in: People, Podcast, Social Skills

• Last updated: March 9, 2023

Podcast #875: Authority Is More Important Than Social Skills

Influence comes down to a person’s level of authority. When someone is perceived as having power, status, and worth, others readily follow them and comply with them.

Authority isn’t just a matter of position. It’s also a personal quality.

When people attempt to develop their influence or authority, they tend to focus on learning social skills and changing their behaviors around speech and body language.

But my guest would say that authority isn’t about what you learn but who you are, and that once you establish the right lifestyle and mindset, influential behaviors will emerge as a natural byproduct.

Chase Hughes is a behavioral analyst who trains both military operatives and civilians. Today on the show, Chase unpacks the five factors that measure someone’s level of authority and produce composure, a state which resides between posturing and collapse. We talk about how so much of authority comes down to having your stuff together, why you should become your own butler, and what Andy Griffith has to teach about leadership. We also talk about the things that kill your authority, and how not to be influenced by false authority.

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Read the Transcript

Brett McKay: Brett McKay here and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. Influence comes down to a person’s level of authority. When someone is perceived as having power, status and worth, others readily follow them and comply with them. Authority isn’t just a matter of position though, it’s also a personal quality. When people attempt to develop their influence or authority, they tend to focus on learning social skills and changing their behaviors around speech and body language. But my guest would say that authority isn’t about what you learn, but who you are. And that once you establish the right lifestyle and mindset, influential behaviors will emerge as a natural byproduct. Chase Hughes is a behavioral analyst who trains both military operatives and civilians. Today on the show, Chase unpacks the five factors that measure someone’s level of authority and produce composure, a state which resides between posturing and collapse. We talk about how so much of authority comes down to having your stuff together, why you should become your own butler, and what Andy Griffith has to teach about leadership. We also talk about the things that kill your authority and how not to be influenced by false authority. After the show is over, check out our show notes at

All right, Chase Hughes, welcome to the show.

Chase Hughes: Thanks, Brett. Thanks for having me, man.

Brett McKay: So you are a behavioral analyst and you train military and law enforcement on how to read people and gather human intelligence, so they might be using this stuff in interrogations, interviews, things like that. How did you get into this line of work?

Chase Hughes: I did 20 years in the military, and I joined when I was 17 years old and I was stationed in Pearl Harbor. Long story short, I was out in Waikiki Beach one evening and I was talking to this young lady who I thought was just super into me, and essentially I asked her out and she basically turned me down really hard. And I went home that night and I typed how to tell when girls like you into the internet. And I remember just printing off this massive stack of body language articles and stuff. And I just went down this rabbit hole for like a year. And then while I was getting good at this, one of my best friends, his name was Craig Weberley, died in the USS Cole terrorist attack. And I was reading these intelligence reports that all the failures that led up to this happening was just a training… Intelligence operative training that they couldn’t get people in the region to provide intel and stuff. So I just dedicated the rest of my career to making this stuff possible for intelligence operatives to be able to gain rapport and really build up a relationship with these people where they can get intelligence faster.

Brett McKay: So you went from pick up artistry to helping the military?

Chase Hughes: [chuckle] Right. I wouldn’t call it pick up artistry. I just wanted to be good enough at body language that I would just know when not to ask. And I would just avoid rejection, I think.

Brett McKay: Yeah. Well, so you’ve written several books where you present the things that you train in the military and law enforcement in a very reader friendly way. And you’ve developed these really sophisticated and, you know, that you have like this behavioral table of elements where you can… You analyze body language basically and what that can possibly mean. But one of the factors that you talk about a lot in your books and you hit home hard is one of the key factors in gathering intelligence, whether it’s from a potential, an enemy combatant, something like that, or if you just wanna know if someone is interested in you or you’re making a sales pitch and you wanna make sure that you are directing your pitch in a way that it resonates with that person. You argue that when it comes to influence, authority is more important than social skills. So what led you to that conclusion?

Chase Hughes: Well, if anybody’s ever taken like Psych 101 in college, you remember this Milgram experiment, and I’ll give you like a 15 second, 20 second recap of this thing. So essentially they got volunteers for this experiment, and they were told… They met this person and you’re gonna give them a quiz and every time they get an answer wrong, you’re gonna shock them with this electrical shocking machine. And with each wrong question, you’re gonna increase the voltage and it gets worse. I’m not gonna go into all the details, but it was pretty bad. Like 67% of people went all the way to maximum voltage, even when the person on the other side of the room that was being “shocked” even though they weren’t was screaming and begging to stop the experiment saying they had heart problems and all this, and there’s hundreds of other psychology experiments like this.

