Summary of Presence

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Social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk has attracted more than 38 million viewers and her book is a New York Times bestseller. She makes a simple, powerful argument: your body language drives stress, anxiety, confidence, poise and intelligence. Her treatise on the power of body over mind will have you practicing your breathing, posing expansive ways and sitting up straight. Cuddy explains the science behind presence and how you can use it in challenging situations. As TED reports, additional research following Cuddy's book finds that studies disagree as to whether power poses affect hormone levels, though some studies find other benefits and the research continues. Cuddy’s insights continue to show you how to look and feel more confident. 

About the Author

Amy Cuddy earned her PhD at Harvard Business School where she now teaches. Her TED Talk on body language and presence has had more than 38 million views.



What Is Presence?

Consider this review of a performance by dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov: “Between Baryshnikov and the music? ‘He was able to connect us to…everything! He built a bridge to the heavens…absolute mastery of being in the present’.” You know and feel such presence, and you recognize it in others. You can probably recall instances when you couldn’t muster it, such as when you flopped in a job interview or kicked yourself for not having a ready comeback in a dinner conversation. When a lot is at stake, people consciously or unconsciously look for presence. For example, when assessing start-up investments, venture capitalists look for an entrepreneur’s presence even more than his or her knowledge or relevant experience. They seek “authentic” entrepreneurs who possess “confidence without arrogance.” 

Presence means “enthusiasm ” but never desperation. It’s not a sales job; it’s a commitment to what you do. Presence means you bringing forward your genuine, authentic self. If you can’t do that, the effort will exceed your ability to fake it. Your mouth says one thing, but your face and body say another. People notice such insincerity because body...

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