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The Power Pose – Colossus of Rhodes or wobbly-legged goalkeeper?

May 1, 2018

I was going to speculate on which lunatic self-help guru invented the splayed-legged “power pose” beloved of British Conservative politicians. And then the BBC gave me the answer.

It turns out that it’s the invention of a distinguished American academic:

Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, who came up with the theory in 2010, had observed some of her female students entering a room with hunched shoulders and defensive postures, while their male counterparts sprawled across their desks in a self-assured, swaggering way.

She investigated whether changing the way you occupy your physical space could boost confidence.

“Posing in high power displays” led to an “elevation of the dominance hormone testosterone, reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, and increases in behaviourally demonstrated risk tolerance and feelings of power”, she and her co-authors wrote.

I wouldn’t dispute her findings, though I wonder if she and her team actually tested the effect of the power pose in real-life conditions, especially when the practitioner adopts it in a room full of knife-wielding politicians.

The idea that standing like the Colossus of Rhodes to radiate power may work if you’re five hundred feet tall and hold a flaming torch triumphantly aloft,

but in a politician posing for photos outside his office it rather reminds me of the defensive posture of a goalkeeper getting ready to save a penalty.

But then Sajid Javid, the new Home Secretary and latest practitioner of the power pose, probably needs to think like a goalkeeper, given that his department is currently spending most of its time in its own penalty area.

Come to think of it, at least for the male members of Javid’s team, this might be a more appropriate stance:

And what of Theresa May, who has also been known to adopt the power pose? If I was a woman, I might think twice about wearing a relatively tight skirt and stretching it to its limits as I bestride the stage. Especially at a conference full of leery old men whose attention is drawn to my abdomen and thighs as they wonder whether the garment will finally give up and start heading inexorably north with every twist of the hips. Or, heaven forbid, rip apart. OK perhaps for Stormy Daniels, but not for the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

It does sometimes amaze me that our politicians are trained to the hilt in such subjects as positive body language and how to handle media interviews, yet so many of them seem to lack the skills they really need, namely how to see the wood from the trees and, most important of all, how to lead.

Which is different from hesitating, posing, bullying, equivocating and denying the self-evident, methinks.

PS as of 3 May 2018: Since I posted this, a friend commented thus on Facebook: “A diplomat friend who must remain nameless told me that the pose was taught on a government course called “dealing effectively with the media”. Also specified what colour tie or scarf to wear for different types of announcement. Your tax money at work.”

Also there have been photos all over the social media mocking the pose. Nothing to do with this post, I’m sure, but I suspect that no self-respecting politician will ever use it again. What will be next? The Full Tarzan perhaps.

From → Media, Politics, UK

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