But just looking at this, there’s no secret technique that was used. There’s no like, oh, they use some covert language trick or some secret rapport building technique or any of this. It’s just authority made that happen. And if authority can do that almost on its own with no like secret linguistics or any of those tricks or anything like that, or sales tactics, that seems to be the number one place that we need to focus if we’re starting to learn persuasion or influence or any of that, authority is just so, so important because it can make extreme things happen.

Brett McKay: Well, yeah. Some of the other studies you highlight besides the Milgram study is that researchers have done studies on jaywalking. What was going on there?

Chase Hughes: Yeah. I think that was called the Crosswalk Experiment, where one person essentially just… It’s a dude wearing like jeans and a t-shirt and he walks across the street when he’s not supposed to, when the sign says don’t do it. And then the same dude goes up and puts on like a suit and tie and they cut his hair and stuff, and it increases the amount of people who will follow him across the intersection by like 88% just because of a shift in clothing. And that’s a good estimate. Just our understanding of authority is not all about just and real authority. It’s about perceived authority as much as it is about just having genuine authority.

Brett McKay: And why are we so keyed on individuals with authority? Like why do we tend to follow them?

Chase Hughes: So our ancestors left all kinds of stuff in our bodies to survive. That’s why we have a fight or flight response. And all kinds of just pre-programmed responses, even facial expressions, we’re born with facial expressions like anger and sadness and happiness and fear. So our ancestors also left everything that helped them to survive. So the DNA, let’s say like 100,000 years ago, if our ancestors are learning lessons that helped them to survive, their DNA essentially says, “Okay, I’m gonna hardwire this so I can pass it down.” So obeying authority and being obedient towards a perceived authority was probably one of, if not the most important thing for tribal function. And when humans are in tribes, and if they don’t obey the tribal leader, they might get killed. They don’t get protection, they get less access to resources, they get disliked by the rest of their tribe because the leader doesn’t like them. It’s tremendous. Like it’s the bottom second row and third row of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Like all the stuff we need to survive can essentially stem from our relationship to authority figures.

Brett McKay: And individuals who are highly persuasive, whether they’re people who, you know, good salesmen for example, good politicians, but also you could be like con artist. They understand this probably intuitively, correct?

Chase Hughes: I definitely think so. Like a good example would be like a, let’s say a dangerous cult is out there and they’re recruiting people into this weird cult. And how can like a socially intelligent CEO, for example, get talked into joining this weird cult, and just trying to figure that out is this mammalian, this almost animal response, this programmed into our brain to be responsive towards this confidence and charisma and authority. And it just says, you need to trust this person and go along with what they say. And that’s an unconscious process. We’re not sitting there with a checklist, a grocery list, like checking off everything as the person displays behaviors. Like it’s an unconscious list, which we’ll get into a little bit later for sure.

Brett McKay: So yeah, the big takeaway that I think we’re trying to get at, I wanted to frame the rest of our conversation around is, I think a lot of times when people think about social skills or being more persuasive or being good with women, like knowing how to interact with women, they think about all these little like hacks, like things you could say. They think about the specific body language they should use, and you’re arguing like, that’s probably icing on the cake. What you should really spend most of your time focusing on is developing that perception of authority.

Chase Hughes: Yes. So just getting to the point where the display of those behaviors is a byproduct of who you are, not what you’ve learned.

Brett McKay: Gotcha. And so we’ve been talking to authority, like how are you defining authority? I mean, is it a matter of position? Can you have authority and not be in the position of authority? Is it charisma? How are you defining authority?

Chase Hughes: Well, in my training, I tend to use five factors to measure a person’s level of authority. And I even have an assessment that if you wanna throw it in the show notes, you’re more than welcome to. And it can essentially assess someone’s level of authority using these five factors. And those are confidence, discipline, leadership, gratitude and enjoyment. And once those all combine, it leads to authority, but it produces a behavior that I call composure. And then a person can essentially rate themselves like at the end of every day in their journal or whatever on this composure scale and on those five factors. And the more often they’re doing that, the more that’s being brought into awareness and with composure. And we tend to look at composure as a pendulum where the center would be composure and the left side would be collapse, maybe the right side would be posturing. And that’s what we call those two far ends of that pendulum. When we fall out of composures, we fall one way, it’s into collapsing and we fall the other way it’s into posturing and over posturing behaviors.

Brett McKay: And can composure be situational? Like in some situations you have more composure and therefore more authority and then other situations not so much.

Chase Hughes: It can, and I think the more that somebody is able to bring this into everyday life, and this is one of the things I talk about a lot in my trainings is, are you able to do this off camera? Like when no one’s looking, are you still a leader? Are you still a role model when the cameras are off, no one’s looking, do you still exhibit those behaviors? And the more you get into that sort of lifestyle, the less situations will matter when it comes to authority, I think.

