The Position of Authority
There’s one more body position that’s worth discussing, and although part of it concerns angling, it has more to do with actual position. It’s best to be at eye level with the other person when you’re having a conversation; otherwise, it looks like the person who is in the physically higher position has more power.
Imagine your boss calls you into her office and tells you to take a seat. She then proceeds to tear you limb from limb over a careless accounting error you’ve made. She’s standing above you, listing your many flaws. You have no other choice but to look up at her. Maybe you have a perfectly logical explanation concerning this error, but she’s making you feel like a child. So instead of speaking up, you take her browbeating and head for a time-out at your desk.
Making the effort to maintain level eye contact is especially important when speaking to someone who cannot meet your eye level—for example, when speaking to a child or to someone who is in a wheelchair. Adjusting your positioning accordingly allows the other person to feel as though they have equal footing in the conversation.
Some people are particularly adept at employing this tactic, and if you happen to be on the small side, it might be wise to learn a few subtle moves to put yourself on top. Let’s say you’re a short woman and you want to have a discussion with your hubby about his seeming inability to help with the housework. Wait until he’s parked himself on the couch and then take your seat—on the arm of the couch. You’ve put yourself in the position of authority, whether he consciously realizes it or not.
The way you position yourself says either, “I’m in complete control!” or “Wow, I need some serious help.” If you can learn the simple tricks of powerful positioning, you can look like you’re in control even when you feel as though you desperately need help. Stand tall and the world stands with you; slouch and you slump alone.