Look powerful, Feel Powerful: A Piece of Advice for Interviews (and Other Nerve-Racking Events)

Picture yourself waiting for an important interview that could be the ticket to that internship you’ve always wanted, or to that dream school with the most beautiful campus. Do you see yourself feeling nervous? Are you doing what I tend to do; curling into fetal position with sweaty hands?

I hope that I am not the only one who gets awfully nervous in such scenarios. I think it’s fair to say that many of us go through some kind of preparation before going into such interviews having at least a rough idea of what we should or should not say. A lot of our energy seems to be exerted and focused into our speech. But have you ever given a moment to think about how your body language prior to walking into that interview room may affect whether you get that position or not?

Many people say we should appear confident in an interview. They tell us to keep our backs straight and maintain eye-contact. I do believe these are the fundamentals of Interviewing 101, but research done by Dr. Amy Cuddy suggests that paying attention to our body language before the interview even begins, could really help us out. And no, I do not mean that the interviewers are watching us in the waiting room through surveillance cameras!

Dr. Cuddy is a social psychologist who shared her insightful research findings related to the many ways in which body language influences us. (If you have an interview coming up, do yourself a favor and search for her TED Talk on Youtube!) According to her, our body language not only affects those who are watching us, but also ourselves as well. Having a bad day? Force yourself to smile and you’ll essentially force your body to give off ‘happy signals’ and eventually, you’ll reach a mental state of happiness. This is true with power and confidence too – if you act as if you’re powerful (by spreading your arms and pretending you’re a bear), you’d feel more powerful than if you were to act less powerful (cue fetal position).

There’s a Japanese saying, “病は気から” [yamai wa ki kara], which literally translates to sickness comes from feeling. This suggests that the mere act of expecting to feel sick can make us feel ill In other words, our minds can influence our bodies. However, according to Dr. Cuddy, the opposite could be true as well. Our body language can affect our minds!

So what’s the take-home message? Before an interview or an exam, make yourself feel confident and powerful through your body language and posture. In the words of Dr. Cuddy, “Fake it till you make it”. Even if you feel like curling into a ball, take several minutes to trick your body (and eventually your mental state) into thinking you are going to ace this!

Moeka Komachi

About Moeka Komachi

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." - Maya Angelou

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