Tag Archive for Dominance

Leadership Body Language

Holding dominant body language is like a wedge that holds the door open between levels at your work. When new employees arrive in our companies, even if just a junior level employee, everyone instinctively classifies them. They are either leaders or followers from the start, but it’s not just “something” about them, something mystical or intangible, it is plain and simple, it is their body language that tells us their future roles. We know right away if they will fit into the company, be fired, or come out as future “top dogs.” The research shows us that if you don’t hold dominant body language, you’ll never be promoted to leadership roles. Leaders aren’t usually able to talk their way up a hierarchy, although sometimes they do, and it ends up causing remorse and conflict from lower ranking employees because they lack the respect that comes with dominance and leadership seeming to emanate from certain people. So if you want to get higher in your company here are some tips.

First, increase your height through better posture. Hold your head higher and whenever you can exploit high differences, do it. If everyone is sitting, stand, but don’t make everyone feel uncomfortable by towering over them. If you have split levels, stand on the top level and keep everyone else on the lower rug. Find excuses to stand by volunteering to draw out plans on a board when brainstorming. This gives you two advantages, the first of which is the height advantage where you can tower over your follow employees and the second is more strategic. By being the chalkboard secretary, you become the person that everyone defers to for idea acceptance, while having the freedom to add any ideas yourself as desired without needing approval. Second to exploiting height differences, is breadth expansions. Meaning, one should try to appear bigger by taking up more space. Not only should you spread out your legs and arms, but you should also spread out your papers, pens and other artifacts. Taking up space is a way to own more of it, and is a strong signal of dominance.

Your gaze should be serious and direct, with your head held high. Don’t be afraid to use touch, but touch only in safe zones such as the arm between the hand and elbow, the elbow itself and sometimes the shoulders but only with caution. If you can get away with shoulder or back touches, do so, but pay attention to the reaction is creates so as not to insult others. Always try to be the first to speak and be the “go-to-guy” for questions and opinions. It is therefore important to be helpful, task oriented, and sincerely try to do a good job. Avoid smiling too much especially if you are a woman, as this can be taken as submission or placation. A neutral face is more appropriate during high tension situation so fight the urge to smile nervously and only nod in agreement with statements you really agree with. In other words, don’t smile and nod while expressing negative ideas as it only serves to confuse others, and can make people think you are weak and easily manipulated. Keep your body language in tune with your verbal words and don’t be afraid to cast judgments on solutions you feel are inappropriate. Conversely use encouragement when deserved and back it up with genuine body language.

While body language alone won’t guarantee a raise in dominance, it’s a good first step. The next part of the process is an attitude overhaul while remaining consistent. A word of caution is a must. If you are working within an existing environment where your behaviour will be monitored throughout the process rather than entering a novel environment where people have no baseline to compare you to, be prepared for some resistance. Understand that you are sure to cause resentment, which might create a desire to undermine you, but the last thing you need in your quest for a higher rank are lower dissenters so always treat others with the respect they deserve – even if they don’t deserve it! Upward movement while others stagnant, can be perceived as a threat, create animosity, and more than likely bread challenges. Your task to leadership will be to meet these challenges with consistent and unwavering body language.

Power Sitting For Women – What To Do, What To Avoid

Women in the workplace are always walking a thin line between their sexuality and authority. Women all know that their looks can be used to manipulate others around them, especially men, however physical attractiveness in the workplace has been repeatedly shown to lead others to dismiss women’s thoughts. However, one way women can combat this and still maintain their sexuality is as follows: sit with legs crossed leg over knee and have the high heel pointed horizontally at someone they wish to intimidate. Most dominant cues that work for men, such as the full body steeple, are ineffective when used by women. However, the heel is something men don’t have so it doesn’t come across as being a typically dominant male gesture. The heel acts like a dagger against its prey and neutralizes it. The posture shows assertiveness and that she is willing and able to emasculate men.

One sitting position women should particularly avoid is sitting with arms up and behind the head in the full steeple position as mentioned. This posture has the effect of putting the breasts on full display which counteracts any dominant aspects it might otherwise impart. Even having the legs crossed in the figure four looks odd when performed by women. A crotch display is not effective for women as it is for men, so it should be eliminated altogether. Hand steepling is another gender neutral dominance stance and can be used with effectiveness. Women want to pick up cues that suite their overall personality without putting people off. Assertive women often described as “bitchy” to others, usually because they take things too far. Women seeking powerful positions often think they need to go over-the-top because the fear being discounted. However, this isn’t so, and like men, need to balance being dominant and “mean” and demonstrating leadership qualities.

