Tag Archive for Height Differences

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.

The Chair Straddler

The chair straddler is a dominant, yet cowardly sitting position, because for one, the seating position requires one to spread their legs wide open exposing the genitals, and two, because symbolically it is as if they were holding a shield against their chest. Crotch displays are typical for dominant people, especially men. Women can also sometimes display authority in this fashion but if done improperly it appears like a sexual invitation rather than a dominance display. Figuratively, chair straddlers are spears throwers or arrows flingers as they toss words at others from behind their barricade. It might not always be the intention of the staddler to come across this way, so it is our duty as good body language readers, to reserve judgment until we catalog enough cues in clusters. For every rule there are always exceptions. The point here though, is that other people will judge us poorly if we become the person that straddles chairs. Certain dominant body language is acceptable, but this isn’t one of them.

If you find yourself (over) exposed to a straddler, there are a few ways to disarm him from his shield. The first is to change your seating location so that he no longer faces you directly, exposing his genitals. You can also stand up altogether and even move behind him making his posture totally ineffective. By moving behind him, his back will become exposed and unprotected, causing him to tense up. The height differences will also force him to try to remain more erect and upright, so to speak, causing him to feel uncomfortable and annoyed in short order. A proficient straddler will then turn his chair (and his member) to face you, and just like a real-life chess game the pieces move strategically. This brings about the third technique, which is to overcrowd his personal space by standing over him, being careful to continuing the conversation. If all these techniques fail, and in most cases they won’t, you can always call him out on his attitudes and body language. Like calling anyone out for any reason, this is risky and can easily backfire alienate him altogether. In extreme situations, you might see no risk at all since all you stand to lose is an arrogant acquaintance.

Environment Plays On Height And Dominance

Standing up while others are seated instantly creates dominance.

Standing up while others are seated instantly creates dominance.

If your goal is to gain the dominance advantage, but nature dealt you the short stack, there are several ways to use your environment in your favour. One of which is to create a scenario where it is natural to present to a seated audience. Obviously this particular example is more suitable to a boardroom business meeting, but can also be amongst friends by roaming a room, rather than taking a fix seat while entertaining. When created an artificial scenario it would be wise to include ample comfortable seating to provide an incentive for people to plop themselves down. A man might use the standing advantage at a bar to pick up women by waiting for her sit instead of approaching her while she dances. Present to the seated naturally gives you a large height advantage.

This cop knows his game.  By keeping the suspect in his car he gains height-authority over him.

This cop knows his game. By keeping the suspect in his car he gains height-authority over him.

Stages by their nature are designed to give power to the speaker. Fewer interruptions from the audience is the direct result of being higher than them. It is very unnatural to address someone with any degree of authority from a lower position and we instinctively know this. If there are height differences and levels about a room, such as split levels or stairs, and your goal it to intimate or dominant someone, then use them. For example, standing on an upper step with your target below you will give you the upper hand every time. Addressing someone taller than you from an elevated position such that their height is negated will make them feel very uncomfortable and uneasy. They aren’t used to playing short stacked and they will probably do their best to rebalance the field in their favour when the opportunity arises. Try this experiment on door-to-door solicitors the next time they interrupt you. First, be sure to use the door as a barrier never quite opening it fully, and never ever invite them in. If you have a glass portion of your door, close the door slightly so as to be speaking through the glass. Ideally this will force them to address you from the next step which will be lower giving you at least a six inch height advantage. This is usually enough to stifle their pitch or at least annoy them. Next close and re-open the door at random intervals. This might seem cruel, but remember you never invited them, so they brought it upon themselves!

While lifts in shoes are out of style for men, there exits shoe brands and inserts that can add up to two inches of height. If you are 5’8”, then two inches can make a big difference in the height game, and put you into or above the average. Women know the power of heels all to well, and should use it to their advantage whenever possible in business and even in dating. The exception though is when the purpose is to build cooperation rather than asserting competence. Women should use heels in dating to set their benchmark height. It is universally recognized that women prefer men to be two to three inches taller than they are. By simply using a heel of that height and eliminating men who don’t stack up, they can immediately thwart unwanted advances. Most men won’t solicit from women taller than they are.

As we saw, forcing others to sit while we stand can helps neutralize height differences, but so too does mutually sitting. If both parties are forced to sit, the advantage is given to those that have the biggest rear ends rather than those with the longest legs. The extra cushion serves to prop them up! The largest differences in heights is largely due to the biggest bones in our bodies which is our legs, not our spines, although they do play a part. Sitting down, takes our legs out of commission. Next we should try to hold good posture and if our company has poor posture, we can negate all or most of the height difference. Sitting on opposite sides of the table negates height differences even further because separation makes it difficult to make the height comparison. The same tactic can be used while standing just by taking a step back.

An advanced, although cruel tactic includes sabotaging others by providing them with lower chairs. It’s not uncommon in the interview process to give prospects unpadded chairs with short legs. When multiple people are present, just claim the tallest chair! A chair with an abnormally tall back commonly used by royalty will make someone appear shorter due to perspective, but will also serve to make them appear more dominant and authoritative.

If presented with a power player who insists on interrupting and talking over you or others especially while seated, play their game. Instead of taking it sitting down, stand up, walk about the room, move away from the situation or move to the opposite side of the desk or table or use misdirection by looking out a window pretending to ponder his position. Each of these actions will unnerve them forcing them to up their game or concede. The simplest and most honest tactic is to hold better, more upright posture, which in and of itself can add inches over people with poor posture. Most people have a bad habit of slouching, so using better posture on its own makes you appear more confident by comparison.

If your objective is to maintain common ground instead of exploiting it, then the best bet it to try to level or lessen height differences instead of exploiting them. Tall women know this all to well, and can be found with poor posture usually because they stand out from the crowd and get teased as teenagers. Unfortunately, instead of walking tall, they hunch up trying to appear subordinate so they fit into the crowd unnoticed. Obviously, tall women who slouch are self-conscious of their height.

This not-withstanding reducing height differences fosters cooperation and reduces tension. Tall people should take notes and reverse all that was said above with respect to exploiting height differences. Most of what was mentioned was methods to use height to manipulate or create power imbalances. If the goal is to achieve cooperation, then we should be careful to try to level height differences instead of maximizing them. We should rarely show submission though, as it can be as disastrous as showing dominance when trying to build cooperation. We never want to appear weak even as we seek common ground.