4 ways your male coworker is using body language to control you

In an earlier article, I wrote about the power of nonverbal cues and how they can impact what you say, and how it is interpreted.

In keeping with the same theme, in this article, we explore how your coworker may be using these body cues to control your behavior.

As previously mentioned, nonverbal cues can add or subtract from a verbal message. What if I told you they could also be used to control others by expressing dominance, power, or even submission through them? 

A recent peer-reviewed article by Dr. Ronald Riggio in Psychology Today detailed that men tend to use assertive body cues such as dominance and power in the workplace. Men used these cues much more than women who were found to use submissive body language more often. 

4 controlling body language moves

The more aware you are of the behavior of others, the more likely you can avoid being manipulated. 

1. The way they stand

Men typically take up more space than women, and it’s not because of physical size. Physical stance, or posture, can show signs of dominance, and men frequently use poses that display this message. 

For instance, standing with hands on your hips takes up more space and asserts dominance over an area. Another way is how men sit.

Consider the difference between how men cross their legs versus women. Men, consciously or not, use positions that take up more space than women do.

2. Physical contact

Physical contact can take the form of fighting or aggressive physical behavior, but in this instance, let’s consider less obvious nonverbal cues.

When trying to calm someone down or take control of a situation, you may have witnessed men grab someone by the arm or shoulders to control their movements. 

Physically controlling the movement of others is one of the more aggressive ways of asserting dominance over another. While workplaces generally do not allow this type of physical behavior, it still happens, and you may have witnessed it. 

Physical control not only asserts dominance over the recipient but also to those who witness the incident. Several research studies show that men generally use touch to control or dominate others more than women.

3. Invading personal bubbles

People, in general, have an invisible bubble around them in the form of personal space they need to feel comfortable. However, people who do not respect boundaries have a way of using our bubbles against us. 

Standing too close to another person can make them feel uncomfortable. The other person will move away (submission) or challenge the other by facing them and refusing to back down (aggression). 

Research shows that men are more willing to invade the personal space of others than women are. 

4. Eye contact

Most of us have experienced uncomfortable eye contact at one point or another. It may have been from the creepy coworker in the last cubicle or by the boss who stares directly at us when they are talking. You may have understood this form of dominance without recognizing how often others use it. 

In fact, staring directly into another person’s eyes is one of the more intrusive acts of dominance. The first person to break the eye contact is the one who untimely shows submission and gives in to the other. 

Often men challenge each other by staring the other down. The first person who looks away is the one who ultimately displays submission. If you have been the recipient of prolonged eye contact, you know how uncomfortable this nonverbal cue can make you. 

Being conscious of nonverbal cues

These nonverbal cues are typically used numerous times throughout the day in an office space.

Pay attention to the nonverbal cues you use on a regular basis because you may be displaying assertive or dominant behavior without realizing it.

You can also use this information to interpret why you are feeling uncomfortable every time your boss calls you to the office for a meeting.