Why the Tories – and Ronaldo – always adopt that weird ‘power pose’… but they didn’t get the memo it should only be done in private

Almost immediately after his appointment to Home Secretary was confirmed, Javid appeared outside his new department, legs wide and staring off into the middle distance, a pose so popular among Conservative big guns that it's pretty much government policy.

Then-Prime Minister David Cameron used to adopt the exact same power pose while speaking on TV, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has used it while chatting to the media, and BoJo has been snapped doing it in the doorway of 10 Downing Street.

Perhaps they took tips from Real Madrid footballer Ronaldo, who's also known to strike the pose on the pitch.

But the same big question is on everyone's lips: why do it?

Did someone teach Tory ministers from to adopt this odd power stance, or have they all independently decided the best way to present themselves to the world is by doing an awkward version of the splits?


Well, there's also a chance that they picked it up watching a popular Ted Talk by social psychologist and body language expert Amy Cuddy, who argues that power posing can boost your confidence and increase your chances of success.

In her speech, Cuddy explains how her own research has suggested that power posing before a nerve-wracking event can be good for your self-esteem, and can help you stay cool and collected under pressure.

It's all about taking up space and making yourself as big as possible – a strategy used by dominant creatures throughout the animal kingdom.

But Cuddy's tips revolve around pulling a power pose in private while you're preparing for your big moment, not standing on stage at Tory conference with your legs wider than the Thames.

Either way, here are some of the other key lessons from her talk which Javid and Co. might have taken on-board, and how you can deploy your own power stance to get ahead in life.

Fake it 'till you make it

Amy explains in her talk: "Social scientists have spent a lot of time looking at the effects of body language on judgements, which can predict meaningful outcomes like who we hire and promote or who we ask out on a date."

Basically, you can exert power and dominance – over others and over your surroundings – and affect what happens in your life purely by standing in a certain way.

In the animal kingdom, particularly among our close relatives, the monkeys, powerful individuals expand their bodies to stretch out and take up as much space as possible.

"It's about opening up," she explains. "And this is true across the animal kingdom – it's not limited to primates – and humans do the same thing.

"When we feel powerless we do exactly the opposite.

"We close up and make ourselves small."

But it's not just about projecting power over other people – Amy says we can "fake it 'till we make it" and convince ourselves that we are more confident and dominant just by consciously adopting a bold power stance.

"When you pretend to be powerful, you are more likely to actually feel powerful," she explains.

"Powerful people tend to be more assertive, confident and optimistic, and they take more risks.

"The body can shape the mind. "

The science behind the stance

In her own research, Amy has taken groups of people and asked them to adopt high or low-power poses, without telling them why.

The famous legs-spread Tory stance is an example of a high-power pose, while low-power poses could include seated positions with the limbs tucked in.

After two minutes in this pose, subjects were asked to play a gambling game, and the choices of the high-power and low-power groups were compared.

Cuddy found that 85 per cent of the people primed by just two minutes in a power pose were prepared to take risks, while just 60 per cent of the low-power group took the same risks.

By swabbing the mouth before and after a two-minute pose, researchers also found that testosterone, the male sex hormone associated with physical strength, increases by 20 per cent after adopting a high-power pose.

This is true of both men and women, meaning anyone can gain a rush of masculine power just by standing with your legs spread.

And on the flip side, testosterone levels tend to dip by around 10 per cent after two minutes spent in a low-power pose.

Meanwhile, cortisol levels, which are associated with stress, decrease after a few minutes in a dominant pose, and rise after taking a cowering, submissive pose.

In another test, Cuddy put a group of people through a mock job interview, with half of the group spending a few minutes in a power pose before they went in, and the other half adopting a low-power pose while waiting for the interview to start.

She found that the people who had prepared with a power pose were more likely to get positive feedback from the test interview – suggesting that power stances can be useful to boost your own confidence, as well as to project your confidence to the world.

Adopt your own power pose

By taking an exaggerated Javid-style power stance (sometimes dubbed the Wonder Woman pose) before you go into a meeting or give a speech you can improve your own confidence and presence.

It can also make you come across as more comfortable, passionate and authentic – which explains why it's so popular among big-name politicians.

However, Cuddy explains that you're not necessarily meant to strike this exaggerated power pose while you're delivering a big speech – as Tory ministers are prone to doing.

It's more something which you should do for yourself, in private, to gee yourself up before a big event.

As Cuddy says: "For two minutes before you go into a high-stress situation, try doing this: in an elevator, in a bathroom stall or at your desk, behind closed doors.

"Configure your brain to do the best in that situation and get your testosterone up."

Of course, you don't have to be a government minister to benefit from this psychological boost – anyone can try a few minutes of power posing before a stressful or intimidating event.

Just take a moment to privately adopt a big, space-hogging Alpha pose, and you'll find that you're that bit more calm and composed when it comes to crunch time.

Cuddy says: "Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes. You don't just fake it 'till you make it, you can actually fake it until you become it."

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