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Books on Happiness / The Definitive Book Of Body Language- 2 students

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Ownership, Territory and Height Signals

In our seminars, we constantly observe how top-level managers are significantly taller than everyone else. Through the Institutes of Management, we recorded the height and salaries of 2566 managers at company director level and found that every inch of height above the company norm added almost $1,000 to that person's salary package, regardless of whether the person was a man or a woman. Research in the USA showed that height is also linked to financial success: on Wall Street every inch of height added $600 to each person's bottom line. The same correlation has even been found in government departments and universities, who supposedly promote people based on their competence level and equality, not their height. One American study showed that tall people not only got the best jobs in American firms, they received higher starting salaries. Those over 6 feet 2 inches (1.9m) got 12% more than those under 6 feet (1.85m).

Why Some People Seem Taller on TV

People who are 'perceived' as tall also do better in politics on television: on-screen people are only six inches tall (15cm) so we are left subconsciously to decide how tall the person really is. The height we decide they are and the amount of power we give them is directly related to the power and authority of their presentation. This is why so many short actors, politicians and personalities do so well on television - they simply act tall. For example, Australian Prime Minister John Howard became stuck with the nickname 'Little Johnny' because, on television, his approach was softer and quiet. Our surveys found that the voting electorate perceived him as 5 feet 6 inches (1.67m) - reasonably short for a man - whereas in fact he was 5 feet 9 inches (1.75m). One of his adversaries, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, was constantly seen as over 6 feet (1.85m) tall as he always gave a 'big' performance. In fact, he was 5 feet 7 inches (1.7m) tall.


The Definitive Book of Body Language

On television, a strong performance makes you seem taller.

Pioneering research by Wilson (1968) found that when a student addressed other students, he would be seen as 5 feet 8 1/2 inches (1.75m) tall by the other students. When the same student was introduced as a professor, the audience perceived him as 6 feet 3 inches (1.9m) tall. A powerful performance or an impressive title both lead to you being perceived as taller.

Try the Floor Test

If you want to test the authority that goes with height, try this exercise with a friend. First, lie on the floor and get your friend to stand over you to maximise the height difference. Next, ask your friend to reprimand you as loudly and forcefully as he can. Then change positions - you stand, he lies down - and ask him to repeat his reprimand. You'll find that not only does he find it nearly impossible to do, his voice will sound different and he'll lack any authority while trying.

The Downsides of Height

Being tall, however, is not always a bonus. While tall people often command more respect than short people, height can also be detrimental to some aspects of one-to-one communication, for instance where you need to 'talk on the same level' or have an 'eye-to-eye' discussion with another person and do not want be perceived as 'too big for your boots'.

In Britain, Philip Heinicy, a 6 feet 8 inches (2m) tall chemical salesperson, formed the Tall Person's Club to promote the practical, medical and social needs of the taller members or society. He found that his height was threatening to his customers; they felt imposed upon and could not concentrate on


Ownership, Territory and Height Signals

what he had to say. He discovered that when he gave a sales presentation in a seated position, not only did the atmosphere become more conducive to good communication, the removal of his physical threat also increased his bottom line sales by a whopping 62%.

How Body Lowering Can Sometimes Raise


There are some circumstances in which lowering your body can be a dominance signal. This happens when you slouch down and make yourself comfortable in an easy chair in another person's home while the owner is standing. It's the complete informality on the other person's territory that communicates the dominant or aggressive attitude.

A person will always be superior and protective on his own territory, especially in his own home, and so practising submissive gestures and behaviour is effective for getting the person on side with you.

How TV Politicians Can Win Votes

For over three decades, we have advised people who appear in the public eye on how to be seen as credible and believable. They have ranged from rock stars and politicians to weather forecasters and Prime Ministers. On one occasion, two political leaders were invited to give two television debates about how they would run the country. One candidate - call him candidate A - was 5 feet 9 inches (1.75m) and was seen by voters as shorter due to his milder, quieter approach, while his competitor - candidate B - was 6 feet 2 inches (1.9m) and perceived by the electorate as even taller due to his assertive, authoritative attitude. After the first TV debate, the shorter candidate was seen as having lost badly to the taller one. Candidate A called us for advice and we suggested a number of