Brett McKay: So what you’re saying is, if you develop these five factors, which we’re gonna talk about, as a consequence of that, you will start displaying behaviors that other people will see and perceive as you having authority, is that the idea?

Chase Hughes: Absolutely. Yeah.

Brett McKay: So, I mean, okay, for us, when we’re looking at people and we’re sizing people up of whether they have composure and authority, what are we looking at? What factors, what cues are we homing in on to say, “Yeah, this guy’s got it together.”?

Chase Hughes: So our brains will typically, and this is very much an unconscious process, but our brains go through a five-stage process, I would say. So our brains are analyzing another person’s movement and it goes in this order. As far as I can tell, I’ve done about 20,000 hours of research on this. Movement first then appearance, then confidence. And this is essentially when our brains are looking for confidence on a subconscious level, what that means is we’re looking for a lack of reservation in behavior and movement. And so it’s movement, appearance, confidence, connection, like are they fully checked in? So just when you think about connection, just think of the way that Bill Clinton looks at people and connects with them when he talks to them. And the final one here is intent. So how am I understanding and processing this other person’s intent? And if all five of those line up, the subconscious part of our brain sees that this person is very likely an authority.

Brett McKay: Gotcha. And as you’re saying, sometimes people wanna hack this and they do the posturing. So they probably read some sort of research where, well, people with big body language, they take up a lot of space, they’re perceived as having more authority, so they start doing that.

Chase Hughes: You’re right.

Brett McKay: But it just comes off as phony-baloney.

Chase Hughes: It really does. And I think one of the reasons that this is common is I think there’s a problem in learning new behaviors where people focus on symptoms and they ignore causes. So let me just look at the symptoms of rich people. For example, if I wanna make money, I’m gonna look at the symptoms of rich people. Okay, they have a big house, that’s what I need. Then they have an expensive car, that’s what I need. But they’re not looking at causes. So when I’m looking at like, I take up a lot of space, my voice is crystal clear, there’s two things that really happen. Number one, the person’s focusing on symptoms instead of the cause of those behaviors. And number two, the biggest disaster of all time when it comes down to authority and actually having real confidence is getting into a mindset where you’re worried or thinking, even just thinking about status and hierarchy. The number one thing that I see when I train operatives is, the soon as they start worrying or thinking about status and hierarchy, it automatically starts to deteriorate their level of authority and confidence.

Brett McKay: Yeah. The alpha doesn’t think about being alpha.

Chase Hughes: Right. It’s not in their head. And I think if you’re doing all of this symptom stuff, you’re getting into performance mode instead of connection mode. And when I say performance, this is if you wanna just figure out what mode I’m in, in a conversation, if you’re in performance mode, you’re maybe tense or feel pressured. You’re observing yourself too much in the conversation, you’re analyzing the event afterwards a whole lot. There’s not much feeling of connection and it feels like an evaluation from the other person while you’re in performance mode because you’re performing and the focus is more on yourself, and in connection mode, your focus is on the other person. It feels like a connection. You’re feeling good about the event without needing to recall all these details. You’re feeling relaxed, comfortable, curious about the other person and just you’re really comfortable sharing your own depth of emotion.

Brett McKay: Yeah. I think we’ve all encountered the individuals who they’re in performance mode, right? If you’ve been with like a salesperson, I’ve had this happen to me when I’ve had people come out to give me estimates for a new roof or something. And it’s interesting to see the different approaches people take and like one guy I can tell like, man, you’re doing all the tricks. And it just… And then you have another guy comes in and he’s not doing that, but you can tell that he’s got his stuff together and I actually trust him more.

Chase Hughes: It’s so, so true. But I think that some of those things, when somebody gets into performance mode, there’s maybe some anxiety there that this helps them to alleviate anxiety because I’m gonna look up these power poses to give me confidence and I’m gonna look up these articles that are, you know, you’ve seen them on LinkedIn and stuff, like the 31 Body Language Signs of Confident People, which are all of course symptoms. But I think those help sometimes in the interim with people with anxiety, and anxiety is probably one of the things that keeps people from having confidence and developing authority. And I think anxiety comes from three things very specifically. Number one is a decline in the reputation that you have with yourself. And number two is an inability to recognize what you can and can’t control. And number three is unmet expectations or the fear of your expectations being unmet. Those are the three pillars that I have to get rid of in the operatives that I train.

Brett McKay: How do those things come about in someone’s life? How do they show up? Why does that happen to people?

