(Brought to you by our friend Jason Horejs of Xanadu Gallery)
You may not realize it, or may not want to admit it, but as an artist, salesmanship plays a big part in your success. Artists who are selling their work directly to collectors at shows and art festivals are the most directly involved in the sales process. Even artists who are working with galleries, however, have to sell themselves and their work to potential galleries, and to collectors at openings and other events.
I’ve written books for both types of artists – those who are looking to build or strengthen relationships with galleries (“Starving” to Successful) and those who are selling directly (How to Sell Art). In these books I talk about a number of different factors that play into becoming a more successful salesperson and artist. I share the importance of projecting confidence in yourself through both verbal and nonverbal language in both books.
Recently, I listened to a talk by Amy Cuddy that provided great insight and reinforcement into the importance of body language in social interactions. Cuddy, a social psychologist, researcher and professor at Harvard Business School, gave the talk at the TED conference this summer, and her findings related to body language are fascinating. I encourage you to watch the short video of the talk which I have included below.
Though there’s a lot more to it, Cuddy postulates that successful, powerful people have relatively high levels of testosterone and low levels of cortisol. Testosterone is a power hormone, and cortisol is produced when we are experiencing stress. Cuddy says that researchers have shown that this correlation between control and lower stress levels are key indicators of how successful a leader will be (you can also listen to this NPR story for more on executives and stress: http://www.npr.org/2012/09/26/161836823/ceos-may-find-it-lonely-at-the-top-but-not-stressful).
Cuddy has also done research demonstrating how dominant figures, both in the animal and human world project their dominance (and confidence) through what she calls “power poses,” stances where the body opens up and fills more space (watch the video below for examples).
Taken together, one would expect that a confident, successful woman or man would have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol and would communicate this to their social peers through their power body language. All of this happens at a subconscious level, so a successful person will likely not be aware of their behavior, and certainly not their hormone levels.
None of this is particularly earth-shattering, but the fascinating findings came when Cuddy basically reversed the process and asked what would happen to a person’s testosterone and cortisol levels if they were directed to take a power stance.
In lab experiments, Cuddy asked subjects to strike either high-power or low-power poses for two minutes and then ran a series of experiments to measure confidence and risk-taking, as well as hormone levels. She found that there was a dramatic and direct correlation between posing and hormone levels. In essence, the subjects who physically pretended to be confident and successful had a physiological and mental reaction that made them more confident and successful!
Her conclusion? When it comes to body language, we should not only “fake it till we make it”, we should “fake it until we become it.”
Cuddy used the example of people being more successful when subjected to a stressful job interview after spending two minutes doing a power pose, but I would suggest that this would be effective for an artist or art salesperson going into a sales opportunity, when approaching galleries looking for representation or any other time a boost of confidence is needed.
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