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Understanding Body Language: Submissiveness

The foundation of any behavioral analysis program begins with a deep understanding of what a person is conveying through their nonverbal communication.  Tying the domains Kinesics and Biometrics together allow us to quickly make decisions about a person’s intentions, capabilities and emotions.

The six clusters that we use to classify an individual’s behavior (Dominant, Submissiveness, Uncomfortable, Comfortable, Interested, Uninterested) are the science behind our observations.  With all of these clusters, don’t forget about the Combat Rule of 3’s – that we are going to look for three indicators that all lead to the same cluster before we make a decision.  If you have the science part of the observation down, you are ready to apply the art of the observation and decide if that cluster you have identified fits the baseline or is an anomaly.

The Submissive Cluster

The Submissive Cluster is the exact opposite of the Dominant Cluster and shows the absence of the “fight” response.  A submissive person may have decided that their best chance for survival is to not put up a fight and to not further anger the person who has asserted their dominance.  This cluster is identified by people who have unconsciously attempted to make themselves appear smaller, open, and non-threatening.  Seeing three of the indicators below can lead to make a determination of “Submissive.”

Lower Body

–       Seated – feet and legs crossed and tucked underneath chair (making themselves look smaller)

–       Seated – feet wrapped around legs of chair (seeking stability and security)

–       Legs will often not be used as barrier as it could offend the dominant person, unless person is in a self-protect mode

Upper Body

–       Leaning forward, making their body smaller and less threatening

–       Torso could be open and exposed if the submissiveness is in a non-threatening situation such as interacting with a boss

–       Arms pulled in (non-threatening, pulling arms in)

–       Wrists exposed in greeting (vulnerable) open palms show that there is no threat

–       Shoulders lowered (protecting carotid artery)

–       May show closed off indicators and protection indicators from uncomfortable cluster if trying to protect themselves

Other Indicators

–      Facial expressions of fear, sadness, or “fake” happiness

–       Forced smiles, movement only with the mouth and not the eyes

–       People will remain fairly motionless, to not attract any unnecessary attention and reduce the chances of being seen (elements of freeze response)

–       Gaze will be away from the person as to not offend them, staring is a sign of dominance

–       Eyes may be wide, signaling vulnerability while also showing cues of fear

–       Person may be pale

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