Chase Hughes: I think they just get into this mindset of I need to manage how I’m being perceived. And they tend to think more about status and hierarchy and we’ll definitely cover some ways to get over that here in a little bit if you want.

Brett McKay: Yeah. Well, yeah. I guess they’re needy, and they showcase their neediness and I think everyone’s been around a person like, “Ah, you’re just way too needy.”

Chase Hughes: Yeah. And if you’ll allow me to go back to the pendulum for just a second, and we have composure in the middle and we have collapse and posturing, collapse and posturing on these far ends of the pendulum have a lot more in common than people think. They’re both trying to get the other person to give something up, whether it’s respect, admiration, love, money, whatever it is. Second, their agendas are concealed and hidden from public view. They wear this mask to kind of conceal the collapse or they wanna conceal the posturing behavior. And they both cover up for feelings of a little bit of inadequacy and the feelings of always trying to be tough. And I think they’re both incredibly stressful states to live in and they’re kind of rooted in insecurity. And the one big thing that they both have in common is they both believe highly in competition and they kind of live their lives in a competitive instead of a collaborative frame of mind.

Brett McKay: And then one other thing you talk about too is that people with authority or people with that natural influence, they tend to understand that most people have that neediness and those unmet desires, and they’re just kind of broken human beings. And because they understand that, that’s one of the reasons why they’re able to connect with them is they can give that person what they need.

Chase Hughes: It’s so, so true, yeah.

Brett McKay: So let’s dig into these factors that contribute to people perceiving us as someone with authority, and actually having it. It’s not just about perceiving, you actually have it, and because you actually have it, it naturally comes out in the way you present yourself. You talk about confidence. How do you define confidence?

Chase Hughes: I’d say confidence is, if I can just use one word, it’s comfort. It’s just comfort. It’s just giving yourself permission. That’s kind of what it is. It’s how you… You have got a good reputation with yourself, and you’re giving yourself permission to do something, and one incredible thing is that if you’re displaying super confident behavior to a person that you’re just meeting for the first time, they will automatically assume that you’ve been that way for decades. So you’re not just confident in yourself, you’re carrying the permission from thousands of other people that you’ve interacted with, so they’re assuming that thousands of other people accepted your confident behavior, so that’s a really key point to make that even if it’s a one-on-one interaction and you’re behaving confidently, that person… If it’s genuine, that person is assuming that it’s been this way for years for you.

Brett McKay: So how do you develop this genuine confidence? I’m sure we could dedicate a whole podcast to this, but generally, what do you tell your operatives, what do they need to start doing in their personal lives to develop this natural confidence that’ll be displayed naturally when they interact with other people?

Chase Hughes: All right, let me see if I can do this like a two-minute summary. So the first thing, I want you to start challenging yourself to be slower than anyone else in the room. So just set a speed limit on your body, just try it on for a few days of like, “I will not move faster than if I was standing in a swimming pool.” So this starts re-teaching your body to just display the signs of comfort. And second, just having the knowledge that you don’t need permission to be confident is so, so critically huge. And keeping track of your own levels of confidence throughout every single day is the way to get that down into the lower parts of the brain, because just thinking about it stays in the top of the brain, “If I can get my lower brain really invested in my confidence, I don’t need… ” I’m not talking about setting goals or anything like that, I’m just talking about at the end of every day, I’m gonna sit down and I’m gonna write from one to five or one to 10, how was my confidence today? That’s it. ‘Cause it’s just like when you’re looking for a new car, like on the internet and watching all the YouTubes and all the videos and stuff about, “I’m gonna get this new car,” then you buy the car and you start seeing it everywhere.

Like, I just got a Tesla and I’m like, “Wow, everybody bought Teslas at the same time as me.” But that’s not true at all, right? So I’ve just repetitively shown it to my brain so much that now my brain is searching for it, and if you can just set a competition to move slower than the person that you’re speaking to and to be more comfortable. That’s it. Just start out with those two things, “I’m gonna be the most comfortable person in this environment,” just comfort, just relaxed, “And I’m gonna move slower.” Those two things are like the… And monitoring, those three things, I would say, are this ultimate gateway to developing confidence the fastest way.

Brett McKay: Okay, so that’s a fast way to do it, but then at the same time, you’ll probably wanna do things where you’re developing that self-regard, you’re doing things that make you feel competent and confident. So it can come down to setting goals and accomplishing them, just doing those things in your private life will help you develop that confidence for the long-term.

