What do these signals look like? Here’s a few to be aware of:
1. Power zones
A big source of power comes from how much we protect 4 sensitive areas or power zones. The more we cover these areas, the more defensive we look and the less power we have. When we instead "point" or direct attention to these 4 areas, we display power. These sensitive areas are our face, the base of our neck, our belly button, and our “naughty bits”.
Looking at this image? Who has the power? Who is the wolf? Who is the sheep?
On the left, we see a man with his hands on his hips. He is actually using his hands to point towards his belly button, a strong power display. And his body is pointed directly at the other man, again suggesting power. He is the wolf.
On the right, we see a man partially covering himself with his right hand. And, though his face is towards this man, his body and 4 sensitive areas are turned away, another sort of defensive self-protection. He is the sheep.
This wolf looks pretty threatening. When would it be good for you to look that threatening, and when could such a power display actually get you in trouble?
When people comfort others, we might give them a hug or rub their arms or back, or in other ways use touch to help that person feel better.
Similarly, when people are feeling uncomfortable, they may touch their hands or arms, to comfort themselves. This self-comforting or self-soothing suggests a lack of confidence and a lack of power.
For example, 3 of 4 people in this picture aren’t happy about the photo shoot and are comforting themselves through self-touch of their arms, looking very sheepish.
Note how this type of body language might not make a good first impression and would be bad in a job interview, but if you were in trouble with your spouse and needed to make an apology, this pose might be helpful.
3. Palms up or palms out?
Imagine a police officer directing traffic, blowing a whistle with hand extended palm facing away. Now imagine a person on the street corner with their palm up, asking for change.
This palm up position is also a sheep-like position. Yet it is much softer way to suggest a lack of power. It in fact, seems like an excellent way for someone to ask for help from others.
For instance, looking at the picture below, how would you feel if your manager had their body in the position on right, and told you that you made a mistake on a project and now need to stay late and fix it. How about with the folded arms of the person on left?
4. Good power and basketballs
How can one create a positive impression of power? One way is to hold an imaginary basketball. Take a look at this image here:
Such a position doesn’t block the 4 sensitive areas, nor does it display towards them. It also avoids weak self-comforting touches, the asking palms up, or the threatening palms-out. If you watch the news, I’m sure you’ll see a politician in this pose.
Wolf or sheep? As you walk around over the next couple of days take a look around, and these signals will be broadcast to you loud and clear.
And think about when you want to display your power, and when you want to contain it.