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The power pose is dead – here’s how to really stand strong

Eleven new studies have further discredited the theory that taking a physically dominant stance will make you appear more powerful. So what can you do instead?

“Feeling powerful may feel good, but on its own does not translate into powerful or effective behaviours.” Thus concludes Joseph Cesario, associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, which has generated no fewer than 11 studies of the “power stance”.

Pre-2010, that wouldn’t need to be said, any more than “feeling like you can fly may feel good, but does not on its own get you into the air”. However, this decade was revolutionised by the work of social psychologist Amy Cuddy, and her 2012 Ted talk, which has now been watched by 42 million people, all of them standing like horny gorillas at a public event near you.

Beyoncé in 2015, demonstrating the legs apart, toes slightly in power stance. Photograph: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Her toplines: feelings of power, whether chronic (you’re a CEO) or acute (you’ve just won a marathon) naturally self-express in an open stance, arms out, hips out, chin out, everything out; people exhibiting this stance have raised testosterone (dominance hormone) and lowered cortisol (stress hormone), so everything goes their way, they get jobs, they get laid, their Oyster cards don’t malfunction, yadda yadda. Her conclusion was that if you simulate the power stance, you will reap its benefits in how you feel. That is not what has been disproved – well, not specifically. The MSU body of research says that you can feel however you like, bozo, and it will make no difference to the world around you.

Party conference season is approaching. It was this time two years ago, before the world was mad, that the political power stance was first unleashed by the Conservative party. George Osborne favoured the legs-wide-apart-toes-slighty-in, known colloquially as “the Beyoncé”. Theresa May went full legs-apart-lean-back, like a person about to shoot a gun at a hurricane. Michael Gove went legs-out, but also – controversially – feet-out, as if he were part of an outreach programme to teach ballet to young offenders. It will be a great relief to them, with so much else on their plate, that this is no longer necessary. But how else to assert your dominance in the public sphere? A few suggestions:

Posh up your accent: A failsafe way to indicate that the power belongs to you, regardless of what a total fist you’re making of it. Tread carefully though; if you are already Jacob Rees-Mogg, a posher accent will go out of human range, and only stoats will be able to hear you.

Flank yourself with muscular heavies: Do not combine this with the Beyoncé power stance, otherwise they’ll look like backing singers, and you’ll be a caption competition waiting to happen.

Resign: Sometimes true power is in realising you have lost all your power. Just throwing that out there for conference season.

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