Chase Hughes: Yes, absolutely. And just taking tiny, tiny steps out of your comfort zone when it comes to just talking to other people, and you’re essentially teaching the lower part of your brain like, “No, nothing bad’s gonna happen, they’re not gonna punch me in the face if I start acting confident. There’s not gonna be like a tiger that jumps out from a closet if I start behaving confidently.” You’re just slowly, gradually introducing your brain to a little bit more stressful or slightly stressful situations, and over time, and I’m talking like just over maybe 15 days, the confidence starts building itself and you get more and more permission and you’ll notice as a person becomes more and more confident, you can see that they’re just giving themselves more permission.

Brett McKay: Yeah, so it’s the ability… So that long-term, long-lasting confidence is the ability to handle uncertainty no matter what’s thrown at you. And I think that’s why you can tell some people like, “That guy’s street-wise.” And it’s probably because they grew up in the school of hard knocks, and they’ve had to deal with uncertainty over and over and over again, and because of that, they have the confidence in any situation, like, “Well, I handled this when I was a kid, and I was out in war and I handled that alright,” and so it just carries over to everything they do.

Chase Hughes: It’s so true, but that can lead people to thinking like, “Oh, I need to go through this big rite of passage,” which isn’t necessarily true. There’s all kinds of people who are super confident who have not been through anything like that.

Brett McKay: We’re gonna take a quick break for a word from our sponsors. And now back to the show. Yeah, I mean, you define confidence as the ability to take action without reservation, and I really like that definition, because anybody, they can build up their confidence by taking part in little deprivations in their life, taking on challenges and then following through on those challenges, and by doing that, you’re gonna build up that good reputation with yourself, it’s a sense of self-trust. And this really takes us to our next element of authority, which is discipline. So why is discipline important in developing authority and how do we develop it?

Chase Hughes: Okay. So Brett, if you and I were sitting in ATL, like the Atlanta Airport, waiting on a flight or something, I could ask you with no… Like you’re not some behavior profile or anything, but I could say, “Brett, spot someone across that’s just standing over there, across the gate from ours, who is disciplined.” You could do it. And most people could do it. And I think that discipline has an unusual way, and I’m the number one body language expert in the world somehow, and I still can’t explain this articulately, but discipline has a way of coming up in our non-verbal communication that sends these little gut feelings to other people like, “That person is a disciplined person,” and it makes us, when we see a disciplined person, obviously it’s a little bit inspiring, but it makes us a little bit more likely to follow that person, who they are. So discipline definitely shows up. If I have off-camera discipline where nobody’s looking, it shows up in my behavior and other people can almost feel it.

Brett McKay: Okay, so that’s basically it comes down to keep a schedule, manage your money right, keep your house clean, make your bed like Jordan Peterson says, that’s stuff you do.

Chase Hughes: Yeah. And I say discipline is… I define discipline as the ability to prioritize the needs of your future self ahead of your own, so I am taking care of Chase tomorrow, and I’m prioritizing his needs over my own, so think of all the people or all the times, like when I was in college, you’d stay up all night and you know you have exams tomorrow, you stay up all night drinking or whatever. And you wake up the next day and you’re like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I did that.” And you’re mad at your past tense self because you didn’t have concern for your future self. So if you wanna start cultivating discipline in your life, start with small, little things, and just my advice is always to become your own butler, and this is… Wouldn’t it be great if you could wake up and everything was ready for you? Like you got up out of bed and your clothes are all laid out for the next day, and everything’s there? So, you are your own butler, your past tense self did all of that for you, because they put your concerns ahead of their own. And then I continue to do this, and I’ll be in the kitchen with my wife, Michelle, and I’ll be sticking… It’s night time, right?

And I’m about to go to bed, and I’ll be sticking one of those little Keurig Coffee Cup pods into the coffee maker and sticking a coffee mug there, ready for the next morning. And out loud, I’ll say, “Man, Chase is gonna love this.” So I will continuously speak about my future self in a way that I am prioritizing his needs and I will talk about him in the future, and just getting a relationship to where you’re looking forward in time with concern and getting to the point where you’re looking backward in time at your past tense self with gratitude.

Brett McKay: All right, so developing discipline that’s gonna make you naturally appear more competent and composed to other people. And I think also what it’ll do too as you do these things of being your own butler, working out, sticking to a schedule, managing your finances, that’s also gonna give you confidence, which is gonna just super charge that factor as well.

Chase Hughes: That is… Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So true, and I think all these things do feed into each other. I’m glad you brought that up.

Brett McKay: Yeah. All right, so that’s discipline. What about leadership? What do you mean by leadership?

Chase Hughes: My definition when I do trainings on leadership is that leadership is having possession of innate, like non-acting behaviors, your normal behavior produces following behavior in other people on its own. So what this means is, if I’m in another culture where I don’t speak the language, they would still follow some of my behaviors, I would still be effective to some degree as a leader because of how I behave and how I act. And I think if your behavior is producing what I call followership on its own, this means that you most likely have off-camera leadership. You’re not one person at work who’s all organized and everything, and you go back to your house and your bathroom counter is just covered in crap, you’ve got piles of laundry and dishes and stuff like that, but then when you go to work, everyone thinks that you’re really well put together. That would more likely be the person in charge and not the leader, ’cause those are two very, very different things.

