Tony Robbins VS Gary Vaynerchuk: The Alpha Gurus

Gary Vaynerchuk and Tony Robbins are two of the most popular self-help gurus these days.

They are both very dominant and they are both used to leading and having people follow them.

Thus, their meeting was bound to be a highly entertaining alpha battle for the dominance of the self-help space :).

Why Vaynerchuk And Tony Robbins

There is no better way to learn how to be dominant than to look at two dominant men interact.

Vaynerchuck and Robbins are both alpha males in their fields.
Both are men who are used to controlling and dominating their interactions, so their meeting was bound to be extremely interesting.

Also, even more interesting, the two have similar personalities.
Both Robbins and Vaynerchuk are super energetic, sky-high in extraversion (see OCEAN personality types), and major driver personalities (check personality types on Wikipedia).

Gary Vaynerchuk VS Tony Robbins

There are several layers of dominance. In this guide, we will go through each one, one by one, and analyze their interaction

1. Physical Dominance

Tony Robbins dominates the physical interaction at each and every level almost all throughout.

Physical Jostling

Robbins not only touches Gary first and right away but grabs him and pulls him towards him, you can see it here.

Of course, he does it in a friendly, joking way: any other way would basically be a fight.
But joking or not pulling someone into you is a big display of extreme comfort, strong confidence and (physical) dominance.

You also don’t pull in people unless you feel at the very least at the same level as them.
But more often than not, people doing so usually feel both extremely confident and somewhat superior. Sometimes they might want to make a point of being superior, but they would hardly do it if they didn’t feel able to enforce their dominance.

Just imagine this: would Tony do that if he was meeting a country’s president, or even a strong moral authority such as a priest?
Of course not.
And that’s why that communicates Tony Robbins feels superior.

Even more telling than the initial grab and pull for me was the moment Tony grabbed and kissed Gary on the head.

Kissing someone says you care about them, but also that you take care of them.
Fathers kiss their children, and caring teachers kiss (very young pupils). But among grown-ups? Very seldom.

Thus, kissing Gary on the head communicates something “you’re my kid brother” or:

You’re the kiddo, I’m the big daddy here.

Touch: a Master Persuader

Tony touches Gary more often while Gary mostly touches him as an answer to Tony’s touch.

Tony also touches Gary with open palms, which shows a caring touch and a strong, strong confidence.
Most men are indeed afraid of touching other men with open palms afraid of invading the sexual realm or of looking themselves gay (read more here:  touching other men). Check it out Tony using open palms here.

I’d like to draw particular attention to the times Tony touches Gary when he makes a point. This is master persuasion and something the most charismatic of men do (see below for more).


It’s not that Gary is not good, he is good.

But Tony is best in class when it comes to hand gestures and accompanying his speech with hand movements.

Also, Gary commits a few mistakes:

Gary Vaynerchuk:

  • Fidgets around with a pen or his own hands
  • Keeps his hands below the table
  • Sometimes crosses his arms

Fidgeting is a sign of discomfort and low confidence (What Every Body is Saying), not showing your palms makes it harder for the audience to trust and connect with you (Winning Body Language), and crossing your arms of course is defensive (The Definitive Book of Body Language).

Now I don’t actually think that Gary was nervous.
Gary Vaynerchuk’s personality type just happens to be hyperactive and needs to do something at all times.

However, our subconscious will not necessarily make any justification for fidgeting, so even hyperactive men stand to gain from learning to stop fidgeting around.

Tony Robbins:

  • Never fidgets or crosses his arms
  • Gesticulates a lot and is perfectly in sync with verbal production
  • Shows his hands a lot

Also while keeping your arms close to your body is defensive, using the space around you says that you are confident enough to let your arms “invade” the outside territory.

Physical Dominance: Last Note

Tony has the advantage of being physically bigger, making it easier for him to pull and move Gary.

Gary, however, never, ever looked intimidated or on his back foot.
He kept his behavior constant and never let up on his host’s powers.  Gary looks like a man doing his thing, no matter what happens around him and to him.
There was a specific time instead when Tony did feel the dominant hook thrown by Gary (you can see it here)

2. Verbal Dominance: Gary

Gary was slightly more dominant when it came to verbal dominance. Of course, the fact that he’s the host is a huge factor.

