To be more dominant, all you gotta do is learn and apply the “dominance indicators”.
This article shows you exactly how dominance looks like in real life.
- #1. Lead
- #2. Exert Social Pressure
- #3. Speak Less, Use More Nonverbal
- #4. Touch Others
- #5. Aggress, Assert, & Punish
- #6. Command Attention
One of the most obvious signs of social power is, of course, leadership.
Powerful people lead.
Here are some real-life examples of leading:
1.2. Move First
If there is a group walking, less dominant individuals will look around to see who is going first and who is going to take the lead.
Dominant individuals instead don’t look around: they walk first.
If there is a decision to make, they speak first. And if there is an important guy to meet, they greet him first.
Look at the character Tony Montana in Scarface. What’s the obvious sign that is a dominant man?
Tony: (comes out of the car, starts walking up the mansion’s stairs)
Tony has never seen Frank, and has never been to his place.
Unknown environments is where most people behave tentatively, looking around for cues.
Dominant and self-assured individuals instead take the lead even in unknown environments.
Omar, who is Frank’s friend, has to speed up to catch up with Tony. And that annoys him. If Tony wanted to have a good relationship with Omar, he was being too dominant. But he doesn’t care much about Omar because he knows he’s an in-between man that he can leapfrog.
Real Life Check:
Albeit moving first and having others follow is a way of asserting dominance, I don’t necessarily advise you to make this your default behavior.
Great leaders don’t lead for leading’s sake, but they lead with the final goal in mind.
So it’s best to first check if there is someone who’s more knowledgeable than you are, and then organize for that person to co-lead you there.
And if it’s a high stake situation, consider consulting others before committing to an action.
Taking the group down the wrong path because you wanted to look dominant is poor (and less successful) leadership.
1.3. In Dating, Lead the Interaction Forward
There are many ways in which men can express dominance in dating.
One of them, crucial for leading the seduction forward, is to take charge and move the interaction towards intimacy.
My advice in this realm is to mix dominance with warmth.
Best of all, is to mix dominance with caring and protecting behavior.
That’s the best strategy especially if you want to potentially transition into a relationship.
Furthermore, any behavior that cares for and protects the people around is inherently leader-like.
That’s how strong and good leaders behave.
A couple of ways of doing it:
- Move her away if a fight erupts
- Guide her by putting a hand on her lower back
- Help her get up
Example from the movie Spread:
Real Life Check:
There are no cons to protective and caring leadership in a romantic relationship.
A strong leader-like man who cares and protects is a man who makes a woman happy. And it’s the healthiest way to maintain control and leadership of the relationship.
1.4. Make Others Follow Your Lead
People following you is the definition of social power.
Any time people follow your lead, you are by definition acting as the leader and as the most powerful individual.
Politicians, schooled and instructed by communication experts, play this game quite often.
They shake hands, place a hand on people’s back, then open up their body, and point to something in the environment.
What they’re trying to do is to have people follow their lead.
Of course, Trump heavily engages in it.
Here’s Trump with Macron while they both try to lead each other (and end up acting awkward):
Trump: (opens up pointing to something on his left)
Macron: (opens up and tries to Make Trump follow on his left)
Note that Macron did it because this was in France, “playing at home”. And Trump did it because he’s Trump and would do the same no matter where he is.
PRO Tip: Do it if you’re higher power or if people look up to you, otherwise go easy
When you’re higher power and others want to follow your lead, then you provide that leadership.
This is also good if you’re the host and you’re welcoming someone.
The role of the host after all is to guide -lead- others.
But if you are not yet sure people accept your leadership, proceed with caution or they will resent you.
If you are around the same power and you are not the host, take it easy with too obvious “I’m showing you the way games.
1.5. Guiding Others: The Good Host
Dominant men can also be polite.
And they politely invite others to “be their guests”.
To follow them, to sit down, to enjoy the food, to go through the door first. It looks polite, but it’s also leader-like and it puts them in charge.
Here Obama and Putin trying to play host on each other:
Obama: where would you like to sit (shows Putin the way)
Putin: (walks from behind, shows Obama where he must sit)
Politicians sometimes get locked in “host battles”, telling each other where to sit and go, even when they have no freaking idea.
Real Life Check:
If you are hosting an event at your place or if you have the ranks and formal authority of leadership, then you should engage in guiding behavior.
If you are someone’s guest, avoid leading them because it’s highly jarring being told what to do in one’s own place.
And unless you have strategic reasons do think otherwise, it’s OK to let people be the host if they are the actual hosts.
How to handle “the host”
However, there are situations when you do want to avoid submitting.
One way of doing it is with “purposeful disobedience”.