Brett McKay: Okay, so the way you develop leadership is you work on that discipline, work on that confidence. So the next factor is gratitude. Why does gratitude contribute to our perception of authority?

Chase Hughes: So, if you look at the people that we naturally follow, that people talk about a lot, and the people that… One of the people that if I’m giving training on leadership, 100% chance, there’s gonna be a video of Andy Griffith on the screen. I believe that… And this came to me from one of my commanders on deployment, if you screwed up on this deployment in the Middle East, he had every box set of the Andy Griffith show, of every episode, and you had to pick a random season and a random episode and watch that episode, and write a paper on how you learned a lesson to fix how you screwed up as a leader from that one episode. And the insane thing was, in every episode, there was something that applied to a leadership mistake, a leadership lesson. And one of those people, like if you look at people like Andy Griffith or Bill Clinton or the people that we just naturally gravitate towards as mentors, as leaders, they all have a look of gratitude on their face, you can see that while you’re communicating with these people.

And I think gratitude has a very distinct way of showing itself in human behavior and on our face that other people don’t consciously perceive, they’re not saying, “Oh, that’s a very grateful person,” they just unconsciously perceive that level of gratitude and it helps us to be more likely to follow a person’s behavior. And I always teach that there’s the two types of gratitude, if you just practice this regularly, and you don’t have to go to Michael’s and build a crafty little gratitude journal or anything like that, but just low level and then high level gratitude. So if you’re eating a taco at Taco Bell, you’re grateful for the employees that put it all together for you, but you’re also grateful for the farmer who’s supporting his family somewhere in the world, who grew the lettuce that’s in your taco. So it’s like you’re zooming in on gratitude and then zoom all the way out, like on Google Earth, to where you can see the entire picture.

Brett McKay: No, I think we’ve all encountered leaders who have that, who display gratitude to you. You’ll go to the ends of the Earth for that person. Sometimes there’s leaders who will… They’ll bark at you and just get results, and in the short term, that might work. But they’re not gonna have that long-lasting influence because they didn’t cultivate that gratitude.

Chase Hughes: So, so true. Yeah.

Brett McKay: And it’s funny you mentioned Andy Griffith. That’s a great… I’m gonna look into that more, about Andy Griffith as an example of authority and influence. Wasn’t that… He only has one gun, it’s got one bullet and it’s locked up, but he’s able to manage the town with just that?

Chase Hughes: No, Barney carries the gun. Andy never does.

Brett McKay: Okay. Andy never does, right. He gave it to Barney, yeah.

Chase Hughes: He carries Barney’s bullet in his pocket.

Brett McKay: Yeah, that’s right, that’s right.

Chase Hughes: And somebody asked him one time, they said, “Sheriff Taylor, why is it that you don’t carry a gun?” And he said, “Well, a lot of people respect me around here, and if I started carrying a gun, I’d be worried that some of that respect might be fear, and I might be confusing the two.” And it’s just… Man, the show is just such a good master class in leadership.

Brett McKay: And it’s funny, it’s super funny.

Chase Hughes: Yeah, it’s great.

Brett McKay: It’s a good… Yeah. There’s this barbershop I went to, they actually set up an old black and white TV, and they somehow fixed it, so where they put in a Amazon Fire Stick, and they’d stream Andy Griffith’s shows. And so you’re just sitting there to get your hair cut in an old-time barbershop, watching Andy Griffith, and just remember laughing out loud at Barney and his shenanigans.

Chase Hughes: If I’m ever out in your town, I wanna go there. That sounds awesome.

Brett McKay: Yeah, it’s cool. All right, so that’s gratitude. Enjoyment is that fifth factor. What do you mean by that?

Chase Hughes: Yeah. This is just a… It’s super simple, it’s just a person’s level of in-the-moment enjoyment. If you look at people that we nationally, culturally view as the natural leaders of the world, and then just imagine one of them taking their garbage out, or imagine one of them mowing their yard, or imagine one of them just doing a mundane task, you’d still imagine them with a tiny, tiny smile on their face, even if it’s faint. And we all have this ability to detect another person’s level of enjoyment, and I think it’s the most magnetic human trait that draws people in. And if we are able to stay in some kind of what I call calm enjoyment in my training, it’s just, I have the ability to just calmly enjoy these mundane tasks, that I think is the cornerstone of getting started as a leader, is being able to live in this calm enjoyment.

