Power in Communication

Conversations are influenced by the balance of power between the two people engaging in them.  Women tend not to speak to men in the same implicit strength they use toward other women.  As a rule, women allow men to interrupt them more often than they interrupt men in return.  Interestingly, those who get interrupted are judged to have lower status and to be less powerful than those who do the interrupting.

Power is also communicated through nonverbal behaviorPowerful people tend to use larger interpersonal distances, display more intense facial expressions, and assume postures that are less asymmetrical and take up more space.  In fact, when people assume more physical space, their testosterone levels rise, and they take bolder risks.  It isn’t socially acceptable to wear a dress and be in an open, large posture.  This is why men tend to take these more masculine poses.

Women are most generally more accurate judges of others’ emotions than men are, including decoding others’ nonverbal communications.  This skill turns out to be a great asset, but also says something about how powerful he or she is.  Typically, it’s the job of the subordinate to keep track of what the boss is feeling, not the other way around.  If the subordinate is skillful at keeping track of their supervisor’s mood, they will ask for things while he/she is in a good mood.  Thus, giving themselves more power in the long run because they can get what they want.  Women can gain valuable information if they are adept users of nonverbal communication, making them more pleasing partners, gaining an increased influence over men.  However, on the other hand, they also behave as subordinates do when dealing with people of higher status or as if they are the minions of men.

Source – Miller, R. S. (2012). Intimate Relationships, Sixth Edition.  The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.  New York, NY.

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