Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Primal Instincts, How Body Language and Personality Dictate Success

Want to be successful, well-liked, effective? Want to make more money, receive the lion's share of promotions?  Want to raise money?

Well, according to Amy Cuddy of HBS, it is vital that you understand how our primal psyches process personality traits and non-verbal behavior.

The two most critical variables in how people perceive us are warmth and competence. These two traits account for up to 80% of our overall evaluation of people, "i.e., do you feel good or bad about this person."

The article notes, "warmth - does this person feel cold or warm to me? - is the first and most important interpersonal perception. The warm/cold assessment amounts to a reading of the other's intentions, positive or negative. Competence is assayed next: how capable is someone of carrying out those intentions."

We admire warm/competent people, we envy cold/competent people, while we pity warm/incompetent people, and exhibit contempt for cold/incompetent people.

Meanwhile, like dogs, non-verbal postures signal dominance and power, or, conversely, fear and meekness.  Nonverbal postures impact our endocrine system and link stances, gestures, and hormone levels.  The photos below illustrate "power" positions, while the following photos illustrate low-power positions. Hugging your arms close together is akin to the dog with its tail beneath its legs:)

"In all species, postures that are expansive, open, and take up more space are associated with dominance. Postures that are contractive - limbs touching torso, protecting the vital organs - are associated with low power, being at the bottom of the hierarchy."

Examples - she looks at her MBA students and finds, "classroom participation is 50% of the grade. There, women students have a harder time getting airtime, and speak more briefly when called. Women are also more likely to cross their legs and arms, or to lean in: low-power poses. While men raise their hands straight up, women tend to raise them with an elbow bent 90 degrees, commanding less space."

Another example comes from Laksmi Balachandra's research. He looked at 185 venture-capital pitches. His findings? "Changing one's mindset also changes the mindset, and neuroendocrine secretions, of others. The success of VC pitches turns on how comfortable and charismatic you are. The predictors of who actually got money are all about how you present yourself and nothing to do with content. Key variables include - calmness, passion, eye contact, and lack of awkwardness.

Back to warmth...Cuddy finds that we want to cooperate and help warm/competent people...we are rooting for them. However, we tend to resent, envy, and do not help cold/competent people.  Envy drives ambivalence and ambivalence is clearly a hindrance to progress and support.

So - warmth, power postures, calmness, eye contact, passion.

Now you know:)