by Arielle Essex

Mastering cat and dog charisma

Because there are specific nonverbal behaviours that reveal your underlying cat or dog tendency, you can, by changing your style of communication and adopting the appropriate nonverbals, raise your charismatic appeal in either direction.

  • First you need to have identified, in a particular communication situation, whether you have been exhibiting predominantly cat or dog behaviour.
  • Next, decide whether you need more cat or dog in order to achieve the desired effect in this communication.
  • If you want to develop the personal relationship side, increase the level of dog nonverbals.
  • If you need more respect and leadership, increase the cat nonverbals.

Credibility is like virginity: once you lose it, you can never get it back.

George Bush

Notice that the content of your message may remain more or less the same. Only your delivery and external behaviour needs to change.

Credible cat nonverbals

In order to win a cat’s respect, you must match their degree of credibility in your voice tone, body posture and mannerisms. You will only hold a cat’s attention if what you say interests them. They want to be impressed by what you are offering. They want to admire you, not like you. Their attention is mainly on the issue/project/outcome, not on the relationship. They will be motivated if you tell them how new ideas could change the whole company. Give messages clearly, but not thoroughly – keep the cat wanting to know more. When speaking, pause longer, to give emphasis to important points, and increase the cat’s perception of your intelligence. Note: this will also increase your leadership potential with dogs.

However, when speaking to a cat in a higher position than you, be sure to give due deference and respect. Coming on too strong may seem competitive. Never corner a cat.

Cat strategies
  • Traits such as productivity and efficiency are values desired by people who are credible, in other words cats. Leaders need to be competent, definitive and willing. Cats enjoy a challenge. Credible leaders like to feel empowered.
  • Know the chain of command and ask approval from appropriate parties.
  • Obtain the hierarchical chart and a flow chart of the power.
  • Know what the company’s values are and refer to them in conversation.
  • Be aware of the contributions of different departments and factually acknowledge them.
  • Seek to be fair: instead of individualising each situation, be consistent in managing.
  • Let people know consequences before they are enforced.
  • Value respect over popularity.
  • Be more formal in speech, dress and behaviours.

Cat credible delivery

Here are the specific nonverbal patterns that mark the credible delivery of cats. These require practice! The most important characteristics to remember are to keep your breathing low in your belly and slow, and to pause more often, especially after an important piece of information. Do not smile; keep a serious face, and be ‘still’. Keep hand gestures to an absolute minimum and only move for emphasis. Begin noticing at meetings and other interactions how often these patterns are used by people in positions of power. Notice also when people don’t use them and be aware how differently you perceive their contribution.

There can be no power without mystery. There must always be a ‘something’ which others cannot altogether fathom, which puzzles them, stirs them, and rivets their attention... Nothing more enhances authority than silence. It is the crowning virtue of the strong, the refuge of the weak, the modesty of the proud, the pride of the humble, the prudence of the wise, and the sense of fools.

Charles de Gaulle

If you already have predominant cat tendencies, you may find these familiar and easy. Notice if there are situations where you could use them even more effectively. Dogs may find that cat behaviours feel quite awkward at first – unnatural and unfriendly. Remind yourself to keep focused on the higher objective: showing more leadership will be good for all.

Cat nonverbals
  • Use a flat voice tone, with ‘command’ intonation curling down at the end of each sentence. Aim to sound definitive – you are ‘sending information’.
  • Hold your chin one to two inches higher than usual.
  • At the end of spoken words, drop your head forward and down.
  • Keep your head down and still until the last syllable’s sounds finish.
  • During pauses – which should be frequent for good emphasis – move your head up to one to two inches higher than your normal position.
  • Stand symmetrical, toes pointed straight ahead, weight even on both feet.
  • Practise stillness – only a few gestures, preferably with palms facing down.

Note: it is vital to keep breathing low in the abdomen to avoid sounding angry.

