By Roberta Kavanagh

As PR professionals in the making, it is important for us to cultivate positive relationships when building our career network. When we interact with others face to face, our nonverbal communication plays a significant role in displaying our feelings and attitudes.

It is estimated that 93 per cent of how we communicate is done nonverbally, and approximately 55 per cent of nonverbal communication is body language: posture, gestures, facial expressions, etc.

What does our body language say about us?

Our body language plays an important part in how we judge people and how they come to judge us. Amy Cuddy, an influential social psychologist, provides evidence to support that it also governs how we think and feel about ourselves. When we feel proud or powerful we tend to show it with our body language, similar to an athlete extending his arms wide after winning a race. When we feel lacking in confidence, we tend to make ourselves smaller by closing up and withdrawing.

How our mood affects our body.

Through experimental studies, Cuddy and her colleagues found that when you think and act more powerfully you can change your mood so you feel and behave more powerfully more often. People who are bold, confident and assertive tend to have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol, while the reverse, low testosterone and high cortisol, is true for people with low self-confidence. Higher levels of testosterone are associated with more success in dealing with stressful situations, while higher levels of cortisol are correlated with those who are more often overwhelmed by stress.

Why power posing helps.

Cuddy demonstrated that if we practice role changing by adopting body postures associated with dominance and power, we could actually increase testosterone and decrease cortisol levels in our bodies. If we can act more powerfully it can positively affect the way we present ourselves to others.

In the PR world, an employee who is able to demonstrate her self-confidence and ability to successfully deal with stress would more likely have better job performance and favorability in the workplace.

What can PR students and professionals learn from this scientific research?

We can start by thinking of where and when we may be evaluated by someone, whether it is in an upcoming job interview, talking in front of the media, or giving a presentation. Before stepping into the meeting, take a couple of minutes to try power posing. It is more likely that you will leave the meeting feeling as though you presented a positive self-image.

Listen to Cuddy give a TED Talk about body language and mood.



(Photo credit: Flickr/Erik (HASH) Hersman)