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Body Language and Dominance

Where Does Your Body Language Place You in Groups?

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:

  1. They could withdraw and leave but would thereby acknowledge the superiority of the displaying aggressor.
  2. They could counter-display (that is escalation for a possible fight) or attack directly, but that would possibly result in injury and further loss of status.
  3. They could acknowledge the superiority of the other and submit to be the underling. Submission is shown largely by body language. This is the most common choice for people living in modern societies and it is very evident in body language of most people.

In most encounters it is safest to not appear aggressive and to display non-combative or submissive body language:

  • Make the body take up minimal space and not block the other person.
  • Sit or stand in a way to appear shorter than the other person.
  • When seated, curl the legs to hide the feet under the chair and cross the legs if possible.
  • Be relaxed and quietly softly smiling with full attention on other person.


Do You Have Dominance Body Language?

The body language cues that the dominant person uses are these:

  • Directs and controls the conversation.
  • Freely asks questions and expects a response back but gives little or no self-disclosure.
  • Stands with hands on hips, elbows out to sides. Takes up more personal space that way and wants to look bigger.
  • Stands or sits taller than others on purpose.
  • Freely interrupts others speaking. (Others don't interrupt.)
  • Long pause when answering a door knock, or replying to someone. Makes others wait.
  • Freely touches others. (Others don't touch back.)
  • Will stare at others and demand attention. (Others don't do the same back.)
  • Never breaks eye contact first. Others usually break eye contact first by looking down, signifying submission.
  • Occupies a bigger personal space and crowds others on purpose.
  • Takes the lead purposefully when walking and going through doors.
  • While sitting, will put hands behind head, put feet on desk, remove eye glasses and put ear-piece in mouth, or turn chair away from others and stare out window.
  • If not well socialized, will eat and talk at same time while others can't eat.

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(Continued below:)
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.

Men gambling.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.

Thug.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.

Do You Need Defensive Body Language?

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:

Man with defensive body language.
  • They are literally toe-to-toe at an invisible line drawn between them. This is the symbolic battle line where if one steps over it, the other may physically attack.
  • Man B legs are stiff and feet are wide set for good stability to physically resist if necessary. Physical action is not likely but his unconscious body language is ready!
  • Man B is leaning away and has his arms crossed like a physical barrier against man A.
  • Both men are smiling to deflect and discourage increased physical combative actions. A smile signals, "I am a friend. I will not hurt you."

For more information on this important body language subject, go here to read about leadership body language.

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