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The Definitive Book of Body Language

strategies including cutting 4 inches (10cm) off his lectern, which would give the same visible distance between the top of the lectern and his chin as candidate B had. We also suggested that A should arrange for his TV camera to be slightly lowered to shoot upwards, giving him a taller appearance. We told him to pitch his message directly to the camera so that each voter felt as if they were being addressed personally. It worked. After the next debate, candidate A was seen as being the clear winner and the media reported that he 'had a new sense of authority and leadership'. After the election that followed, candidate A became leader of the country. The lessons here were that voters generally aren't deeply interested and don't remember much of what politicians say in election debates. Voters cast their final vote based on the belief that the winner is best suited to be the leader.

How to Placate Angry People

It's possible to avoid intimidating others by consciously making yourself appear smaller in relation to them. Let's examine the body language of the situation in which you have committed a minor driving offence, such as failing to stop at a stop sign, not giving way or speeding, and you are pulled over by the police. In these circumstances, the officer may regard you as an adversary as he approaches your vehicle, and most drivers' reaction is to remain in the car, wind the window down and make excuses or deny the offence. The body language negatives of this are:

1.The officer is forced to leave his territory (the patrol car) and come across to your territory (your vehicle).

2.Assuming that you are in fact guilty, your excuses may represent an attack to the officer.

3.By remaining in your car, you create a barrier between yourself and the police officer.


Ownership, Territory and Height Signals

Considering that under these circumstances the police officer is in the superior position to you, this behaviour serves only to make things go from bad to worse and your chances of getting a ticket are increased. Instead, try this if you are pulled over:

1.Immediately get out of your car (your territory) and go fowards to the police officer's car (his territory). In this way he is not inconvenienced by having to leave his space. (Don't try this approach in the USA where getting out of your car and rushing towards an officer may result in sudden lead poisoning.)

2.Stoop your body over so that you are smaller than him.

3.Lower your own status by telling the officer how irresponsible you've been and raise his status by thanking him for pointing out your mistake and telling him that you realise how difficult his job must be, having to deal with fools like you.

4.With your palms out, in a trembling voice, ask him not to give you a ticket. If you're female and the officer is male, smile a lot, blink your eyes repeatedly and talk in a higher pitched voice. If you're a man, just take the ticket and pay it.

'Please don't book me!'

This behaviour shows the police officer that you are not a threat and encourages him to take the role of a reprimanding parent, in which case he may decide to give you a stern warning and tell you to be on your way — without a ticket! When this technique is used as directed, it can save you from


The Definitive Book of Body Language

being booked in up to 50% of instances where a police car pulls you over.

The same technique can be used to calm an irate customer who is returning faulty goods to a retail store or wants to complain about something. In this case, a store counter represents a barrier between the store staff and the customer. Control of an irate customer would be difficult if the staff remained on their side of the counter, and creates a 'you-versus-me' approach which can make the customer even angrier. If the staff member moves around to the customer's side of the counter with his body stooped over and palms visible and uses the same technique we used with the police officer, it can usually placate an angry person. Staying behind a desk or counter can raise anger levels.

What's Love Got to Do With It?

Polish anthropologist, Dr Boguslaw Pawlowski, found that - in an ideal relationship - trust, money and respect are less important than the height difference ratio 1 to 1.09. His study in 2004 found that, to ensure marital bliss, a man needs to be 1.09 times taller than his partner. This formula fits in the case of failed romances, for instance Nicole Kidman (5 feet 11 inches, 1.8m) and Tom Cruise (5 feet 7 inches, 1.7m).