Types Of Bad Handshakes

The handshake is a very common greeting gesture performed all around the world and up until recently the style with which they were delivered was anecdotally believe to predict personality traits the people who did them. Does the “bone crusher” or “wet fish” handshaker really convey that a person is aggressive or timid? Research conducted in 2000 by Dr. William Chaplin from the University of Alabama set out to get some facts straight about what the handshake really means. He found one hundred twelve students to be a part of his study but kept the purpose of it a secrete. They were simply told there were four parts to the experiment, and they’d be dismissed and welcomed to each part with a handshake in addition to other formalities. Four of the researchers, two men and two women were trained for a month on how to perform certain handshakes.

The researchers had students stand next to smaller rooms and as they entered they greeted them by shaking their hand and then proceeded into the room to fill out a questionnaire. The researchers found that a firm handshake was related to extroversion and emotional expressiveness rather than shyness and neuroticism. Women were also rated as more open to experiences when they used a firm handshake. The results show that our handshakes reveal a lot about our personalities. Women with strong handshakes can equalize themselves alongside men in the workplace and bring more favourable initial ratings from others. While an assertive attitude can be considered “pushy” especially in women, a firm handshake is an acceptable technique to show confidence without appearing too aggressive. According to Dr. Chaplin a firm handshake is a safe place for women to show their dominance in the workplace. They also happen automatically, we don’t consciously think about them and therefore we don’t often realize how good or bad our handshake really is. However, this also means we can tell a lot about people from how they shake hands because, chances are, it’s what occurs naturally to them. While men overall have firmer handshakes, the study shows us that women can level the ground simply by stepping up their firmness.

The Types Of Handshakes

“Pressing the flesh” or handshakes are a very important ritualized greeting gesture that has gained worldwide popularity. How someone presents their hand during a handshake tells us a lot about how they see their relationship with us. There are three main palm orientations that can occur during handshakes. They are palm down (dominance or superiority), palm up (submissiveness) and palm even (equality). A palm down orientation emphasizes that a person wishes to control and dominant by taking the upper position forcing the other person’s palm down into a subordinate position. The palm down orientation is similar to placing the hand on the shoulder, which a boss might do to an intern to keep him in his place or a father might do to his son to settle him down. Conversely, the palm up offering shows a desire to submit since the hand is passively turned over allowing someone else to dominate them. Finally, the palm even or vertical is an attempt to build a cooperative, egalitarian relationship and shows a desire to produce a positive relationship.

The most universally appropriate orientation for the handshake is to have palms even and vertical, especially on a first meeting. Handshakes set the tone for the rest of the relationship though, and are often the only time two people will ever touch, so sometimes we might use alternate orientations depending on the goals we seek. A palm down technique can be used against a more subordinate individual to keep them in their place, and due to their lower rank, would tolerate it, perhaps even expect it. Anyone lower in the food chain is fair game for the palm down technique, although, I still recommend that people try to show their desire for equality from others rather than trying to show dominance. A boss will rarely tolerate the palm down maneuver from a subordinate. You may notice a strong visceral reaction from handshake jousting as it were, so heed these tips with caution. Pulling off dominance type handshakes usually amounts to not much more than negative feelings and makes others feel uncomfortable rather than making them feel subordinate as intended. If you really wish to dominate and control people than using territorial displays, invading people’s space and using strong eye language is much more permitted and effective.

It is common for people in equally powerful positions to jockey for the upper hand. Failing to show dominance through nonverbal means in the workplace can be disastrous when one intends to rise in the ranks. When performing the palm down handshake it is not necessary to thrust your arm forward with palm perfectly parallel with the ground. Doing so might even make the handshake impossible or confusing to your counterpart because it can be mistaken for some other gesture. Instead, move the hand forward with a slight downward angle such that it forces their hand to meet and rotate upwards. Once hands meet don’t try to twist, instead maintain the same angle and begin your two to three pumps. For best results always be sure to hold eye contact while shaking hands, smile slightly, use good but not excessive pressure and leaning forward slightly to convey extra interest.

It might seem that the palm-up orientation has no place at all in the handshake world, but this is not so. It can be used to placate higher authorities in order to demonstrate your desire to please them. Such is the case when a boss of much higher status meets an employee low in the ranks. The palm up shows that he is keen to keep his job and doesn’t present any threat. Someone who has crossed the line at work and is facing reprimand is best suited to at least feign his intent to set the record straight. There will be times too, that it is unfeasible to reverse the palm down technique which can cause very negative feelings so going with the flow is the second best course of action. To initiate a more equal relationship, despite taking up a palm-up orientation, you can add additional pressure at the beginning of the handshake which shows that you aren’t a complete pushover. This tells others nonverbally that you deserve a second look and that you aren’t interested in sucking up.

