Each person's status in groups is evident by their body language. It is usually easy to determine who is the dominant person by the body language of two or more people together. People unconsciously organize their position and gestures automatically to show they understand and agree on who is dominant, higher status, superior, or the boss. Those people who are the underlings also demonstrate their low rank with unconscious body language.
Whenever a joke, controversial remark, or personal opinion is made in the group, the group's eyes will glance toward the dominant person to see any reaction. The lower ranking people will naturally and automatically repeat the reactions of the most dominate person, be it laughter, sour-face, or no comments. Interestingly, when friends are in a group and no one wants to take the dominant role, all treat each other as if each was the dominant person.
When a person displays domineering body language he or she is using an indirect form of aggression. However, no weapon is used or any show of weapons-to-be-used is made. The dominate person subtly indicates to everyone there that he or she is a threat and should not be challenged. Dominance displays aim at disarming and discouraging opponents before the opponent can get the upper hand. Dominant body language is subtly hostile and is intended to place the opponent into a no-win position where they must make one of these choices:
In most encounters it is safest to not appear aggressive and to display non-combative or submissive body language:
Men playing the flirting game display their Alpha Maleness in subtle ways. For example, men stake out their territory when they are hunting a woman. Men mark their territory by stretching out their arms and legs to take up more room, plus set out their personal positions on a table or bar: car keys, drink, and coins. ( This is better than peeing on the furniture like some animals do to mark their territory!)
This "male hunting territory establishment" is a part of men's DNA when seeking females for two reasons: (1) To scare off other males and (2) to show the females they are strong and are an Alpha Male (Leader of the Pack).
Often men go in pairs or a group where women hang out to be picked up. One of the men will be the Alpha Male and the others will be subtly subordinate - and they all know the rules: Alpha Man leads the action in searching for any available woman. It is also understood by all the group that Alpha Man gets the first choice in women.
The more the place is socialized ("high class" vs. "low class"), the more subtle are the men's clues for dominance. Frequently in these more highly socialized places, male dominance is displayed subtly by expensive clothes and possessions. There is an unwritten code of conduct that people must use or they will be ostracized or even be rejected or evicted.
On the other hand, in back-street bars ("low class joints"), the men often display dominance by loud, confrontational and threatening gestures, or fighting to prove their Alpha Maleness.
Historically, societies have been structured mostly with the women placed in a subservient role as wife and mother catering to her husband's and children's needs, often ignoring her own needs. The "man of the house" is a frequent term used for the husband and clearly establishes his position as Alpha Man. The house and property -- with appropriate fences or territory lines -- is definitely his to rule over as Alpha Male. There are many both written and unwritten rules for protecting his earned position as ruler of his territory and family. The similarities to animal packs can not be missed, but it has been going on for so long it seems the norm for humans, too.
Men are very often faced with another man trying to dominate them in some subtle way. Could be an aggressive sales tactic, persuasion to a different view point, or influence for some action by the target person. Notice at the right what is going on. Man A on the right is asserting himself on the other man (B) in a way that is being resisted as indicated by these body language cues in man B:
For more information on this important body language subject, go here to read about leadership body language.
© Copyright 2005, revised 2009 by Lawrence Rodrigues, M.S., Director: EastWest Institute for Self-Understanding.
All rights reserved worldwide.