Forbes.com is featuring a fascinating article about how male leaders need to be careful of their body language.
Carol Kinsey Goman created a list of the body language mistakes male leaders make most often. Certainly female leaders make a number of body language mistakes as well, but Goman explains why particular mistakes are more “male” than others:
Power and status are non-verbally displayed in height and space. Men are taller and tend to expand into space (an example would be leaning back with hands behind head, elbows wide and legs loosely crossed in a “four” shape — a predominately male posture). So, before uttering a word, male leaders already have the advantage over their female counterparts in projecting power and authority. That’s a strength. But, like any strength, when overused or inappropriately used, it can become a liability.
What’s interesting about these body language cues is that they directly point to the ways in which society stereotypes men. Imposing, emotionless, unwilling to listen or change, intimidating, and lacking in boundaries.
In order for a leader to be approachable and relatable, a man who wants to gain trust has to find a way to combat the assumptions people (both men AND women) bring into a relationship with a male candidate or a leader.
Most interestingly, to me at least, was the point about infringing upon other people’s territory:
4. They infringe on other people’s territory.
Highly confident and powerful men typically occupy greater personal space, which may result in their infringing on another person’s territory. Space invasions are better tolerated when the invader is attractive or of high status. But people’s territorial responses are primitive and powerful. When someone uninvited comes too close, it automatically triggers an increase in the heart rate and galvanic skin response (sweat gland activity and changes in the sympathetic nervous system) of the invadee.
Tip: You can tell if you have infringed on people’s space by the way they react – stepping away, withdrawing their head or neck, angling their shoulders away, or placing an object (laptop, purse, coffee cup) between the two of you. And when you notice any of these signs, back off!
This is a great suggestion for both men and women, when trying to gain trust and build relationships with people. There are other, more gendered, tips too, such as “They make a poker face” which reminds us of the double-bind that men are often in: they are expected not to show emotion, to be stoic, and to “man up”, and yet it seems like the men lose trust because of said poker face.
Head over to Forbes.com and see if you can relate to the misconceptions made about men. If so, do you think these fixes would work for candidates who are having trouble finding broader audiences?
What do you think these assumptions say about how men are viewed in our society?
Image of man giving important speech courtesy of Shutterstock