Do difficult conversations make you nervous? Speaking what’s true for you, while staying connected to your heart and being open to the other person can be really tough — especially as stress hormones take over. Paying attention to your body can help a lot.
Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy‘s research shows that putting the body into a “power posture” for two minutes raised confidence-boosting testosterone levels and decreased the stress hormone cortisol. (If you haven’t watched her TED talk, it’s well worth seeing.) Looking at Cuddy’s research through the lens of Chinese Medicine, we see that High Power postures are the yang ones: big, expansive poses that take up space. Low power poses are more yin: people making themselves small, collapsing their chests, crossing their legs, guarding their necks.
So here’s how we can apply this scienctifically verified bodymind technique:
Before the nerve-wracking conversation, find some privacy — even a bathroom stall could work. (You could do these poses during the conversation too, but it’s unlikely to create the kind of connection you want.) So take 2 minutes alone and put yourself in any of the following postures, or a combination:
- Wonder woman pose: hands on hips, chest out, chin slightly elevated.
- Warrior 1 (a lunge with your arms up overhead)
- Warrior 2 ( a side lunge with arms out to the sides)
- Goddess pose (feet wide, knees bent and angled in line with the feet, arms out to the sides and bent, palms up)
Now that your cortisol levels are dropping and your confidence is rising, you’re ready for The Talk, and for some invisible qi gong. During the interaction, remember these 3 tips:
1) Ground yourself. Put your feet flat on the floor. Feel the bottoms of your feet connecting with your shoes. And below that, the floor, the foundation of the building, and to the Earth itself. Let its solidness — groundedness – root you to the earth like a tree. Imagine energy from the Earth flowing into the bottom of your feet and up your inner legs to your low belly.
2) Root your breath deep in your belly. This takes you into your center of gravity, or your lower dan tian in qi gong terms. If you’re nervous, the breath will likely retreat to the upper chest, which will reinforce to the body that you’re stressed. You can help to break that biofeedback loop by consciously allowing your breath to sink and lengthen.
3) Keep your heart lifted and arms uncrossed. The heart lift will make it more likely that your communication will be open and compassionate. (The tongue is the sprout of the heart according to Chinese Medicine.) Arms crossed in front of the chest are low-power poses and can signify defiance and opposition, making it less likely that your conversation will be harmonious.
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