Please see Power University for the details.
1.6. Assign Tasks
Dominant individuals task others.
They do it when they have formal authority, of course, but also when lacking formal authority.
We have seen examples of taskers in “types of political players“, in the workplace section.
Dealing With Taskers
First, ask yourself a diagnostic question:
Is he in a position to assign tasks?
Most people submit because they never question the tasker and his authority.
But as analyzing the tasker and the request becomes more natural to you, discerning between fair requests and unfair requests will also become second nature.
Then, challenge and reject all tasks from people who have no authority and/or assign tasks in a curt and non-respectful way.
This guy reached out to me to join Toastmasters, a volunteer-based organization of which I was the president:
When you draw your boundaries most people realize they were being out of line and will naturally change tack (and respect you more for it).
Why did he have no right tasking me like that?
Keep in mind the social exchange laws: I’m providing him -and others- with a wonderful self-development opportunity for free, on my own time.
He hasn’t done his work to check the schedule and now asks me to do the work for him.
Cherry on the pie: his tone.
Put it all together, and the best course of action here is to send the task back to the sender
#2. Exert Social Pressure
This is a beauty.
Dominant men can create social tension at will.
They create social tension to make the more submissive individuals comply, crack, speak or act.
But sometimes they create that tension without an actual reason, just for the fun of wielding power and seeing you squeak (and to show who’s in charge).
2.2. Social Aggression
A dramatic example of creating tension is the famous “how am I funny” scene in Goodfellas:
Tommy, an example of a meathead dominant style, uses intimidatory looks, loud voice, aggressive tonality, pregnant pauses, full-frontal body language. Overall, his social pressure is also an unstated threat of violence.
Real Life Check:
Social pressure is great, and you can play around with it.
The example above of course was extreme, and you only want to use that type of frame dominance when people are being highly disrespectful and you need to draw a powerful line in the sand.
2.3. Silences + Inquisitive Look
The inquisitive look makes others speak and justify themselves without saying a word.
Denzel Washington uses this one often, including a few times in the movie Training Days (there is a quiz with that example in the course).
The dynamics of who creates tension and who suffers under tension are an important indicator of who is in charge in a relationship.
Here is an example from an ex-girlfriend of mine before we were a couple:
Me: What about Enrico
Her: (looking tense) Enrico, what do you mean
Me: Enrico, don’t you remember?
Her: (getting worried) No…. Did I say Enrico in my sleep?
Her: (more and more worried) OMG, I don’t know if I said it in my sleep, I have no idea who is Enrico
Me: (sideways glance, pursed lips, slightly corrugated eyebrows: this is the inquisitive look, examples in the course)
Her: … I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s gotten into me, I really have no idea how Enrico is, really Luc…
Me: Enrico is the name of the breakfast menu we had last time
Her: Ooooh ahaha true, OMG I was thinking I said it while sleeping, I’m sorry! Ahaha yes I would love an Enrico ahah (the exaggerated laughter is the release of that social tension)
I hadn’t started with the aim of creating tension, but I had noticed she was putting pressure on herself. So I just added the sideway glance and stern look to see how far she’d go.
And that exchange told me a lot about where we stood (such as: she was more into me than I thought and I was more dominant in the relationship than I had previously thought).
Real Life Check:
This is a very powerful technique that can be used in a friendly and joking way as well.
When you can be dominant while half-joking and while still being friendly, it’s pure gold.
#3. Speak Less, Use More Nonverbal
The law of least effort says:
Those who give less and take more are more powerful.
And that applies in communication as well.
People who have lots of social power use fewer words less and more nonverbal gestures.
3.2. Use More Facial Expressions
See an example in the course.
3.3. Dominant Hand Gestures
There is nothing more dominant than directing other people’s behavior without words.
Hand gestures can be used either to defend your right of speaking without stopping, or to make someone else speak.
Here is a good example from judge Judy:
Judy: (spins her hand to say “go ahead”)
Guy: (keeps on speaking)
Asking questions and having people answer is higher power. And making others speak and move without a single word is even more powerful.
3.4. Facial Expression Power Moves
Watch out for this one.
Depending on the context facial expressions can be passive-aggressive instead of dominant.
What’s the difference between dominant and passive-aggressive, then?
It’s a sign of dominance when talking directly and openly would be out of place, way too confrontational, or socially inept.
As a side note: remember, you can be dominant but ineffective, and that’s not high-power, but dumb (see “Machiavellianism“).
Basically, think of it like this: it’s dominant when, in a situation where most people would have done nothing, the socially dominant individual still takes action.