Brett McKay: Yeah, that makes sense. I think no one likes to be around a negative Nelly, we’re attracted to the guy who seems like he’s having a good time.

Chase Hughes: Always, yeah.

Brett McKay: So yeah, so we develop confidence, we develop discipline, we focus on developing our leadership, our gratitude, and just learning how to enjoy even the smallest of things. As we do this, we’ll naturally start displaying behaviors that will tell people that we have influence, we have authority.

Chase Hughes: Yes.

Brett McKay: Yeah, so we’ll start moving differently, we’ll start talking differently, maybe we even start dressing differently, correct?

Chase Hughes: Yes, and I think some of those we’ll do deliberately, but over time, if we’re practicing measuring ourselves every day on confidence, discipline, leadership, gratitude, enjoyment, and then finally, composure, over time, all those cool behaviors that you read about in articles and stuff like that, those become a by-product of your new psychology, your new mindset of having authority in your life, and then it’s not… You’re not faking it because we are all manufacturing gut feelings in people every single conversation that we have. And if I wanna manufacture good gut feelings in other people, then that stuff needs to be real. So I’m always asking the question, “What can I do to make this a by-product of everything?” If I wanted authority, how do I make authority a by-product? And that’s by just monitoring that stuff every day. You don’t have to be judgmental of yourself, but just getting your lower brain aware of the stuff to begin with, and dragging that stuff out into the light, ’cause most people don’t really wanna think about it. We’re dragging it into the light and getting the brain super aware of it, and it speeds up that development so fast.

Brett McKay: And then if you wanna start implementing consciously some of these body language or social skills you read about, as you do the inner work, the stuff you start actually consciously doing will actually have more effect, likely.

Chase Hughes: So true, yeah. So as an example, a client of mine had trouble with posture and when people have anxiety, we want to… Our bellies are really soft, right? So when we talk about body language, somebody gets fearful, one of the things that happens with the body is the rib cage comes downward to protect all these soft organs that are in our belly, which makes our posture bad. So one client of mine had this issue and I put this kind of a kinesiology tape, like a physical therapist would use this stuff called KT tape, and it’s just kind of like a two-foot strip of like, I would say like mesh kind of tape made for the body. And I would stick it on his back in an X pattern in a way that if he started slouching, it would stretch the skin, and it would instantly… It’s not painful or uncomfortable, but it instantly brings awareness to the fact that he’s slouching. So, little tricks like that. How can I remind myself regularly to be in composure and to be confident? And just as a quick tip, how can I do this even in the car when nobody’s looking? Adjust your rear view mirror in your car for next time you drive to where you have to sit up really straight to see out of your back window. So just angle it up just a little bit to remind you every time you look in that rear-view mirror, to sit up straight. Just small little things on a daily basis like that to start correcting those non-verbal behaviors does go a long way, for sure.

Brett McKay: And again, I wanna circle back, the reason why we’re doing all this stuff, developing our authority, it just makes being influential and makes the social component of our lives just… It’ll get you 90% there, whether you’re interacting with women or making a sales pitch, or your leadership position at work, just developing that inner authority will get you 90% of your influence.

Chase Hughes: Absolutely. And it just makes your life better, just being able to just relax, ’cause a lot of people are living off-camera differently than they are on camera, and the moment that those two things start blending together and you’re like you can walk into work and know that the person I am here at work, when I’m in charge of these employees or whatever, is the same person I am at home, everything changes.

Brett McKay: In the books and in some of your interviews that I listened to preparing for our conversation, you talked about some authority killers. What are some authority killers? What are the most common ones you see in the people you work with?

Chase Hughes: I’ll give you a few here. I think number one is rapid body movement. And as a body language expert, there’s one thing that fear makes our bodies do, is protecting arteries, but it makes our bodies speed up, our head movement, our speech, our gestures, all of that speeds up, which is why I think that slowing down our bodies is one of the fastest ways to re-train the body to be more in composure. And complaining, I think, is one of the big ones. When we hear somebody complaining, we subconsciously make an agreement that they’re probably not a leader, and I will not claim to have any neuroscience to back this up, but think about the last time you heard somebody complaining. There’s something that goes on in the subconscious that says, “Wait, why was I paying attention to this person?” It automatically usurps some of the authority. But I would say overall, the biggest mistake that most people make is allowing the outside environment to determine who they are as a person and how they identify themselves. So starting to just internalize their own feelings and not determine who they are based on how people react. So like, “I need X, Y, and Z to feel good about myself,” that’s one of the biggest.

