Get Ahead in Your Career With this Easy Power Move

Last Updated Feb 15, 2011 3:02 PM EST

Your career can suffer as much as your spine if you slouch. Whether you're sharing ideas in a meeting or interviewing for a new job, researchers say taking an expansive stance could make you not only seem more powerful, but actually feel and act more assertively. "An expanded posture increases testosterone and decreases the stress hormone called cortisol. In our study this change in hormones made people more action-oriented and willing to take risks," says Adam Galinsky, Morris and Alice Kaplan Professor of Ethics and Decision in Management at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. Since women also have testosterone (just in lower levels than men), ladies can use this posture trick effectively, too.

The study assigned subjects to different hierarchical roles within a company and told to sit in either an expansive stance taking up plenty of space, or a more constricted one with legs close together and shoulders hunched. Those adopting expansive stances reported feeling more powerful, anticipated being more assertive in various situations, and answered word completion puzzles with more forceful words, regardless of whether they were assigned a subordinate or dominant role. By contrast, those who were put in constricted positions reported feeling, and anticipated acting, with less fortitude.

Figuring out your own power stance is certainly a smaller investment than dropping three grand on a new power suit. Try Galinsky's three simple steps for sitting with strength:
  1. Sit with your back flush against the back of the chair to automatically stop slouching.
  2. Cross one leg, placing your ankle across your knee to take up more space.
  3. Place one arm on your chair's armrest and the other hand on the back of the chair next to you to convey that you're at ease.
One caveat: In a job interview, skip the arms on the back of the chair bit, which could appear overly-confident and aggressive. Instead, lean forward slightly to show enthusiasm.

Try this posture out and let us know. Does it make you feel ready to take your next challenge?
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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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