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Dr. Amy Cuddy, social psychologist, author and lecturer, delivered yesterday’s BYU Forum address. She spoke about increasing feelings of power by being more present in stressful situations. She explained that body language, especially power-posing, helps to increase power.

Approaching our Biggest Challenge

Interviewing for a job, negotiating for a promotion, asking someone on a date, talking to your teenager—these types of situations may make us feel threatened or nervous.

Cuddy said challenges are approached with dread, executed with anxiety, and finished with a sense of regret and the desire for a do-over. She explained that in all of these situations, there is a commonality:

“You’re not present. You’re borrowing trouble from the future,” said Cuddy. Perhaps you are thinking about what the other person is thinking about and assuming it’s negative.

“You aren’t thinking about what is actually happening,” said Dr. Cuddy.

 You leave with a feeling of regret because you did not feel you were heard or represented yourself well. Cuddy said people can better accept an unfavorable outcome if they feel they did their best in the performance situation.

Being Present in a Challenging Situation

When you are present in a situation, you are thinking and acting in the moment. Cuddy said that when you are present in a situation, you approach it with composure, execute it with calm confidence and leave it with satisfaction.

However, it’s impossible to not get distracted and to be present all the time.

“Presence isn’t permanent,” said Cuddy. “You can find ways to be present in moments.”

Presence in a moment means being authentic, which Cuddy specified does not mean “unfiltered” and doing whatever you want.

“[It means being] the person that you are in the best moments of your life,” said Cuddy. Usually those moments you were connecting with others around you and felt seen is when you were sharing who you are.

Presence reveals itself to others and makes you convincing.

“We believe our story, we convey confidence without arrogance, we communicate harmoniously,” said Cuddy.

Communicating harmoniously means your words match your body language, which indicates that you believe in yourself.

“Confidence is real,” said Cuddy. “It comes from real belief in the self.”

What Prevents Presence

Cuddy explained three main ways we stop ourselves from being present in a situation:

1. We cling to the outcome and neglect the process.

2. We obsess about how others are judging us.

3. We feel powerless and consent to that feeling.

Feeling powerless is a major contributor to this. Feeling powerful is the feeling that we deserve to be there and that we have something to offer, said Cuddy. She explained that feeling powerful leads to optimism, better performance and the ability to help themselves and others.

“People need to feel a sense of power and agency and self-efficacy in order to change the society they live in,” said Cuddy.

Posing into Power

Cuddy explained that there are wired ways everyone, including animals, act when they feel powerful: they expand themselves. Humans throw their arms up in the air and smile when they feel victorious. Apes and monkeys extend their arms and beat their chests to show power.

However, when people and animals feel powerless or threatened, they make themselves smaller. Cuddy said this isn’t limited to body language; we share fewer ideas when we feel powerless.

Cuddy shared research that found when people power-posed, it changed their mood. In one study, people reported feeling powerful, confident, assertive, in charge and happy.

Power-posing includes sitting up straight with shoulders back, hands on hips with planted feet (like a superhero), taking a longer stride, holding your arms up in the air (victory pose). She recommended power-posing for a few minutes before, or in response to, a challenging situation.

“Expanding our posture and movement gives us the courage to bring our authentic best selves,” said Dr. Cuddy.

Next Week: Devotional with Michael Dorff

Michael Dorff, Department Chair of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and President of Math, will deliver the Devotional address on April 3, 2018. Dorff’s remarks will also be broadcast live on BYUtv, (and archived for on-demand streaming), KBYU-TV 11, Classical 89 FM, BYU Radio, and will be archived on