Duration and pressure are two other very important aspects of a good handshake. A handshake that is too short indicates lack of interest, warmth and enthusiasm, whereas a handshake that is of proper duration shows interest, attention and empathy. However, if the length of time increases much more than ordinary, the positive characteristics quickly vanish only to be replaced by negative ones. When handshakes last too long they aren’t usually aggressively protested, but your partner may seem to pulling back or away slightly. The greatest damage to over-shaking will be seen in their impression of you and will be carried forward possibly creating problems later on. The handshake is usually the first time two people touch and so is an important gesture in our first impressions, and because touch happens so rarely handshakes become etched in our minds.

Pressure and duration testing are great ways to decide if, or how strongly, someone will resist your authority. During the handshake add more pressure and increase the length of your handshake, if it’s not met with additional pressure or is met with an attempt to pull away, you can be fairly certain that your demands will be met with little resistance.
If pulling away does happen, check to see how it is done because this can be indicative of the method and strength by which people use to cause issues later on. If the attempt is weak or ineffective, than there is a good chance resistance will appear in hidden forms later on, but if they pull back confidently you can expect an open battle.

We can also tell a lot about a person by the texture of their hand. A skilled tradesmen who works fulltime building houses will have callused hands, whereas a lawyer would not. Sometimes a mixture of the two is present as is the case with the lawyer who runs a hobby carpentry outfit on his weekends. So while we can use hand features to determine congruencies, we also must exercise some caution. Regardless, hands, their strength and character can give away some tells about a person and their habits so while we are at it, meaning shaking hands, we might as well collect these cues as they may come in “handy” in the future.

How We Prefer To Orient Ourselves When Standing

Most people would state that standing square, face-to-face was the most honest and trustworthy position people orient themselves in while speaking with someone, but they would only be half right. In fact, most Americans stand at forty-five degrees or at oblique angles to one another. Facing someone dead on, is how boxers square off to one another in the pre-show weigh-in or when two men near physical contact at a bar. The head on orientation is reserved for confrontation with just one exception. That is when two people are really comfortable with each other.

In confrontation people get really close to one another and stare into each others eyes as a signal of dominance. This stance has a basis in escape since it is much easier to exit left or right from a tilted position rather than one that squares you off to someone else. When we want to exit from a confrontational stance we need to pivot or shift first which requires more movement and puts is in peril. However, orienting at oblique angles mutually tells us that we aren’t trying to corner each other, but when confrontation is not a remote possibility, facing straight-on is a demonstration of extreme comfort and trust.

Other cultures don’t feel this way. Arabic cultures for example will speak with one another with their faces nearly touching, which isn’t rare, in fact it happens during normal conversation. Women in American cultures tolerate such closeness only from another woman. Men who do this to women will be perceived as sexually interested and be seen to be making a sexual come-on. If not welcomed closeness will be a threat and turn-off, and in an office situation, should definitely be avoided.

The Male Crotch Display

The western version of the crotch display.  Imagine this fella totally nude!  Perhaps not attractive to women, but his assertiveness might be.

The western version of the crotch display. Imagine this fella totally nude! Perhaps not attractive to women, but his assertiveness might be.

There are a few postures that men use to display their prowess, but the jury is out as to whether or not women find them attractive per se. One of these postures is the cowboy posture which happens by placing the thumbs in a belt loop and aiming the remaining fingers toward the genitals. Interested women do tend to look at the crotch of men of interest, but performing the display might not make a man appear more sexually attractive.

The crotch display in action.

The crotch display in action.

A second version of the crotch display is to keep the legs spread open where the hand may be found on the inside of the thigh in a “ready position” or propped up on a knee. These signals are less of a sexual invitation than they are signal of their dominance over others in the room, which in and of itself makes them appear more attractive to women. New Guinea natives use what is called the penis sheath, also called koteka, horim or penis gourd to emphasis and draw attention to their genitals. It is usually made from a dried gourd and tied with a small loop around the scrotum with a secondary loop tied around the chest or abdomen and is worn without clothing. The penis sheath is usually tied in an upward position but some tribes position them to point straight out, up or at an angle. The penis sheath is an excellent example of sexually selected behaviour that came about through culture and serves to illustrate the power behind the male crotch display. What is done by western cultures is not much different if modesty and the clothing is stripped aside, so to speak. Western men use slight of hand through pointing and leg spreading to draw eyes, whereas the penis sheath draws attention to male prowess through a much more obvious and grand scale.