But he also has a natural advantage because, as a hyperactive man, he’s always so eager to speak that he often tramples the normally accepted social conventions.
For example, he has issues waiting for his turn to speak and interjects constantly.

This inclination also brought him to master a few great techniques to take the speaking stage and defend his speaking time.
However, this same inclination is also a limitation and a drawback for him (see below “interruptions”).

Here are a few Verbal Power Moves he deployed:

Verbal Dominance Tip: Repetition

Gary is very aggressive in defending his right to weigh in.

It can be very helpful to know how to do it because it’s a relatively common occurrence that when you start speaking the other person doesn’t stop.

It can be because you started too early, but it can also be because the other person doesn’t respect you or wants to display dominance over you.

If it’s the latter, it’s a good idea that you enforce your right to speak. Some people do it by simply speaking further, but that’s not ideal and the beginning of your message will get lost. A much more effective technique instead is to repeat your first word over and over.

By doing so you are basically communicating:

wait a minute, it’s my turn to speak and I got something important I want to say, lemme say it please“.

Watch Gary execute it as he repeats first “this is what Buffet” and then “Buffet, Buffet”.

Notice that Tony soon realizes Gary is acting like he has something important to say and that he isn’t giving up.

Notice indeed Tony quickly wraps up and lowers his voice.
He’s finishing his point while at the same time communicating to Gary he can go ahead and he will listen.

Verbal Dominance Tip: Keep Speaking to Defend Right of Speech

When you’re speaking, some people might try to interject to make a quick point.
This often happens when people want to:

  • Correct a mistake you’ve done
  • Make a joke about what you’re saying

When people stop speaking and either correct themselves or take part in the joke, they are communicating that what they were saying was not important.
And they are communicating that the interrupter is of higher status than they are and he has something more important to say.

So unless you’ve made a blunder that really needs correcting, it’s a good idea you keep going and finish your point when people are trying to interrupt you.
At least if you are making an important point, that is.

It’s not rude, or at least it doesn’t have to be.
It’s indeed a good idea that you acknowledge the interrupter. You can do it either with a slight smile or a nod of your head and then possibly address their point later on verbally.

Gary does it well here, see how he handles it:

These are the correct moves he used:

  1. Raises his finger (= nonverbal “wait a minute”)
  2. Says “lemme just.. ” (=wanted to say “lemme just finish”)
  3. Looks at Tony with crazy intensity (=I really want to finish this)
  4. Does not laugh (=I’m not buying into your joke/frame)
  5. Says “yeah right” AND
  6. Diverts his gaze from Tony (=attention withdrawn, I’m cutting you off now) AND
  7. Keeps talking (=I’ve acknowledged you, but now lemme finish)
  8. Touches Tony at the end (=nonverbal way of getting attention: “hear me out”)

With all these steps Gary communicates that he’s not allowing Tony to disrupt his speech and that he should cut his interjection short because he’s in the middle of making a point.

Avoid Subordinate Role

Dominating and leading is as much about dominating and leading as they are about… Not being dominated and led.

If you want to dominate the verbal interaction -and that’s not necessarily a goal you should have!- a challenge you face is that whenever you ask a question the one answering becomes the teacher and you become the student who’s learning. The student is the subordinate role.

When that happens, they take the dye facto authority trappings that come with the teacher position.
They are the expert and you’re not, what they say is true, and what you say is not necessarily true, and when you two disagree they’re always right.

It also becomes more difficult for you to defend your right to speak and enforce your right to speak and win arguments.

Because the people around will perceive you as a nuisance: why should you speak when it’s not you who’s got the answers and insights?
Why on earth would you think it’s OK to interject if you have no authority there?

Provided you are also knowledgeable about the topic, you might then want to avoid the teacher/student dynamic.

A few techniques to avoid a teacher/student dynamic are to either make a debate out of the interview or to listen with some perfunctory notes when they’re speaking.

