Body language is one of my favorite subjects.
It’s the most “bang for your buck” activity. In minutes you can learn a few signals that you can keep with you and will have a massive impact over the rest of your life.
Not to mention the “body language-emotion” loop (feelings create the body language, we all know this; but body language can also cause the feelings. Taking confident postures will make you feel more confident).
We talked about how the way you walk can make you a target.
And the point of that type of walking was to communicate “high energy”–thereby meaning you’d fight more than someone with low energy.
I like that approach but I don’t love it.
Related to that but much different is something called Dominance.
This is a thick topic but I want to give you something you can take with you and use right now.
Moreover, communicating dominance is better than just communicating high energy. And in fact, the most dangerous people around successfully communicate both high energy and dominance with their body language all the time.
The end result is that they hardly ever end up in a fight. Think about it. This isn’t to say CEO’s are necessarily dangerous but when was the last time you heard of one in a street fight? That is no coincidence.
Background on Dominance
We’re pack animals. You might not like it but we have a lot in common with dogs and wolves. The term “alpha male” and “alpha female” aren’t mistakes. They’re terms we use because they work and describe the reality.
We evolved in small-ish social groups with clearly defined hierarchies. And even though that’s not so true anymore (at any given time in modern society, we’re a member of many “packs” and interact with 3 or more everyday), that wiring is still at work in our minds.
For example, you’re a part of a “work pack”, a “friend pack”, and a third pack we’ll just call “strangers”–this is when you’re in public. There’s a hierarchy at play in all situations and we’re very good at picking out that hierarchy. Although it’s subconscious–we’re usually very bad at realizing we’re making these decisions or even “seeing” the hierarchy (women are much better at this, guys typically have to study this or work kinda hard to learn to read people, like I did).
We know this stuff but we don’t know we know it.
Criminals only attack the weakest “pack” members
When we’re looking at Ambushes (muggings) or even ego fights (think of the drunk angry guy, mad because you bumped him), dominant body language becomes a survival function.
People usually won’t fight if they don’t think they can win.
However, criminals don’t even want a fight. Let’s make up a 1-10 scale of fighting ability. If the criminal is a 7 he doesn’t want to fight a 6. He wants to fight a 1 or a 2.
Sexual Assaults are also committed when the fight is decidedly unfair.
Ego fights can sometimes be the exception. Some guys actually enjoy the pack vying and just want to see where they shake out. Dominance signals actually cause the fight there–but this is in the minority of situations.
Dominant body language will prevent far more fights than it causes and will quietly communicate “you can fight me, but it won’t go your way.”
Dominant body language takes advantage of those hardwired reactions.
Fighting is a lower pack member game–the #4 member will fight the #3 for their status.
But the alphas have nothing to gain from fighting and a lot to lose–even in victory injuries are still common.
When I started martial arts, I was obsessed with samurai and they often encourage “being ready, always” because you never know when an attack will come.
So I would sit all balanced and ready to spring into action. The odd thing was, I got picked on more often.
It’s because I was communicating I’m a #3 or a 4.
Alphas actually don’t worry about being attacked at all. They’ll be asymmetric (all weight on one leg) in bad tactical positions, and will constantly expose vulnerable points (the throat, the wrists, the midsection, the groin) until a fight is definitely on.
Because no one would ever think of attacking an alpha. The alpha proved his or herself already by becoming the Alpha. Even if the #2 pack member is at a 10 out of 10 for fighting ability, the alphas are at 15. It’s so unfathomable to attack, or to even consider it, that no lower pack members do.
The big secret is you don’t actually have to be dangerous to communicate this way. (although, let’s be real, being dangerous definitely helps).
Just by learning the signals, you can adopt dominant body language in all of the “packs” you interact with daily. (Do be aware, this isn’t always ideal. If you’re truly subordinate, like with your boss–dominant signals might actually hurt you–they won’t know why but they won’t like you for some reason).
But particularly, in public–with the “stranger” pack, dominant body language can very well be the difference between being mugged tonight or making it home without any trouble.
The King’s Cape
Dominance for both males and females means having little or no concern for taking up space. This is true both time wise (moving slow and smoothly, like a panther instead of nervous and twitchy like a rodent. Notice also how we want to emulate predator animals instead of prey animals–also very intentional), auditorily (leading conversations, etc) and physically (keeping your elbows and knees away from your body and taking up more space in general).
One of the easiest and best tips to help clean up all these signals is called the King’s Cape.
You ever wonder why kings used to have such large, gaudy things? The big fluffy red ones with the white, speckled fur trim all around it–you know what I’m talking about. The cape was giant, often dragging behind the king, on the ground.
Well some clever person figured out that just wearing a cape cleaned up a lot of these subconscious patterns. If a king wore a heavy cape, they naturally kept a tall posture (because hunching over or forward with that added weight would quickly cause back pain), and moved more slowly (slow and smooth movement) as they walked.
The really cool thing here?
Just by pretending you have one of those giant capes and are wearing it right now, your own body language will clean itself up, AUTOMATICALLY!
Now this doesn’t mean you can’t do the “high energy” walk we discussed before. Nor does this mean you shouldn’t walk with that bouncier step, but it means you should slow it down just a fraction of a second. It’s very subtle.
In fact, if you’ve got some time to kill I would recommend actually going to a costume shop somewhere (there’s that one in crossroads) and experimenting with this walk in an actual cape. They’ll let you try one on.
But all it really takes is imagining that cape, being taller, and walking just that fraction of a second more slowly.
Homework: Try the “King’s Cape Walk”
Especially when you step into new buildings and into new “packs”, this type of communication can set the tone for the entire interaction with whoever you deal with there. Again it will be subtle. But try it out and see if you don’t get some different treatment amidst your friends or at the coffee shop.
Just slightly slower. With not a care in the world. In fact, imagining yourself as a King or Queen–well do you think that would clean up even more of your signals?
Try it out, have fun. Let me know what you figure out!