Micheal Jackson had no shortage of female fans and perhaps this was due to his frequent crotch grabs, although I suspect it has more to do with his deep pockets (or maybe his signing talent?). Men also draw attention to their crotch in other ways such as with their hands by motioning or placing a hand on the inner thigh, or re-orienting so the crotch faces the women directly. Men use subtle preening gestures such as fixing hair, straightening a tie or collar, or removing lint, but these aren’t as common when compared to women as sexual signals. This runs us full circle to our original though and that is that men display attractiveness through status and dominant indicators rather than any physical cue or posture. As it where though, some of men’s body positions can reveal this very characteristic.

Tibial Torsion And Shoulder Shrugs To Appear Childlike

Pigeon toes or 'tibial torsion' is a submissive posture because it forces the body into taking on a smaller form.

Pigeon toes or ‘tibial torsion’ is a submissive posture because it forces the body into taking on a smaller form.

Another word for “tibial torsion” which is the anatomical term, and one we are more familiar with, is “pigeon toes”. “Pigeon toes” refers to aiming the toes and feet inward at a slight angle reducing their outward profile. The opposite of this posture is toes outward called “splay footed” or “duck footed” which is a military type posture and a signal of dominance, but only relatively speaking. Meaning that any body movement that is meant to, or leads to, the shrinking of the body’s profile where less space is taken up is a submissive cue and where more space is taken up is a dominant cue. So relative to having the toes pointing directly forward, which has no meaning, the toes pointing inward and outward, mean submissiveness and dominance respectively. Women in courtships displays, as we initially outlined, take up submissive displays to attract the attention of men. I have classified this in the same department as shoulder shrugs because they are very similar, perhaps not in their appearance, but in their effect. With all submission signals, the net effect is to create a less threatening profile and to appear more childlike.

Interestingly “tibial torsion” is also a childhood condition where there is actual anatomical inward twisting of the shin bones located between the knee and the ankle causing the feet to turn inward. This condition arises due to the position of the baby in uterus, but is not at all what we are referring to with respect to hidden sexual body language. Tibial torsion in a dating context, performed by women who have no underlying anatomical deformities happens for the purpose of making the body appear smaller and more submissive, rather than due to a medical condition. Medical deformities can also apply to the toes as they point outward or duck footed too, and so are not always indicators of dominance per se.

Shoulder shrugs make the outline of the body much narrower.

Shoulder shrugs make the outline of the body much narrower.

The shoulder shrug is another childlike posture and happens when a woman let’s her guard down. It is often subtle and occurs subconsciously as a small raise of the shoulders and sometimes is accompanied by an eyebrow flash. Other times it is more pronounced and the head lowers or bows in unison with the shrug and is held for some time. Some other related cues of interest include shoulders up, shoulders flexed or shoulders back to flex out the breasts. The head tilted at forty-five degrees, as we have seen in a previous chapter, shows interest in what is being said, but as it relates to courtship also shows sexual interest. In fact the head turned at forty-five degrees is one of the most universally recognized courtship signals especially if it is accompanied with a headbow and eyes cast upwards making batty eye contact.

One last cue, and one that is especially potent, is looking over a raised shoulder. Women do this flirty gesture as they gaze at men of interest. Instead of squaring themselves off and looking straight into his eyes, her body faces away and she looks over the shoulder which seductively teases him. This posture emphasizes the curviness of the shoulder and exposes the vulnerable neck. It is particularly alluring when done by women wearing a strapless outfit!

Who Is In Charge Of Mirroring?

An employee enters his boss’s office as he has called a meeting to discuss the possibility of a pay raise. The employee sits down and raises his case. He has been there for several years and feels that he is due for some form of compensation for his loyalty. As he states his case, the subordinate employee appropriately mirrors his boss’s subtle nuances, he touches his face when he does and fixes his hair, and leans forward when he does. As the employee hits on a particularly sensitive issue, his overtime commitment, which the boss has been firm about being nearly mandatory for the position, the boss quickly moves back into a full body steeple by leaning back with his hands locked behind his head and crosses his legs in a figure four. What should the employee do? The answer is simple, he should concede this stance to his boss as its obvious through his body language that he’s not willing to let this issue slide. When it comes to mirroring, it is always best to use it for rapport building, and not to induce hostility. The boss wins when it comes to dominance and should the employee mirror his steeple, would suffer, perhaps not immediately but at a subconscious level this body language will grind on his boss. Eventually, and if repeated with consistency, the boss would sense something wasn’t right which might lead to even worse hours or job details. The boss would only perceive his negative feelings about his employee as “dislike” or that “something isn’t quite right.” If the goal was to usurp his position and take his job, the employee might consider mirroring his stance to set an air of equality or superiority. Similarly, two high ranking individuals should mirror each other to signal that they hold similar power and won’t be easily pushed over.