For example, you can:

  • Say you agree (showing you got an opinion as well),
  • Quote someone (you’re knowledgeable on the topics’ literature)
  • Add something (you know what they’re talking about)
  • Slightly correct them (huge authority boost for you)

Gary does well a few times and a bit in his “over-the-top way” in a few more instances:

He goes a bit overboard with that “of course” while rolling his eyes up, which is demeaning.
He’s communicating there that what Robbins is saying is so obvious that he is wasting his time.

I would avoid doing that any time you want to keep a good relationship with people.
Of course, Tony ignores it because he’s a top man, but deep inside he does register that’s not a friendly sign.
It’s also a behavior that can easily come across as rude and overbearing to the audience.

“Hear Me Out”

This is where Tony is way better than Gary.

Gary is a bit of a steamroller, a bit like a bull in a china shop. Tony has the same sheer power when he wants, but also has much more finesse.

When he wants to draw attention Tony uses some great techniques that the most charismatic men use, which are:

  1. Fully focus
  2. Leaning
  3. Changing voice pitch
  4. Slowing down voice tone
  5. Touching

All of them are basically saying “hey, I’m talking to you, I know my stuff and I’m dropping some major insight right now, pay attention”.
Watch Tony do it here:

3. He Who Interrupts Dominates

This is the dark side of dominance.

And it’s something you better use with caution or simply avoid any time that it’s not strictly called for.

Not only it impairs your ability to build relationships, but it also makes it difficult for you to win friends and build allies.

People might respect you out of fear, but deep down all the people you interrupt resent you, and the audience cannot connect with you at an emotional level (Pease & Pease say everyone secretly hates the “dominant” back-slappers).

He doesn’t do it as much as on other occasions, but a few times Gary still does it with Tony, here’s an example:

You don’t usually want to change the topic so abruptly without at least acknowledging first what the person just said.
The problem with that kind of interruption is that this is what they communicate:

What you said is meaningless, unworthy of my attention and I don’t give a F if you might be offended about it

Of course, you can see why that’s an issue when you want to win people over and make friends :).
Here’s how Gary could have changed the topic in a more polite way instead:

(nodding for a few seconds and then turning to Andy) Did you hear that Andy? That’s what you should do too, do you have any Facebook stock?

That way he would have acknowledged Tony, complimented him for a worthwhile contribution, and gracefully moved out of the topic with a win-win social power move.

Interruptions and Relationships

This is so key for great relationships that I want to make one last note.
You will see this interrupting, jarring behavior from a few types of personalities:

  • hyperactive
  • socially oblivious
  • self-centered
  • narcissists
  • drivers / high extraversion
  • dominant
  • rude

Now not all these people are actually rude and not all of them are actually insensitive to other human beings.
I believe indeed Gary is a good-hearted person and someone we can admire. But he’s not helping himself when he ignores people, interrupts them, and abruptly cut them off changing the topic.

People who are over-eager to speak without listening indeed have difficulties in forging deeper relationships.

Remember, people feel connected to people who know them well, not to people whom they know well.

Hence, deeper human relationships are built on listening more than on speaking (How to Talk to Anyone, Leil Lowndes).

Also, read:

You can see Grant Cardone, a personality similar to Gary, committing those huge blunders in his personal romantic relationship: Grant Cardone 4 Communication Mistakes.

Overall: Tony Most Dominant & Best Communicator

Overall, in spite of Gary’s slight rudeness in his interruptions and interjections, Tony Robbins still comes across as the most powerful man in the room.

What’s most impressive, he does it while still keeping an overall vibe that is warm and welcoming.
When you’re a leader who’s dominant and respected but warm, welcoming, and caring at the same time, you’re basically at the pinnacle of social skills.

Tony has indeed higher social intelligence and emotional intelligence: most people meeting both of them would feel closer to Tony than they feel to Gary.
And the same is probably true also for most audience members just watching,

However, nobody is perfect, and Tony had his muck-ups. Check out:

As a last note:
This is a social dynamic breakdown and behavioral analysis, nothing is meant as a personal attack.

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