start faking it until you become it too.