Is Splaying The New Manspreading?

It's All About The 'Power Pose' - Just Ask Beyoncé

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The internet was awash with confusion and hilarity last week when several leading politicians appeared to try and channel their inner superhero, but ended up looking more like strange, forgotten mannequins instead. 

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This exhibition of (supposedly) confident body language - which is called ‘splaying’ - was on show at the Tory Party Conference in Manchester, where Mps Theresa May and George Osbourne were both snapped awkwardly posing with legs stretched apart and pained smiles pinned to their faces.

The concept of a power pose is certainly nothing new, celebrities have been using them for years - Angelina and her leg, or Beyoncé pretty much all the time - to ramp up their presence on the red carpet and there is a now famous TED talk by Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy on the benefits of positive body language, which has tipped seven million views on Youtube.

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But what is splaying? And what benefit could it have for politicians and ELLE readers?

Body language expert Judi James, who has written numerous books on the subject and regularly appears on TV, explains: 'We tend to align splaying - making yourself look bigger and using up more space - with power and status. 

'Alpha animals tend to be the bulkiest and strongest in a pack and although humans rarely use physical fight or intimidation to get to the top, in business we still use splaying as a signal of power and authority.'

Judi’s recommendations for day-to-day body language boosters for women are:

- Learn a power pose: 'When you sit at meetings, always look for a chair with arms on it and rest your elbows on them. This prompts the right kind of splay to make you look confident and in charge.'

- Use emphatic or illustrative gestures to add impact to your points:  'Keep your hands below shoulder and above pelvis level and keep your hands relaxed but straight, with a subtle palm display.'

- 'When you want to make a more powerful point use the gesture politicians are taught, which is called the 'Invisible brick', where both hands are held out in front of your body as though holding a brick between them.'

- 'Eye contact can make you look more high status, but there's no need to overdo it. Too much can look aggressive.'

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