Body Language Part 7 - 5 Ways to Gain Power

Posted by: Jo Banks

Date: 01-01-0001

Gaining power, especially in the workplace is a skill - some have it naturally, for others, there are some specific techniques that will help you aquire it ...

If our brain believes we are powerful, we naturally give out powerful body language.  How we present ourselves is where power is lost or gained.

Secret techniques to get and keep control:

1.   Hand shake

When I do workshops on interview techniques I always discuss handshakes.  Our handshake really important and says so much about us and our personality and yet we rarely give it any thought and in fact, women aren’t usually even taught how to shake hands properly.  A limp, ineffective handshake speak volumes – it says that you are just that, limp and ineffective! 

Issues of dominance occur during a handshake – by grabbing the arm with the other hand puts the other person right where you want them.  Leaders to not go to others to shake their hand, they wait for others to come to them, subordinates come to them:

Stillness = Power

If someone pats your hand, it’s their way of treating you like a baby and a gentle pat on the back is a gentle reminder to who’s in charge.  Watch for politicians doing this – it’s always fascinating to see the power play when watching two world leaders meet.

2.   Power walk

People will often use their arms to take up more space in order to draw the eye in and make the walker look more important.

3.   Matching body language

You will often see matching body language especially in competing Alpha males – it’s a way of competing and not getting left behind.  Smiling and open body language = dominance.

4.   Gestures

Presenting our knuckles is seen as a high dominance posture – particularly in men as knuckles are seen as a very manly body part.  However, our gestures can give away what we are really thinking.  When Tony Blair first came to power and before he’d had his body language training (yes, all good politicians receive copious amounts of body language training) what he was saying verbally vs what his body language was saying was largely incongruent.  His advisors knew this, so they erected large podiums for him to stand behind to prevent body language ‘leakage’ (we’ll talk more about that later).

5.   Look forward not behind

Powerful people look forward and talk about the future, they don’t use negative language such as ‘never’ or ‘not stop’.  We perceive reflective language as weak, it sends out signals of doubt in what we are saying or doing.  If you look at the speeches of politicians who have recently been elected vs those given toward the end of their tenure, you will usually seen a marked shift from positive, forward looking to reflective – a clear sign they are on their way out.

The Alpha Male

Arrogance, aggression, bullying and showing off are Alpha male traits and they continually test others in order to remain dominant.  The more competitive the environment, the more appeal to the Alpha male.  However, aggression and disregard for others do not inspire respect.  I often come across new graduates who think that they have to behave this way in order to be the Alpha male, however, some of the strongest Alpha males I know are quiet, unassuming and not at all arrogant.  They have a very quiet and powerful presence, they have come to a point in their career that they don’t need to compete with anyone; they simply know that they’re the best and just get on with the job at hand ... they don’t have any need to shout about it.

The Alpha Female

Alpha females tend of have a lower voice and seem more authoritative.  They talk more slowly and give an air of being in total control.  They have usually had to work harder than their male counterparts in order to reach the same position.  Research shows that companies who promote women to top jobs are more profitable and Norway have recently passed a law were 40% of board members must be women.

The difference between a male and female boss is that men are more task orientated whereas women are usually more people focussed.  Therefore, having a good mix within a business is hugely beneficial.


If you're struggling to get yourself heard within your organisation and would like to discuss how to increase your personal impact, why not give us a call today for a free, no obligation consultation about how we can help you.


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