Most believe that men consciously and subconsciously attempt to dominate women, make them feel defensive, and many times it is by using nonverbal signals. We know intuitively that some nonverbal signals used by men put women at a disadvantage in situations where status and power are at stake.
I have written about eye gazing in this forum previously and I want to mention it again but this time in terms of the use of dominance. If you stare at someone, you can either make them feel intimidated or that you are interested sexually in them. So staring at someone is typically a sign of dominance and looking away is a sign of submission. Women have a tendency to look at a man when he is not watching but look away when he looks back. Who is the dominant person and who is submissive in this situation?
Women wear clothes that may reveal more parts of their body than appropriate or they wear more restrictive clothing. In my programs, I always suggest women wear pants because the women is less restricted in her body movements. For example, wearing a dress/short skirt, the woman must cross her legs and this posture creates a perception of submissiveness.
Women carry large purses, but men carry all their “stuff” in their pants pockets. The purse acts not only as a barrier between herself and others but it is also heavy and a burden to carry around. Perceptually, a purse is deemed a girls’ thing and not a man’s thing and therefore considered sexual and submissive.
Men take up more space. Ladies, think about how you sit! Legs crossed, shoulders constricted. We were taught not to take up a lot of space, but men take up a lot of space. Taking up a lot of space is associated with dominance and power while constricted postures are seen as submissive. And, guess what, men have a tendency to invade a woman’s space much more often than a woman invades a man’s space.
Bottom line: these patterns of behavior are nurtured in men and women, but to level the playing field, you must become aware of your nonverbal signals and the effect they are having on you as well as others! It’s called emotional intelligence! If you want to feel confident and assertive, it comes from your body language signals that you are sending to others.