Scientific Portal on Body Language, Kinesics, and Nonverbal Communication#

Nonverbal clues of Dominance

Overpowering or ruling over others has been there since known eras of history. Politics and strategies evolved to have others in total control of one person or group as long as possible. Domination gives deliberate authority of ordering and marking decisions of own despite of will and interests of group or person under control.

Unlike ranking, dominance is to make someone realize disability to challenge, perform, alter or occupy something on its own. More specifically, domination is disarming others by threatening but without actual attack. 

It has to do with appearing or bluffing to be a superior i.e. big, mounting, attention drawing, authoritative, strong, outstanding, and outnumbering. We can watch domination anywhere in daily life - from colonizing in majority strength on piece of land, demonstrations by a large homogeneous group on streets to glaring - towering tall at a person.

Let’s see few examples of domination that we can observe during interpersonal interactions:

1) Bigger than you: You are sitting in cabin of your superior. Your conversion with her spins into an argument. She suddenly gets out of her chair and stands in front of you and starts glaring. Unconsciously, she wants to take control over your opinions and approach about subject.

2) Better than you: You find yourself unable to tackle an ongoing condition or issue of your own and seat helpless or nervous in chair. Your superior walking alongside your table, glances at you. He suddenly rushes, stands behind you back and starts asking questions. Finally, he jumps into issue and solves it without you asking his help. With smirks, superiors says, “This is the way it is done! Better keep in mind from next time.”

3) I’m an in charge: You introducing yourself or you’re being introduced to a person and both of you exercise a formal hand shake. Person on the opposite side turns his palm facing down and silently communicates that he’s going to control or govern over whatever is going to happen in this association.

4) Keep yourself down: A couple is walking on street that’s full of commercial shops.  When they pass by jewelry shop, wife watches a nice diamond necklace. She expresses her wish to buy it but husband refutes it by saying, “We can’t afford it.” He stretches his hand towards her with palm facing downward and stares at her with big eyes.

5) United to defeat: An innocent lad’s caught by bulling street youngsters. Suddenly another rival group rushes to help him out of the situation. They cover the lad and silently stand tall in front of the offenders. Within seconds, offenders find their out from the spot.

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Matter of Status

Social status has been quest of mankind since evolution. A status means possessing and exhibiting an ability of accessing, controlling, and utilizing resources. It’s a silent and pivotal hierarchical competition held between two individuals, groups, classes or societies. Higher the status remains, more authorities can be exploited and less labor is required. Struggle for status can be easily observed in animal kingdom. They also strive for fitting themselves at certain position in food buffet. 

Let’s witness a routine and brutal episode that takes place on vast grass planes of savanna in Africa. Herd of lions & lioness spots grazing dear, stag or wildebeest. It chases the prey and kills it down. They guard their prey from getting looted by small sized animals like canines (wild dogs), jackals and wolves. Even within the group of these apex predators, elder males start their feast followed by females and young members.

After ripping off and gulping large amount of nutritious flesh within an hour or so, small sized animals try their teeth on almost bear skeleton of prey left back by apex predators. Group of vultures circling in the sky settles down and starts scavenging. Small size animals and vultures fight with each other over remnants of prey. Finally, group of wild African ants tears off flesh and exposed bone marrow into pieces by their tiny jaws and transports to anthills. One can realize that how each species of creature tries to struggle for and maintain its position on ladder of food consumption at its best. Size, physical features, capacity, strength, speed, aptitude and social settings matter a lot for them.

Unlike animals, humans struggle for status in more noticeable ways with fewer clashes and confrontations. Appearing brilliant, neat, cozy, clean, advanced, secure, sovereign and sometimes generous determines personified status. Additionally, ability to afford certain level of luxurious, levitated and lavish life style demonstrates objectified status.

Ranks prevails within human families as well. Certain authorities and accessibility is seized by elders or more experiences persons whereas other members have to respect and follow them. It’s hardwired in male brain to struggle for and employ their energy - brain - rapport into gaining social status and climbing on hierarchical ladder to attract - retain mate and to provide pool of potentials for children. Other way of exhibiting status is by gaining knowledge - proficiency and generating ideas to achieve success and prosperity with greater efficiency and general recognition.


