Using Body Language to Show Dominance and Submissiveness

Oliver Jay

After we’ve been through the open and closed postures let’s see how to use body language to show dominance or submissiveness.

Again I will focus mainly on the postures in this article, but there are many other gestures and expressions to show both attitudes.

I’m the Man Around Here

It’s easy to spot the people in authority because the usually in the center of attention (positive or negative) and often they adopt certain posture to suit their act. It’s like getting a package deal – you get the attitude with the position.

We automatically adopt a dominant posture with people whose status we perceive as lower than ours. Alternatively, we submit to those who we perceive more powerful, it’s the rule of the pecking order.


Dominant people usually use more aggressive and confident postures, things that say “I make the decisions here”. They stand straight to appear tall, take a lot of space and usually expose their vulnerable areas to show bold and fearless attitude. They’re using body language postures such as:

  • Leaning Back with hands behind the back – the “Know it all” posture
  • Hands on hips – like a fluffed feather rooster trying to appear bigger and more intimidating.
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hands behind head

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  • Hands in belt or in the pockets with the Thumbs pointing towards the genital area – Showing who has the “bigger tool” around here. It’s more popular in males for obvious reasons, but some assertive females may also adopt this dominant body language.
  • Hand in hand behind the back – just imagine a policeman patrolling the street (well they hardly do that anymore – they got cars after all, but you get the idea). A very comforting and confident posture.
hands behind hips

These are some example but there are many more, usually it’s the opposite of the defensive body language behaviors. It’s all about exposing vulnerable parts of the body and gaining a lot of personal space.

Women usually use similar actions only in a subtle fashion: keeping one hand on the hips, lifting their head high, walking in fast and strong strides and etc.

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Submissive Body Language

Submissive body language usually involves “caving in” – defensive and indecisive behavior. Meek people usually don’t like being in control – they would rather give up power to another person or group. The reasons for not taking charge can vary: some people might be afraid of being in charge, others might look up to the other person too much, while others might not have the confidence or motivation to take action.

So what are the submissive postures? The opposite of the dominant, obviously

  • The body usually cringe to appear smaller and less threatening
  • The head may bow a little and the chest cave in.
  • Doe’s eyes
  • Shoulder hunched
  • When people cross their arms or legs, it’s often seen as a sign of being submissive or indecisive.

Keeping the Good Measure

I want to clarify that using submissive body language is NOT wrong. It has its own uses and can be a powerful tool in the right hands. Many women know how to play the innocent and vulnerable girl to get what they want in a much more efficient way rather than just bully people around.


We can use submissive gestures and postures to some extent to create empathy and bond with others. Even the smile is considered submissive gesture, but more often than not, it serves rather than harms your relations. So all in all, it’s about good measure and the understanding that different set of behaviors can serve you ideally in different circumstances.

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Last note about using dominant body language – it’s a double edged sword. Act like the alpha dog all the time and you will often step on someone’s toes and ruffle some feathers. Surprisingly, people dislike being intimated and pushed over all the time, so watch your back.

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