The crème filling in a cookie, the corned beef in a Reuben sandwich, Godfather II – clearly, the best things always come in the middle. So, listen up, darlings … if you want to be the crème filling in the cookie of life, it’s time to put yourself in the middle of the action. No more waiting in the wings for you!
Whether you’re chatting with co-workers at the office, downing $1 beers at happy hour, or in an important meeting, positioning yourself in the center of the group instantly makes you the center of attention. Not only will your charm factor instantly increase, your perceived value will as well. Simply put, others in attendance (friends and/or strangers) will identify you as the “hub”– a.k.a. … the Most Valuable Person in the group. And let’s face it, who doesn’t want that title?
In fact, science has proven that the middle position generally leads to higher likeability as well as increased rates of success.
Take the study completed by psychologists Priya Raghubir and Ana Valenzuela. They decided to study this “Center Stage” phenomenon by examining episodes of the television show The Weakest Link.
You remember that show, right? Semicircle of contestants on a stark stage, trivia questions, severe British woman shrieking, “You ARE the weakest link – goodbye!” During each round, one contestant is voted off after being labeled the outcast. In this game of strategy, they discovered that the person placed in the middle had quite better odds of succeeding. Contestants in the center spot reached the final round, on average, 42% of the time. Additionally, they were found to WIN the game an average of 45% of the time. By contrast, those players on the edge reached the final round just 17% of the time, and won the game a mere 10% of the time.
The researchers concluded that people who have secured the coveted center spot are naturally seen as more confident and successful than those at the outside, who are viewed as dispensible.
Point being, the hub is a prized position. However, it will take work to maintain it. Fortunately, being in the middle of things will likely encourage you to straighten your posture, use welcoming body language and gestures, and engage everyone around you. If you’re alienating one side (by blocking them with your body or ignoring them in conversation), you can cause the group dynamics to shift, become lopsided, or collapse. Remember, you must stand your ground and actively own the middle!
Always be on the lookout for ways to land smack in the middle of the action. For example, let’s say you’re going out with several co-workers for drinks after a long day at the office. As you enter your establishment of choice, get near the front of the pack. Take the lead, and ask the hostess for a booth.
Not only will you look like a leader and decision-maker, this simple move lays the foundation for you to become the center of attention. After securing a prime booth, gently hang back a bit. Let your friends file in on both sides of the booth, as you graciously offer to sit in the extra chair pulled up to the table.
Sure, it might not be as comfortable as the booth seats, but you’ve secured the “head of the table,” traditionally an honored position, indicating authority and prestige. It also lends the impression that you are presiding over your own informal meeting. You will be able to engage each and every person, and your companions will naturally look to you to control the conversation.
Hey, we all remember Patrick Swayze saying, “No one puts baby in a corner,” in the classic Dirty Dancing. Poor Baby … how downtrodden she looked in that corner, while the party swirled around her. And no wonder: it’s a position of subservience.
As the anchor of the group, your points and opinions will seem stronger than they would if you were trapped on the inside. You’ll also be freer to display open, inviting, inclusive body language without being elbow-to-elbow with someone else.
By recognizing this seemingly subliminal approach to positioning, you can not only boost your confidence in group settings, but cast an aura of importance to those around you. Not a terribly difficult way to improve communication in a gathering, and appear engaged in every situation, but a downright effective one, I’d say!
So whether you are in a business meeting or a bar, solidify your status. Be seen as dynamic and desirable – never be dispensable again!