Approachable dog nonverbals

Dogs need time, attention and kindness. That ‘good morning, how are you’ is very important to them. Ask about their holiday and family. Remember their birthday. They enjoy personal chit chat and thrive on developing good relationships. They need to know that you are human and, especially if you are a cat, they need to feel more comfortable around you in order to feel safe. Remember, they secretly wish you would be more dog-like. Any behaviours that exhibit some warmth will be welcomed. Dogs are usually quite happy to have cats in the positions of power and will loyally work for them when they are well treated.

Dog strategies

Approachable traits, such as rapport and trust, are often by-products of a person feeling known and appreciated. Leaders need to be genuine, real and authentic. They show they care by

  • Showing interest in personal relationships and knowing what is important in people’s private lives
  • Good listening skills – being fully present when listening, maintaining eye contact and saying encouraging words such as ‘uh huh’, ‘yes’ and so on
  • Remembering people’s birthdays and special occasions
  • Learning what is important in their worlds and asking about latest developments
  • Operating in an egalitarian manner
  • Becoming aware of others’ contributions and acknowledging them with emotive appreciation
  • Instead of issuing a command, when possible, trying to ask for a ‘favour’
  • Being less formal in speech, dress and behaviours; nodding, smiling and gesturing.

Dog approachable delivery

Here, Gentlemen, a dog teaches us a lesson in humanity.

Napoleon Bonaparte

In order to be more personable, give more eye contact to appear more approachable when talking to dogs. Lean forward, nod your head and say ‘uh, huh’ to encourage the speaker and let him know you are listening. This comes across as more approachable and friendly. Instead of giving orders, ask them to do a ‘favour’ for you, and get them to feel they are helping you out. Dogs like feeling they are doing something out of loyalty and friendship. Never be curt; avoid asking them a lot of questions or putting them on the spot. Instead, give them choices. Ask them questions with multiple choice answer possibilities. Also, avoid reprimands and punishment whenever possible, as dogs are easily hurt.

Be more casual – less formal and stiff in your posture and manners. Be less distant and more relaxed. Stand and sit asymmetrically; tilt your head. Smile; share jokes and laughter; be sociable.

To dogs, these directions will sound like normal behaviour. Cats may find it a stretch to even pretend they could be interested enough to do these things. Cats need to remember how necessary it is to foster dogs in order to get their full support and achieve the shared objectives.

  • Use a melodious, rhythmical varied tone of voice – you are ‘seeking information’.
  • When speaking, allow your head to bob up and down naturally with the words.
  • At the end of your spoken words, have your voice and head curl upwards.
  • In silence, move your head back to the original position.
  • Stand with your toes not pointed straight ahead.
  • Shift position so there is more weight on one foot than the other.
  • Use lots of gestures, especially with palms facing up.
  • Move your arms in rhythm, with your head bobbing.

Note: it is vital to keep breathing low in the abdomen to avoid sounding ‘pleading’.

Mastering credible and approachable nonverbals

It may seem hard to believe that so much of the aura of charismatic leadership actually rests on nonverbal behaviours. Until you’ve observed, practised and experimented with these qualities, you may not be fully convinced of their power. Next time you watch political debates or movie clips of dynamic leaders, or attend a good presentation, be prepared to be amused as you watch all of these nonverbal qualities in action.

This information comes from research and studies of human behaviour all over the globe. No matter what country you visit, you will find these nonverbal power signals demonstrated cross culturally. In fact, learning and mastering these nonverbals may help you solve some sticky cultural diversity issues. Since a huge proportion of communication is nonverbal, your ability to exude these crucial physiological cues will go a long way to establishing understanding, outside cultural differences.

We need less posturing and more genuine charisma. Charisma was originally a religious term, meaning ‘of the spirit’ or ‘inspired’. It’s about letting God’s light shine through us. It’s about a sparkle in people that money can’t buy. It’s an invisible energy with visible effects. To let go, to just love, is not to fade into the wallpaper. Quite the contrary, it’s when we truly become bright. We’re letting our own light shine.

Marianne Williamson