People watching: the act of mindlessly observing others around you.
You and I people watch all the time, sometimes consciously and other times naturally. Whether you’re sitting at the park bench, grazing around, examining what the person across from you is doing or wearing or sitting in front of a potential employee, taking their interview; subconsciously we base our judgments on others through body language. There is much more to body language than judgments.
BUT, could body language possibly alter our life paths? Does our level of confidence relate to the image our body language is projecting?
Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, not only believes, but has personal experience with the positive effects of altering body positions to change not only other people’s perceptions but also your own.
According to the TED talk that Amy delivered, she encountered a severe head injury from a car accident in her early college career making obtaining a college degree a difficult task to complete. The injury Amy encountered is one that many are likely to come across, but what Amy did after her injury is one for the books – and one to learn from.
Amy began her speech by asking an important question, “So how many of you are sort of making yourselves smaller?” Immediately after she asked that question, the camera faced the audience and you can see people begin shuffling around in their seats, straitening their backs, planting their feet properly on the ground, and moving their hands away from their necks.
Just one question was able to get people to notice their own body language; something that most people rarely ever think about on a daily basis.
The twenty or so minute talk went on to show the importance of body language and how it was able to reflect on our perception of others.
Towards the middle of Amy’s speech, she began to talk about how an experiment her team conducted about how doing a two minute exercise before putting yourself in tense situations can help benefit the results of the situation.
For two minutes, Amy wants others to try to stand or sit in a confidence boosting pose such as standing by a table, leaned forward, with both hands on the table or sitting in a chair, feet up on a table, and hands crossed behind your head. Any pose that to you exemplifies confidence or power.
Going back to Amy’s injury, after she graduated college, and was about to teach at Princeton University, she was also in the midst of practically giving up; she even told her advisor, Susan Fiske that she’s “not suppose to be here” and that’s when Susan Fiske, told her “You are not quitting, because I took a gamble on you, and you’re staying. You’re going to stay, and this is what you’re going to do. You are going to fake it. You’re going to do every talk that you ever get asked to do. You’re just going to do it and do it and do it, even if you’re terrified and just paralyzed and having an out-of-body experience, until you have this moment where you say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m doing it. Like, I have become this. I am actually doing this.”
Those words stuck with Amy for the rest of her life. Later in her teaching career, while she was at Harvard, a quiet student came to her into her office and said “I’m not supposed to be here.” That was the moment that Amy knew that she doesn’t feel that way anymore yet understands how this student feels. More importantly, Amy knew that one day this student wouldn’t feel this way anymore.
As college students, we will all go through a time in our college or professional careers where we will feel like giving up because let’s face it – everyday won’t be a peachy one. There will be days when we will get so drained that nothing will make sense. But as all storms eventually pass – so do bad times. In order to make the most out of our dreams and goals, Amy Cuddy reminds us: “Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it. You know? Its not- Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize it.”
“Your body language shapes who you are.” Amy Cuddy:. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 July 2014. <http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_you_are>