Sunday, October 9, 2011

Negotiation Secret #593: Projecting and Detecting Confidence

Projecting confidence through Body Language is a incredibly valuable life and business skill. This photo is obviously posed for the new film "Ides of Mach". Left to right are Marisa Tomei, George Clooney, Evan Rachel Wood and Ryan Gosling. Let's forget for a moment that this is a promotional photo and pretend it's "real world". Contrasting the two males, who projects the most confidence? Mr. Clooney does and here's why:  His upper body is aligned toward the camera while his lower body is slightly turned. While the seated male crotch display is often a dramatic turn off to nearby women (especially in a business setting, but even in personal life; see Negotiation Secret # 401: Male Dominance Display - Faux pas), George is not overdoing it here - a moderate stance is achieved. He's projecting confidence and possibly attraction to Ms. Wood. George's unilateral left arm akimbo is another good example of some confidence/dominance while not overdoing it with his right arm as well. How much confidence display is too much? Just ask Clooney. He's confident without being a narcissist.

Ryan Gosling on the other hand is sitting with his knees much closer together and his feet are probably almost touching (If his knees were any closer, it would be considered by most to be a bit effeminate. Again, this is a promotional photo - Gosling's being told how to pose - or how to ill-pose). Moreover, his hands are crossed in a variation of the seated "fig-leaf" - this too projects low confidence. He's is the only one whose body is not pointed at the camera as well. Gosling is clearly acquiescing to the Beta male position in this group, while Clooney is the clear Alpha.

Even Clooney's and Gosling's leather jackets demonstrate the Alpha-Beta contrast. In study after study, men are always rated much higher when dressed in black (or navy blue if we were also including sport coats/suits) vs. lighter colors. This is true in professional as well as personal life. The best example I can site here is the Nixon-Kennedy Debates (see "A Watershed Body Language Moment: Nixon - Kennedy Debates, 1960) Kennedy wore a dark navy suit which contrasted well against the background of the stage, while Nixon wore a significantly lighter color and blended into the background. Thus their clothes became a visual-metaphors for how well defined they were as men and candidates. For the majority who watched this first televised U.S. Presidential debate, Kennedy was the clear winner - while those few who listened on the radio, called it a draw or gave Nixon the edge. 

How would those around you rate your confidence? Alpha or Beta? Narcissist or just right? Are you sure?