Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are

by Mary K.  Clark.

We talk with our bodies don’t we?  Isn’t that what body language is all about?  A person’s body language helps convey their story to the listener.  It turns out that body language may also change how people see themselves – perhaps how storytellers see themselves. Amy Cuddy gives a fascinating TED talk entitled, Your Body Language shapes who you are:

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions.

What are the implications of Cuddy’s research with respect to storytelling?

A few years back I was working on a favorite story of mine – telling it out loud, with full gestures – when I literally stopped in my tracks after mentioning my desire, in this fictitious story, for a cup of coffee. Why?  Because I didn’t want to be drinking coffee anymore.

In reality coffee was a painful thing for my body – I had been trying to give it up for quite a while.    I realized that every time I told the story, I found I desired it.  In the telling of the story, I talked about a cup of coffee as if it was something I loved. And at one time I did love it! It is important to note that coffee was not the topic of the story – it was an aside.

I was making things difficult for myself. This awareness got me to thinking about the social events I attended where I would always share, with great emotion, how much I would love a cup of coffee but I was giving it up. I was telling myself through language both verbal and nonverbal that I really wanted a cup.  My eyes open – I began to share in a new way at social events around the topic of coffee!

And, while I continued to tell the story I was working on, I began to tell it a bit differently and with more awareness.

Amy Cuddy’s research helps us understand more about the power of nonverbal language.  What we embody may be very important.

What impact has body language had in your story work?

– Mary

©Copyright 10/14/2012 by Mary K. Clark.  All Rights Reserved.

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