Why fairness is unfairly overrated in society? It's because fair complexion conveys that an individual has/can control over those who work under sun i.e. labor class or if not - it has higher mental abilities ("smartness") so that it can work by staying under roof and doesn’t need to engage in physical (hard) work. Simply the complexion of an individual (on the scale - from darker to “ghostly” fair complexion) is what it does for bread and butter and thus it conveys overall socio-economical status of the person or a group it belongs to. Status, skills, strength and smartness of any person cannot be determined by its complexion at all.

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Cabin of chief

Gone are the days when kings, queens, emperors and empresses used to rule on their provinces, territories, kingdoms and empires from forts, citadels and castles some centuries back. Tribal leaders used to control, govern and guide their groups in prehistoric time by same way. They all used to occupy certain amount of marked physical space that was slightly elevated from ground and surrounded by enclosures or guarded by armed soldiers on open grounds, in galleries, courtyards or large halls.

They used to seat there on specially crafted and decorated - jeweled thrones or chairs exhibiting their superiority, competency and rich ancestral - cultural inheritance.

Today’s organizations, enterprises, trade houses, industries or institutions are more or less like ancient kingdoms that are founded on certain set of functions - faculties and expanded to limited or large no. of clients and geographical areas. Modern chiefs or managers have turned throne and its surroundings into miniaturized form like personal cabins or offices.

Anyone can easily find the difference between them and rest of the workplace. You would hardly find any personal cabin or office close to entrance or gathering point to make it hard to access for others and avoid easy intrusion or trespassing. This is exactly like surrounded or guarded thrones of ancient times.

Today’s personal cabins or offices are guarded by peons or armed personals at its entrance. On single floor workplace, chief’s cabin or office often stands in the middle or at the edge. If workplace occupies multistory building or multiple adjacent buildings, special care is taken to erect personal cabin or office with special security, facilities and amenities on topmost floors or in an isolated building.

The most important things observable in chief’s cabin or office is a clock hanging on wall or put on table, visible to all. Obviously, clock reminds other the timeliness and to honor precious time being spent by the chief. Mostly, rectangular table is kept to create a secure space between chief and other persons.

Various objects like pen stand, files, rack, flags, emblems, miniature models, motif, mascots, statues, flower pot, table lamp, diary, computer and telephone kept on table to mark territorial dominance of chief hence intrusion and utilization of it by other is strictly prohibited. Only personal assistants, officials of equal rank or higher are allowed to enter and utilize this territory on formal or informal permission of chief.

Windows are built in walls to mimic enlarged physical space, facilitate more illumination and allow looking outside. Curtains made up of rich fabric are installed on windows. Walls are adorned by precious gifts, antiquates, crafts and paintings to exhibit status. Globe or world map signifies the expanse of vision and ambition. Certificates, medals, trophies and testimonies show off accreditation, excellence, competencies, achievements and capability. Photographs depicting chief along with other pioneers, dignitaries, celebrities and high ranking personals are also kept to convey strong rapport. Often books are kept in shelf to demonstrate eligibility and access to knowledge and are used for quick reference whenever required. Costly furniture brings the an overall effect of majestic surrounding.

Chair deployed for chief is taller, bigger, more comfortable and pricey compared to sitting arrangement made for other. Chair with rotary axle, push-back, elevated back rest and head cushion help chief to appear as strong, secured, relax, focused and confident. Chair is placed facing its back towards fixed partition or wall to add security same way thrones were kept. Often, sitting arrangement for other faces its back to door of cabin or office.

Other are usually allowed sitting on ordinary benches and chairs with smaller resting surfaces, lower in height, fixed back and steady axle to put them on the edge of comfort and confidence level ultimately neutralize their defenses or challenges.

Other persons greet, exercise shake hand, offer or receive gifts, discuss and give presentations sitting or standing at one side of table. Only in inevitable or special situations, personal space of chief is invaded round the table.

In many cabins or offices, sofa is kept on which chief can seat with officials of equal or higher rankings, consultants or field experts and openly discuss or share view points and generate mutual trustworthy environment. Glass panels are installed to allow watching entire workspace and maneuvers of people outside.

There can be some exceptions to or variations in modern cabin of office depending upon type of industry, organization, work culture etc.

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