A dominant person always has more choice when it comes to mirroring than less dominant people. A boss that wants to build rapport with his employee can acceptably let his guard down and mirror his actions. This can be particularly handy when the goal is to welcome a new worker whom is particularly tense or nervous. The boss should still refrain from picking up nervous cues, but he should feel welcome to mirror any other gesture. Therefore, when considering the use of mirroring, it is important to note the relative status in the hierarchy. The rule of thumb is that the most dominant individual calls the shots in mirroring, and so long as gestures aren’t dominant displays, others should feel free to follow to successfully build rapport.

When Mirroring Can Backfire

Mirroring can backfire around people who want to dominate instead of build rapport. Your boss who takes you aside and wants to put the “rivets to you” isn’t going to respond to mimicry. In fact, trying to mirror him is likely going to make matters worse. In most cases, a dominant boss who displays dominant body language is not interested in employing someone equally as dominant. The default condition, or rule of thumb, to working with dominant people, unless lead otherwise (by your boss), is to show submissive postures. Fight dominance in superiors with submission, that is, hold your legs together, arms inward and hands on your lap.

There are a few exceptions when dominance should be fought with mirroring such as when we wish to rise in ranks by building equality with our bosses or wish to compete head on with other dominant people for positions or perks. Other times a boss will require someone specifically to hold a position of dominance, so will be looking for someone who reminds them of themselves. Bosses will seek these people for higher management. Lawyers can and should posture dominantly to each other. For them it can work to thwart challenges. It is expected in lawyers, and in other professions, to fight fire with fire, but in normal circumstances, mirroring will only raise the hackles of others further.

A second related instance where mirroring is not advised is during confrontation and aggression and this defines our second rule of thumb which is to avoid mirroring in hostile situations. To avoid a full blown fist fight, diffuse aggression with submissive postures. This doesn’t mean you can’t come out the winner, it just requires a different approach. More than anything it requires defining winning in a different way than traditional. In other words, walk away unscarred, alive and you’ve won!

The final caveat to mirroring is to use it only during win-win negotiations and avoid it during win-lose negotiations. Win-lose situations are when one side clearly wins and the other looses. Poker is a win-loose situation where one person wins the chips directly from another person, whereas win-win situations happen anytime prices have room for flexibility such as negotiating on the price on a piece of carpet, a car, or a house, where once the price is agreed upon both parties will benefit. Other arrangements that are win-win are partnerships that involve no money at all, but rather an equal input of labour. Therefore, our final rule of thumb is to only use mirroring when there is give and take involved, or when the task includes cooperation beneficial to both sides. The caveat, of course, which was mentioned previously, is that all mirroring must always go unnoticed for it to be effective.

The Anti Crosser Is Uncomfortable

Legs crossed at the ankles says I'm not happy - but I'm not going anywhere.

Legs crossed at the ankles says I’m not happy – but I’m not going anywhere.

We’ve noted that leg crossing can and does show interest depending on whether or not they enclose people or block them out and we’ve also seen how the figure four leg cross is a seated crotch display and also that leg spreading shows dominance, but legs crossed also shows comfort. When the legs are crossed they significantly reduce the ability to act quickly during confrontation and when it happens while standing significantly reduces balance. Therefore, leg crossing is an important indicator of the degree of comfort felt in any given situation.

Take the standing leg cross which happens by putting one foot behind the other. What is essentially happening is that the body is supported by just one leg making escape from this position especially difficult. Walking with just one foot is extremely cumbersome! This requires the feet to first uncross before taking action and this is exactly what happens when we become uncomfortable or insecure about certain presence. We’ve talked about the fig leaf position that happens by placing the hands over the midsection to cover them, and this does happen when people feel timid or insecure, but not when they are scared or fearful. A person standing in an elevator might stand with their legs crossed, but when a stranger accompanies them, their legs will uncross and their feet will become firmly planted. The subconscious mind is saying to the body that no chances should be taken here. While the fig leaf position says “I’m uncomfortable, but escape is impossible because I must talk with this person” whereas uncrossing the legs says “I have no idea who this person is and am unsure of them” and “I know I can run at anytime, and I will, should the need arise so now it the time to prepare”