The Power To Persuade: Use Your Body

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Adjust your attire and body language to elicit the kind of reaction in people you desire. By Gargi Nalawade (Founder & CEO, Sepalz)

Have you ever sat in a meeting room full of people and suddenly noticed how when certain people begin to speak – the room sits up and takes notice, waits patiently for the next words out of their mouths?

While others are cowering, diminishing entities, fighting for their place in the sun? The former who assert power and command people’s attention – could do so on the hierarchy of their rank or title, the authority of their knowledge or the societal respect for age and such. And yet there are those who may not have any of these and yet command an air about them that makes people sit up and listen, almost wanting to follow them, waiting for them to lead the way.

What is it then – that lies behind this power they command? What is the secret?

Have you noticed in a meeting room full of men and women, when either gender is dressed a tad too inappropriately, causes a disconcerted reaction from those in the meeting room? Either being taken in and distracted by the hem of the skirt a wee too short, or the neckline a wee too deep or being disconcerted and embarrassed by the shirt a wee too unbuttoned revealing inappropriate grooming?

Have you noticed how people react to these dress faux pas in a meeting room, which in a relaxed social happy hour environment might not be deemed that inappropriate? And how a buttoned up shirt and tie could be deemed inappropriate in the happy hour? And has it baffled you how some of us could be so clueless about what body language and attire is appropriate for one group setting and be totally not so in another?

If body language and attire have the power to influence the reactions of people to you so very much, then it is only logical that you could adjust the attire and body language to elicit the kind of reaction in people you desire. And that translates to asserting the kind of power and influence you want over people with the use of appropriate body language.

But are we really at liberty to use the kind of body language we want, to command the kind of power we desire? Or has gender socialization influenced our ability to what we can and cannot portray and the power we can and cannot project?

If body language has the power to influence people’s reactions to us, it is also a function of how people interpret the body language used. And people’s interpretations would be subject to the gender socialization learned by people through social and environmental conditioning.

For example a man standing with his legs apart, hands on hips would be interpreted differently from a woman doing so. At the same time, a woman crossing her knees and touching her cheek would be interpreted very differently from a man doing the same. And people’s reactions to either would also be quite different.

What are these differences then? How does gender affect people’s interpretation and reaction to you? How can you project power with your own personal signature and either break the gender stereotype or perhaps even leverage it to your advantage? How can you effectively use body language over and above what you do to lead, to be effective leaders that people want to follow?

Come hear Deborah Gruenfeld at TiE Women’s Forum Lunch Panel at TiECon 2012, where she talks about “Mastering body language in group settings to influence people and project power”.

This post was originally posted at TiECon 2012.

About the guest blogger: Gargi Nalawade is the Founder and CEO of Sepalz, a social intelligence platform (8 patents) for intelligent targeted networking between individuals and businesses. Gargi started her career with a marketing stint, worked for several years as a technical (routing) architect at Cisco and has authored 26 USPTO patents. She blogs at The Social Evolution. Follow her on Twitter at @Astra_9.