If you have ever felt small or insignificant in comparison to the person that is interviewing you, chances are that this is not a coincidence. That employer has most likely arranged his or her office furniture in a way that accentuates their power while also making you feel as if you are beneath them. This is not chance- this is pure strategy. Here are three different factors that help to determine the power and status that someone has based off of the chair that they are sitting in:
The Type of Chair
The higher the back of someone's chair, the more power that person has. Think of kings, queens, and other types of royalty: they’re not sitting on any old barstool, are they? If someone is sitting in a chair that dramatically towers over him or her, they may be trying to subtly convey their status
Similarly, swivel chairs are also a tool that individuals use to show off their status and power. They allow freedom that regular chairs simply do not have, and they provide movement in place of physical gestures.
The Height of the Chair
The higher a chair is off of the ground, the more power that person has. Employers and other individuals of higher status generally like to make their chairs further off the ground than the seats of employees they believe to be below them. If you are being interviewed by someone who is sitting higher up than you, chances are that you will feel small in comparison. Trust me when I say that this is exactly how they want you to feel.
The Location of the Chair
As I have mentioned before, many employers will try to place their chairs directly opposite that of the individual who they are interviewing. This is another power play, and it is a very competitive stance. In order to combat this, simply shift your chair 45 degrees, and you will immediately seem more confident and less threatened.
The Fundamentals of Table Territories
Knowing how table territories work is an incredibly important body language skill. If two people are sitting at a rectangular table and are placed directly across from each other, they have silently agreed to split the table into two separate territories. If one of these people wishes to give a presentation or show the other individual a paper, he or she must determine the best way to show it to the person across from them.
To do this, you must first place the book, folder, or piece of paper on the table and interpret how the other person responds. The person who has just presented the document will do one of three things. They will either look at the document and take it over to their side, simply look at the document and leave it in its original location, or push it back into the presenter’s territory.
If the person looks at the document but does not move it, that means that the presenter should say what he or she needs to say from their original seat. They should move their chair 45 degrees and begin their presentation. If the person takes the document over to their side of the table, this gives the other person the opportunity to test the waters and enter their territory. Finally, if the person pushes the document back to the other person’s territory, the presenter should stay on his side of the table and not encroach on the other individual’s space.
Sit With a Purpose
In order to easily explain seated body pointing, let’s take a look at a theoretical scenario. Say that you’re an employer, and you’re forced to have a meeting with one of your employees who is simply not doing his job as well as he should be. You know that you are going to ask him or her questions that may make them feel uncomfortable and under pressure, but you also know that you are going to wind up feeling compassionate at times. In this scenario, you both will be seated in your office. The employee will be in a rigid chair that does not move and that does not have arms. You, however, will be in a swivel chair.
In your swivel chair, that are several different positions that you can sit in. You can choose to sit at a 45 degree angle to your employee, which will make them feel more at ease and relaxed. This is a good starting point for the meeting. Once the meeting has begun, however, and you are at the point where you would like to start asking direct questions, it is best to face your employee dead on.
If you do this, you will be putting pressure on the employee, and they will feel required to answer your questions directly. Turning your body away from them will make them feel more at ease once again, and this is a great stance for embarrassing questions that may make them feel uncomfortable.
Master the Nuances of Body Language at the Office
If you want to truly succeed in your career and relationships with others, it is vital that you master the art of understanding body language. Doing so will open up numerous doors that you never even knew existed, and will give you the upper hand in most social scenarios. I guarantee that you will be amazed by how much easier it is to interact with others once you know how to control your own physical gestures.