The indicators of dominance are pretty clear, when you know what you need to pay attention to.
And when you know what the signs of dominance are, you will also learn how to show dominance, because all you need to do is to simply start adopting a more dominant behavior.
This article will show you exactly how dominance looks like in real life.
- #1. Leading
- #2. Exerting Social Pressure
- #3. Fewer Words & More Nonverbal
- #4. Dominant Touching
- #5. Aggression, Assertion & Punishment
- #6. Commanding 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. Walking First / Forging Ahead
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 has never seen Frank, and has never been to his place. Unknown environments are where you will see most people behave tentatively, looking around for leadership’s cues.
Super dominant individuals will take the lead even in unknown environments, which is exactly what Tony does as he starts walking towards the house first.
Omar, who is Frank’s friend, has to speed up to catch up with Tony. The character of Tony Montana is a typical meathead/young gun.
Real Life Check:
Albeit a sign of social power is to take the lead in unknown situations, I don’t recommend this course of action as your go-to response.
It’s best you first check in the group if there is someone who’s more knowledgeable than you are. And if there is nobody more knowledgeable than you are but it’s a high stake situation, you should probably still consult others as well before committing to an action.
Making mistakes or taking the group down the wrong path because you wanted to look dominant and didn’t consult with others is exactly what poor leadership is about.
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 People 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 with Macron while they both try to play each other and end up being quite awkward:
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.
Real Life Check:
When people want to follow your lead, then you should provide that leadership. This is the epitome of dominance and social power.
If you are not yet sure people accept your leadership, proceed with caution or they will resent you.
If you notice people are resisting you, drop the games and focus on becoming a figure people want to follow first.
When you “test the waters” always start with small requests and work your way up.
1.5. Guiding Others: The Good Host
Dominant men 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:
This is a game politicians often play, continuously telling each other where to sit and go, even when they have no freaking idea.
How to handle it:
Whenever you can avoid following, avoid.
For example, you can wait 10 seconds longer before sitting. If the host tells you to get inside, pretend you want to stop one second to admire the panorama. If you can’t avoid following them, then sit or follow them nonchalantly, without looking at them and without saying “ok”. Just do it as if you wanted to do it.
Then make a mental note that you’re one down and need to even the scores.
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.
As a matter of fact, it’s OK to let people play the host if they are the actual hosts.
1.6. Assigning Tasks
Dominant individuals task others.
They do it when they have formal authority, of course, and they will often task people even when lacking formal authority.
We have seen examples of taskers in “types of political players“, in the workplace section.
Ask yourself: is he in a position to assign tasks?
You will over-analyze in the beginning, granted. But over time it will become natural for you to discern between fair requests and unfair requests from people who have either no authority over you or who cannot ask you to do what they’re asking.
Make a point to challenge and reject all tasks from people who have no authority and/or assign them in a curt and non-respectful way.
Below is an example, from a reach out through a website’s contact form:
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 am not working for him, and he is not contributing to me or to the organization in any way. Instead, he is asking for value.
That’s OK, but the power dynamics of this exchange give him no right to task me the way he did.
Real Life Check:
More submissive people are afraid of assigning tasks even when they know what the best course of action is, or when they have the authority to assign tasks. And, of course, they are afraid of saying no.
If you’re more on the submissive end, you will have to force yourself to assign more tasks and refuse more tasks.
If you are more on the dominant side, you need to start noticing when people push back on your tasks or they execute them but with growing resentment -poor execution is often a sign of growing resentment-.
#2. Exerting 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 it 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
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?
Me: (ignoring: didn’t even want to entertain the possibility of jealousy) Enrico, don’t you remember?. Try to guess
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
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.
Dominant signs delivered in a half-joking fashion have all of the upsides with little downside, so I highly recommend you learn it and start using it in your daily life (example in the course).
#3. Fewer Words & More Nonverbal
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:
Asking questions and having people answer is dominant. But making others speak and move without a single word is much more powerful.
3.4. Facial Expressions Power Moves
Watch out for this one because judging or socially attacking with facial expressions only can be passive-aggressive instead of dominant.
It becomes a sign of dominance when talking directly and openly would be out of place, not possible, or way too confrontational.
Basically, think of it like this: in a situation where most people would have just pretended to go along with the flow, the socially powerful individual still allows himself to pass judgment.
Look at De Niro passing nonverbal judgment with his future son in law:
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 bullshit”.
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. Dominant Touching
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 (next article we will see the perfect words to go with it).
Most of the times, when people touch your face they are communicating they’re in charge.
But it can also be used in a friendly way, to communicate you are taking care of someone (bosses in mafia movies often use it):
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”
Real Life Check:
Avoid this one if you’re older than 20 YO and sober. It’s rather juvenile and it’s annoying, too.
It’s also easy to remove your arm and make you look overly aggressive.
#5. Aggression, Assertion & Punishment
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 (but this is not to say I’m recommending anyone to be aggressive).
5.2. Face Slapping
Face slapping can be friendly, or it can be 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.
A slap in the face among male adults is very emasculating and it’s one of the biggest signs of a dominant/submissive relationship.
5.3. Touching or Taking Your Property
Dominant men allow themselves to touch or take other people’s property.
Even if done in jest, it’s as if to say “you belong to me (and so does your stuff)”.
Even if done in jest, it’s as if to say “you’re below me (so I can touch your stuff)”.
And the moment you let them take and touch your property at will you are communicating you approve of that power relationship.
Beating property invasions:
Either you don’t let them take your things, or become more liberal about “property” and act the same way towards their property.
You might not be comfortable doing it, but do it anyway.
If they complain that’s also great: you created a precedent when it will be OK for you to complain when they touch your stuff again.
5.4. Claiming Territory
Most people have a natural understanding of “personal territory”.
But submissive people don’t act on personal space’s encroachment and fail to draw their boundaries.
The most dominant individuals instead act swiftly on personal space encroachment, and do so very openly.
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:
#6. Commanding 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 calm.
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:
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