Look at De Niro passing nonverbal judgment towards his future son in law:
Stiller: nursing was just a better option for me
De Niro: (corrugates his lips lower, moves his head sideways as if to say “BS”)
Verbal disapproval towards her daughter’s fiance’ would have been too much.
But he still sends out a message of disapproval. His expression right before sipping communicates “hmmm I smell bullsh*t”.
Task For You:
Most people use way too little nonverbal. Try to increase your use of facial expressions and gestures.
Joining an acting class is a good way of increasing your nonverbal repertoire.
#4. Touch Others
Several studies show that people who touch others more are perceived as more dominant.
Different ways of touching convey different levels of dominance of course.
Back slapping or light punches on the shoulder while laughing and drinking, for example, tend to be very juvenile, and not very dominant.
Touching someone’s face instead is very dominant.
Here are some more dominant touches:
4.2. Parenting-Style Touch
When one individual takes a parent role in a relationship, it often pushes the other party into a “baby” role.
And of course, the parent is the role with most social power.
Touches that signal a parent role include:
- patting on the head
- cheek pinching
- face touching
Sheryl Sandberg, the author of Lean In, complains of “patriarchy” in the workplace and shares the story of a congressman who patted her on the head and asked “what are you, a pon-pon girl?”.
That was an attempt at taking the power role / father role in the relationship.
Here is an example of cheek pinching, which a professor of mine used on a classmate of mine:
This one is very good for a man to do to a woman because it places him as the dominant father figure while still showing a caring attitude.
Face-touching is also a staple of mafia power moves:
The Godfather communicates “I care about you”, but it’s still delivered from a dominant position. This is the pinnacle of “mixing power with warmth“
4.2. Power Hug
Example of Mike Epps in “Janky Promoters”
As a rule of thumb, avoid this one if you’re older than 20 YO and sober. It’s juvenile and annoying.
It’s also easy to remove your arm and frame you as antisocial. And if you do it on a non-submissive individual, it’s also very likely to either escalate or destroy whatever goodwill there was.
#5. Aggress, Assert, & Punish
Dominant men are rarely on the submissive side, of course.
The most socially adroit ones are on the assertion side, but they also know how to cope with aggression and, in the rare cases when it’s needed, they can also cross into aggression.
5.2. Face Slapping
Face slapping can be on the warmer side, or they can be more threatening, as if to say “watch out”.
In the former, it will be delivered with a smile and in friendliness. In the latter, with a very stern face.
In either case, it sends a strong signal of dominance.
Paul: If you see anybody fuking around with the shit you’re gonna tell me, right?
Paul: (slaps him) that means anybody, right?
A slap in the face among male adults is very emasculating and it’s one of the biggest of a large disparity in power and dominance.
5.3. Touch or Use People’s Property
Dominant men allow themselves to touch or use other people’s property.
Even if done in jest, it sub-communicates that “you’re below me, hence I can touch and use your things”. At the extreme, it sub-communicates that “you belong to me, and so does your stuff”.
And the moment you let them take and use your property at will you sub-communicate that you approve of that power relationship.
Beating property invasions:
See Power University.
5.4. Claiming Territory
Most people have a natural understanding of “personal territory”.
But submissive people don’t act on personal space encroachment and fail to draw their boundaries.
The most dominant individuals instead act swiftly, and do so very directly.
So defending one’s territory and space is a sign of dominance, confidence, and social power.
Here is an example from the movie Boiler Room:
Ben: (walks confidently towards his seat, pats him in the back) I’m sorry man, this is my seat
Kid: Oh sh*t, I’m so sorry
Ben: it’s OK, don’t worry about it.
#6. Command Attention
The more socially dominant individual commands attention.
Individuals with great social power are not necessarily flashy -and often they are not-.
But people tend to gravitate towards them by virtue of their power, authority, or status.
People also tend to pay more attention when the most socially dominant man speaks.
Or when he enters the room.
6.2. The Buck Stops at Dominant men
It’s especially when the going gets tough that the attention naturally turns towards the most dominant individuals.
People seek answers, they want wisdom… They want someone to make them feel safe.
And they turn to the real leader.
In these cases, it’s less about physical dominance and more about experience, leadership, competence, and intellectual dominance.
Look at this scene from The Godfather:
Godfather: Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in
Of course they pull him back in.
It’s because people naturally turn towards the “real” leader when they’re lost or when they’re in trouble.
This is the “leaders’ burden”: people will look for you. And they will expect you to be there. And it’s also your duty to help.
The leader’s burden.
The previous article alpha male body language was more about still poses.
This post showed you how dominant looks like in real social interactions.
- Dominant expressions (what you must do more)
- Submissive body language (what you must get rid of)
- Submissive expressions (what you must avoid saying)
This is an excerpt from Power University