Have you ever noticed how some people can easily adopt a secure, competent, and authoritative demeanour? For these individuals, talking in front of groups comes naturally, and being in charge or leading seems innate.
In fact, what you may not know is that these very same people have been cultivating, consciously or unconsciously, their confidence as well as their speaking and leadership abilities.
Deborah Gruenfeld, a social psychologist at Stanford University, states that within seconds, a person will decide whether or not you are competent. It’s that quick.
She goes on to explain that body language determines 55% of a person`s perceived competence. By simply shifting the position of the body, the speaker can adopt a high or low stance (Gruenfelf, n.d.).
A high stance, which requires certain physical gestures, enables a person to be taken seriously while demonstrating control and authority (Gruenfeld, n.d.). Playing high is especially useful in meetings and project management, as well as in other leadership roles where one’s expertise and competence needs to be respected (Gruenfeld, n.d.).
Some physical traits of playing high are:
-Keeping the head still;
-Speaking in complete sentences;
-Holding eye contact;
-Occupying maximum space;
-Spreading the body in order to be comfortable; and
-Looking down with the head slightly tilted back (Gruenfeld, n.d.).
Playing low, on the other hand, entails different physical gestures and is appropriate when the person wants to appear approachable. This is especially important in group and collaborative work where one wants to connect with followers or subordinates (Gruenfeld. n.d.).
Some physical traits of playing low are:
-Nodding in agreement;
-Smiling and showing teeth;
-Placing the hands near the face;
-Finishing a sentence with “um”;
-Letting others take control and setting aside any personal ideas;
-Taking up as little space as possible;
-Moving out of someone`s space when walking;
-Looking up at others while keeping the head down; and
-Leaning forward in order to check other`s responsiveness (Gruenfeld, n.d.).
This information is not new but, presented in this light, it puts a spin on the traditional body language theory. The next time you want to be perceived a certain way, remember the high and low stance tactics. Observe how others react and see if talking high or talking low helps you communicate more efficiently.