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Dominant body language

Dominant body language is related to aggresive body language, though with a less emotional content.

Size signals

The body in dominant stances is generally open, and may also include additional aspects.

Making the body big

Hands on hips makes the elbows go wide and make the body seem larger. So also does standing upright and erect, with the chin up and the chest thrust out. Legs may be placed apart to increase size.

Making the body high

Height is also important as it gives an attack advantage. This can be achieved by standing up straight or somehow getting the other person lower than you, for example by putting them on a lower seat or by your standing on a step or plinth.

Occupying territory

By invading and occupying territory that others may own or use, control and dominance is indicated. A dominant person may thus stand with feet akimbo and hands on hips.

Superiority signals

Breaking social rules

Rulers do not need to follow rules: they make the rules. This power to decide one’s own path is often displayed in breaking of social rules, from invasion and interruption to casual swearing in polite company.

Ownership

Owning something that others covet provides a status symbol. This can be territorial, such as a larger office, or displays of wealth or power, such as a Rolex watch or having many subordinates.

Just owning things is an initial symbol, but in body language it is the flaunting of these, often casually, that is the power display. Thus a senior manager will casually take out their Mont Blanc pen whilst telling their secretary to fetch the Havana cigars.

Invasion

A dominant act is to disrespect the ownership of others, invading their territory, for example getting to close to them by moving into their body space. Other actions include sitting on their chairs, leaning on their cars, putting feet up on their furniture and being over-friendly with their romantic partners.

Invasion says ‘What’s yours is mine’ and ‘I can take anything of yours that I want and you cannot stop me’.

Belittling others

Superiority signals are found both in saying ‘I am important’ and also ‘You are not important’. Thus a dominant person may ignore or interrupt another person who is speaking or turn away from them. They may also criticize the inferior person, including when the other person can hear them.

Facial signals

Much dominance can be shown in the face, from disapproving frowns and pursed lips to sneers and snarls (sometimes disguised as smiles).

The eyes can be used to stare and hold the gaze for long period. They may also squint, preventing the other person seeing where you are looking. They may also look at anywhere but the other person, effectively saying that ‘you are not even worth looking at’.

Faces can also look bored, amused or express other expressions that belittle the other person.

Dominant people often smile much less than submissive people.

Phallic displays

Dominant men will often expose their crotch, effectively saying to other men ‘I am safe from attack’ or ‘my penis is bigger than yours’, whilst showing off. They may also be offering ‘come and get it!’ to women. When women do this, it is to some extent a tease or invitation to men but may also be an emulation of the male display, thus saying ‘I am as strong as a man’.

This appears in standing or sitting where the legs are apart. It may be emphasized by scratching or adjusting of the crotch.

The dominant greeting

When people first meet and greet, their first interaction sets the pattern for the future relationship. When a person is dominant here, then they will most likely continue to be dominant.

The handshake

A classic dominant handshake is with the palm down, symbolically being on top. Another form of dominant handshake is to use strength to squeeze the other person.

Holding the other person’s hand for longer than normal also shows that you are in control.

Eyes

Prolonged, unblinking eye contact acts like overplaying the handshake — it says ‘I am powerful, I can break the rules.’ The dominant person may alternatively prevent eye contact, saying ‘You are beneath me and I do not want even to look at you.’

Speaking

The person who speaks first often gets to control the conversation, either by talking for longer or by managing the questions.

Responding to dominance

If others display dominant body language you have a range of options.

The simplest response is simply not to submit, which is what they probably want. Continue to appear friendly and ignore their subtle signals.

Another response is to fight dominance with dominance, for example:

  • Out-stare them (a trick here is to look at the bridge of their nose, not their eyes).
  • Touch them, either before they touch you or immediately when they touch you.
  • When they do a power handshake, grab their elbow and step to the side.
  • When they butt in to your speech, speed up, talk more loudly and say ‘let me finish!’

Another approach is to name the game. Ask them why they are using dominant body language. A good way to do this is in a curious, unafraid way.

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November 6, 2008 - Posted by | Body Language | , , , , , , ,

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