Tag Archives: Carol Kinsey Goman

Gender Differences in Emotional Expression: Smiling

Previous blog posts have outlined dilemmas women face in being seen as competent yet  “likeable” in negotiations.

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld of Stanford and researcher Carol Kinsey Goman note that women can increase perceived authority. if they smile when situationally-appropriate instead of consistently.

Simine Vazire

Simine Vazire

They imply that observers assign different interpretations to women’s smiles than to men’s smiles.
Washington University in St. Louis’s
Simine Vazire teamed with Laura Naumann of University of California, Berkeley, University of Cambridge’s Peter Rentfrow, and Samuel Gosling of University of Texas to investigate gender differences in the meaning of smiling behavior.   

Jacob Miguel Vigil

Jacob Miguel Vigil

They drew on University of New Mexico professor Jacob Miguel Vigil‘s theory that emotional behaviors promote attraction and aversion, based on others’ perceived:

  • Power to provide resources or harm (dominant, masculine behaviors)
  • Trustworthiness to reciprocate altruism (submissive, feminine)
Laura Naumann

Laura Naumann

Vazire’s team reported that women’s smiles signal positive affect and warmth, which are seen as “trustworthiness cues” in Vigil’s model, and typically attract fewer, but closer relationships.
Gruenfeld and Goman argue that women’s smiling also signals low power in negotiation situations and interpersonal interactions.

Peter Rentfrow

Peter Rentfrow

In contrast, smiling among men indicates confidence and lack of self-doubt, seen as “capacity cues” to the ability to either help or hurt others.
These expressions usually attract numerous, but less-intimate relationships while
conveying a key element of power, self-assurance.

Samuel Gosling

Samuel Gosling

Team Vazire’s research validated Gruenfeld’s and Goman’s hypothesis that observers interpreted women’s smiles differently than men’s, even if the underlying, subjective emotional experience is similar.

Their work supports  Gruenfeld’s and Goman’s recommendation that women balance smiling, a signal of interpersonal warmth, with powerful non-verbal behaviors to achieve best outcomes in negotiations and workplace performance.

-*How has smiling helped establish your warmth?
-*When has smiling undermined your credibility and power?

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©Kathryn Welds


Authoritative Non-Verbal Communication for Women in the Workplace

Carol Kinsey Goman

Carol Kinsey Goman

Carol Kinsey Goman has integrated research on the impact of non-verbal behavior on workplace outcomes for women in two books:

The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help–or Hurt–How You Lead

The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work

She notes that all business leaders need to establish interpersonal warmth and likability balanced with authority, power, and credibility.

Women have been viewed as likeable, but lacking authority, so Goman suggests the following behavior changes:

• Focusing eye contact in business situations on the conversation partner’s forehead and eyes instead of eyes and mouth, which is more appropriate for social situations

• Limit the number of head tilts and head nods, which may signal empathy and encouragement, but may be interpreted as submissive and lacking authority

 Occupy space: Stand tall with erect posture and head, and a wider stance hold your head high.  Claim territory with belongings.

• Keep your hands on your lap or on the conference table where they can be seen to limit nervous hand gestures such as rubbing hands, grabbing arms, touching neck, tossing hair, leaning forward.

  • Use authoritative hand gestures:

o Show palms when indicating openness and inclusiveness

o “Steeple” fingers by touching fingertips with palms separated to indicate precision

o Turn hands palms-down to signal confidence and certainty

o Keep gestures at waist height or above. Drop the pitch at the end of each sentence to make an authoritative statement. Avoid raising tone at the end of a sentence when not asking a question, as this may be interpreted as uncertain or submissive.

• Smile selectively and appropriately to maintain both likeability and authority

• “Learn to interrupt,” advised former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. ”
Like occupying physical space, occupy “air-space.”

• Moderate emotional expressiveness, movement, and animation to signal authority and composure

• Cultivate a firm handshake, with palm-to-palm contact and that the web of your hand (the skin between your thumb and first finger) touching the web of the other person’s. Face the person squarely, look in the eyes, smile, and greet the person.

Goman stated that women generally excel at accurately read the body language of others, and this can be an advantage in intuitively grasping underlying issues in a meeting or during a negotiation.

-*How do you cultivate both credibility and likeability in work relationships?

See related posting on Olivia Fox Cabane’s discussion of non-verbal contributors to “charisma


Deborah Gruenfeld‘s discussion of power non-verbal behaviors

©Kathryn Welds