Brett McKay: Yeah. There’s a, I guess, in family psychology, family therapy, they call it differentiation, you wanna be well differentiated, so it’s like your self isn’t dependent on the emotions and feelings of other people. And it’s a hard thing to get… It’s a continual thing you have to work on all the time.

Chase Hughes: I do too. I mean, I don’t know if you go through this, but we’re about to hit a million subscribers on YouTube, and I’ll go through there and I’ll read a negative comment, and I will sometimes have a visceral reaction to it, like my heart rate will go up. And I was watching Eddie Murphy on an old interview, and somebody said, “Oh, you have a new movie coming out,” I think it was Jay Leno, and he said, “Oh, the reviews are great.” And Eddie said, “Oh, I don’t read those reviews,” and he said, “No, but they’re really good.” And he said, “Yeah, but if you believe the good ones, that means you’re going to believe the bad ones too.”

Brett McKay: [chuckle] Right, yeah, exactly. And it doesn’t get easier. Never does. So we’ve been talking about how we can develop our own charisma, authority, so that we can be more influential with others. What can we do to avoid being lulled into the charisma authority of potential bad actors? Like someone trying to recruit us to a cult or MLM or manipulative boss, what can we do to be on the lookout for that, so we know, we’re like, “We gotta be careful with this person.”?

Chase Hughes: I will tell you, I published books on hardcore interrogation tactics and stuff like that, and I’m a body language expert, behavior expert, that still does not give me a vaccine against being immune to that stuff. And when it comes to the charisma and authority, you’re not gonna really vaccinate yourself against it, but I would say the more that you learn about how the brain works and how it reacts to authority, and just learn a little bit about the psychological aspect of it, like the bystander effect and the Milgram Experiment, and there’s another experiment called The smoke-filled room where just a person sits because other people do in a room that’s filling up with smoke. And the smoke alarms are going off, they’ll just sit there because other people are sitting there, which are paid actors for the experiment. But in the last experiment they did, the percentage of people that stayed in the room long enough to die was 100%. 100%, just because 11 people stayed in the room and they didn’t leave, they didn’t care about the smoke, so that person stayed because the other people did. So, just understanding those little psychological principles can help you break away because it’s in your conscious awareness, and now it’s not unconscious. You’re taking the unconscious responses and making them very conscious.

And the final thing I would say is, pay very close attention to how you feel in that person’s absence. So if you’re around somebody and you’re like, “Wow, this is an incredible leader,” or “We’ve got an incredible connection and I can’t believe how awesome this person makes me feel,” if the positive feelings go away when you’re away from that person, something is off. You should still feel good about that interaction, it shouldn’t be like you need that drug again, because that person was probably using manipulative tactics on you, so they pumped you up with a lot of neurotransmitters, then you go away and those chemicals wear off ’cause it wasn’t emotional, it was chemical. They gave you a chemical high instead of this emotional feeling of actually feeling good. So pay attention, when that conversation ends with that person, do I still feel good about it? Do I still feel good? And if it’s not good, that might be a red flag.

Brett McKay: Well, Chase, this has been a great conversation. We’ve literally scratched the surface of your work. Where can people go to learn more about what you do?

Chase Hughes: You can just type “Chase Hughes” into the App Store, or you can check us out on YouTube. I’ve got pretty growing YouTube channel and we’ve got another channel with a few other guys that we profile human behavior, called The Behavior Panel, and it’s the most fun time of my week, for sure.

Brett McKay: Fantastic. Well, Chase Hughes, thanks for your time, it’s been a pleasure.

Chase Hughes: Brett, thanks, man.

Brett McKay: My guest today was Chase Hughes. He’s the author of several books on behavior, including The Ellipsis Manual, it’s available on Also, check out his website at where you can find more information about his work, including his course on authority. Also check out our show notes at, where you can find links to resources where we can delve deeper in this topic, including links to Chase’s Authority Self-assessment Matrix and his 34 Behaviors That Will Kill Your Authority.

Well, that wraps up another edition of the AOM Podcast. Make sure to check out our website at, where you can find our podcast archives, as well as thousands of articles written over the years about pretty much anything you think of. And if you’d like to enjoy ad-free episodes of the AOM Podcast, you can do so on Stitcher Premium. Head over to, sign up, use code “manliness” at checkout for a free month trial. Once you’re signed up, download the Stitcher app on Android, iOS, and you can start enjoying ad-free episodes of the AOM Podcast. And if you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate it if you take one minute to give us a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify. Helps out a lot. And if you’ve done that already, thank you. Please consider sharing the show with a friend or family member who you think will get something out of it. As always, thank you for the continued support. Until next time, it’s Brett Mckay reminding you to not only listen to the AOM Podcast, but put what you’ve heard into action.

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