Authoritative Body Language: Loud(est) Lord(ing) Words

There are models of human behavior which people commonly attribute as a show or exercise of authority. One model is the gentle demonstration of values and of process; the end product equates the hard work dedicated to the process as well.

The second model is the whip model, which as members of the human race default to when there is danger of losing control, or running away from a potential threat to one’s authority or position. It is the second model we will discuss here…via pictures.

There is a general tendency for adults working with students to believe that repeating verbal directives in the exact same assertive familiar tone of authority improves behavior outcomes. There is a discrepancy between someone wanting to be firm and consistent with rules and regulations versus another who feels that order can only be kept if the gestapo were in the vicinity.

We have all seen the (non)stereotype: The stance, the silence calls, the sternness in the vocal projection when repeating the scripted sentences of what expectations are needed to be followed as the task at hand gets put on hold. It may look something like this:   

However that is usually not the case…repeating the verbal directive in such a manner as above does not consistently produce the same cowering and respectful results in students. The loss of the message because of the platform it is delivered. This is a universal truth even when not in the classroom.

See another scenario below:


The literal wall between both ears is an improvement from the first scenario wherein the student completely ignores the bullhorn; there is a level of awareness of another person of authority in the room however, the message is missed completely. The person disappears into himself and shuts down.

And there is of course, the professional world’s other level of exasperated communication:

What was experienced in the classroom is transferred over into our professional lives. We display the posture of incompetence and lack of confidence even when we are fully aware of what we need to do. Or we can swing to the opposite end and display arrogance and disrespect to get ‘ahead’ of the screaming and embarrassment.

Our figures of authority who are unable to share and instead choose to utilize the pulpit of screaming, dictation and rigidity are those who are not only unpopular in our learning curves but also exercise the most influence in our imparting of knowledge as well. We can only mirror what we see, and when we are efficiently and repetitively exposed to the consistent learning curve of the whip, it will be the learning of comfort for us as well.

The only model any authority figure should practice is an enlightened one.  It will look different for different people however there is always going to be an ongoing give and take of respect, an ebb and flow of colors and a humility that no one person has all the best answers:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.