Couples who fit this success ratio include the following:

Cherie Blair and Tony Blair = 1.10

Jennifer Anniston and Brad Pitt =1.11

Victoria Beckham and David Beckham = 1.09

Those who technically fail the test ratio include:

Camilla Parker-Bowles and Prince Charles = 1.01 Penny Lancaster and Rod Stewart = 0.97


Ownership, Territory and Height Signals

Some Strategies For Gaining Perceived Height

If you are a shorter person, there are several strategies you can employ to neutralise the power of taller people who set out to intimidate you. This is important if you are a woman because women are, on average, 2 inches (5cm) shorter than men. Set up a space where you can control the environment by having chairs of varying heights and ask tall people to sit on the lower chairs. Sitting neutralises height and sitting the Incredible Hulk on a low sofa diminishes his perceived power. Sitting at opposite ends of a table also evens things up, as does leaning in someone's office doorway to talk while they are seated. Talking in a public place, such as a bar or in a crowd, or in a car or plane, also limits the tactics of taller associates. If someone is overbearing or standing over you while you are sitting, get up and walk over to a window and gaze outside as you discuss an issue. You will look as if you are giving deep consideration to the discussion and the bigger person can't have a height advantage when you aren't looking at them. Finally, acting assertively can also minimise height differences. These strategies will put you 'head and shoulders' above the height intimidators and let you 'stand tall' among those who try to 'get one up' over you.


Height differences have a significant impact on relationships but height and power are often just perceptions. Shorter people can increase their perceived height and are more likely to be remembered as taller when they wear dark-coloured clothing, pin-striped suits or trouser suits, softer, more muted make-up (for women) and full-size chronograph watches. The smaller the watch size, the less clout a person is perceived to have. Standing erect, sitting up straight and 'walking tall' are ways of giving yourself a confident appearance and, because of the law of cause and effect, you will feel more confident when you do these things.

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Chapter 17


'Just feel at home and tell me all about it!'

Where you sit in relation to other people is an effective way of obtaining co-operation from them. Aspects of their attitude towards you can also be revealed in the seating position they take relative to you.

We conducted surveys with seminar delegates during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s to determine which positions at a table they felt gave the best result for communicating specific attitudes. We did this by delegate involvement at seminars and by using survey questionnaires from our database. The first major study in seating positions was conducted by psychologist Robert Sommer from the University of California, who analysed a cross-section of students and children in public and social situations such as bars and restaurants. We applied Sommer's findings to seating positions in business and negotiation situations. While there are marginal differences between cultures and the relationships between people, we have summarised here the seating positions you will encounter most of the time in most situations.

In his book Non-Verbal Communication in Human Interac-

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Seating Arrangements Where to Sit, and Why

tion, Mark Knapp from the University of Vermont noted that, although there is a general formula for interpretation of seating positions, the environment may have an effect on the position chosen. Research conducted with middle-class people showed that seating positions in public bars can vary from the seating positions taken in a high-class restaurant. The direction the seats are facing and the distance between tables can also have a distorting influence on seating behaviour. For example, intimate couples prefer to sit side by side wherever possible, but in a crowded restaurant where the tables are close together this is not possible and the couples are forced to sit opposite each other in what is normally a defensive position.

Keeping that in mind, we'll now present the main seating choices we have in a variety of circumstances at work and socially.

Take the Table Test

Let's assume that you are going to sit at a rectangular table with person A and that you are person B. Which seating position would you choose in the following circumstances:

You will interview someone for a job in a small, friendly company.

You are going to help someone complete a crossword puzzle.

You are going to play chess against someone.

You are in a public library and don't want any involvement.

Look at the next illustration and make your choices.

Basic seating positions


The Definitive Book of Body Language

Here are your most likely answers:

You took, Bl, the Corner Position, to conduct the interview, as this allows you to see the person clearly without seeming competitive or aggressive, as you might in B3, or too familiar as in B2.

You sat in position B2, the Co-operative Position, to help with the crossword puzzle, because this is where we sit to give help or build rapport.

You chose position B3 to play chess against the person. This is called the Competitive/Defensive Position and is the one we choose to compete against an adversary because it lets us have a full view of their face and what they're doing.

Finally, you used the Diagonal Position, B4, in the library to communicate your independence or non-involvement.

The Corner Position (B1)

This position is used by people who are engaged in friendly, casual conversation. It allows for good eye contact and the opportunity to use numerous gestures and to observe the gestures of the other person. The corner of the desk provides a partial barrier in case one person begins to feel threatened, and this position avoids territorial division of the table. This is the most successful strategic position from which person B can deliver a presentation, assuming that person A is the audience. By simply moving the chair to position Bl you can relieve a tense atmosphere and increase the chances of a positive outcome.

The Corner Position

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