Friday, January 28, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 49: Leadership and Contempt

Vladimir Putin, Russia's Prime Minister and former President, is displaying a great example of contempt. Although at this particular moment it is subtle, his expression is very consistent with what Vladimir is experiencing emotionally at the moment of this photograph. Any emotional tell can be very fleeting. A microexpression of contempt, or any other emotion, lasts for less than 0.5 seconds and as little as 0.04 seconds. Notice how the right side of Mr. Putin's mouth is upturned. Although sometimes mistaken for a partial smile, this is a classic display of subtle contempt. His mid-face is tightened as well, particular the "mustache area" and the upper lip is mildly raised. There is also subtle nostril flaring.

The Prime Minister's body is also leaning away from the person of contempt. This is a common co-existing sign of contempt that is rarely discussed - it would be extremely rare to see a forward lean with simultaneous contempt.

Vladimir's head is turned away from the person to whom he's looking. We turn away from people we don't like, don't respect or don't trust. Since Mr. Putin holds an advanced belt in Judo and is former Directorate of the KGB- this is not a good sign for whom ever the Prime Minister is looking.

Contempt is a very specific and negative emotional state. It is similar to disgust, but it is only directed at a person or group of people.  When you feel contempt toward another person(s), you are metaphorically placing another person or group beneath you. You believe them to be inferior to you. Contempt is often not expressed openly - particularly if it is subtle - thus it is a fantastic tell in politics, business or personal relationships. Fascinatingly, contempt is also the most reliable sign of relationship failure.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Flirting and Romance Secret # 12: Being a Sexual Being

Elisabetta Canalis's thumbs are hooked in her front hip pockets with the rest of her hands outside and pointed forward.  This is a highly characteristic sexual presentation "Emblem". Like most nonverbals, this gesture is rarely fully conscious, but when you see it, the person wants to be perceived, in that moment, primarily as a sexual being. Ms. Canalis is putting herself on display here in a straightforward manner.  Although more commonly displayed in men, alpha females will certainly use this signal as well. Intriguingly, chimpanzees will also use this same sign in the context of active sexually behavior - and thus this is another great example of the cross-species nature and prevalence of Body Language. If Elisabeth's fingers were extended rather than curled-up, such would be an even more overt sexual display. In addition, Ms. Canalis's feet are relatively close together, which also is less provocative. It is extremely common that many people, who are otherwise learned and socially skilled, cannot tell when another is attracted to them. Can you say "Game Changer"?


Monday, January 24, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 43: Crossed Arms with a Blocking Prop

Ashley Greene, one of the stars of the Twilight Movies, is seen here after leaving the E! studio.  She had just made an appearance on Chelsea Lately. Ms. Green demonstrates two common examples consistent with defensive, nervous and low-confidence behavior. Arm crossing covering the chest is a classic tell of these emotions, and with Ms. Greene's somewhat lower crossed arms shielding her upper abdomen, indicates these same feelings - although less so. Generally speaking - the higher the crossing, the more extreme these emotions.

In addition, when a purse, briefcase, book, etc. - a "prop" - is held in front of the body, it acts as a supplemental blocker and thus is indicative of, as well as fostering this low-confidence, nervous and defensive mindset. This does not mean that these emotions are prevalent parts of Ashley's personality. On the contrary, a fundamental premise of Body Language - is that what we see is indicative of what the real-time nature of a person's emotional tone is - objectively. Therefor, the moment to moment flux of the body and face are barometers for what is going on emotionally in a person's brain - at that moment. Thus there is simply no substitute for knowing the nuances of nonverbal communication, and being able to spot them, during conversations and negotiations. Those who lack this skill will suffer lost time, money and relationships.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 91: MAPs by Proxy

Richard Vargo, Gulf of Mexico Regional Manager for cementing at Halliburton is pictured here testifying before the National Commission on BP's Deepwater Horizon oil explosion and subsequent disaster. An adjustment of the glasses (without removal) is the equivalent of a manipulator, adaptor or pacifier ("MAPs). This should not be confused with taking off the glasses, cleaning them or chewing on the frames - these acts have different meanings. MAPs are signs of increased anxiety which are easily and most times subliminally transmitted to others. No doubt, Mr. Vargo is unaware of this tell, as most would be in his shoes, for it primarily occurs subconsciously or at the edge of consciousness. In some contexts, particularly if there is a sudden increase in frequency, MAPs can be a sign of deception.

We self touch during times of increased stress in order to calm ourselves. Such behavior is a cross-cultural and ubiquitous. Interestingly, in some individuals and circumstances, such action may set up a feed-back loop and result in a higher baseline level of anxiety. The next time you testify before congress, try your best not to self touch or even adjust your glasses.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2134:
A Watershed Body Language Moment:
Nixon - Kennedy Debates 1960

Fifty years ago, John Kennedy was inaugurated as the 35th President of the United States. On January 20, 1961, he gave what many historians would consider one of the greatest speeches of the 20th Century and it is the moment, in large measure, when the decade truly began. It's exceedingly valuable to review some of the differences between how Richard Nixon and John Kennedy presented themselves during their first Presidential Debate. It was one of those rare moments that history pivoted on - and people knew this even as they were watching it.

The Nixon-Kennedy Debates were the first U.S. Presidential Debates in over a century and they would be the last until Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter met in 1976 - but they've been a staple in the American political process ever since. A little known fact - is that the first time Kennedy and Nixon debated was in 1947. They were both freshman congressman and in McKeesport, Pennsylvania they debated "The Taft-Hartley Act". The two men considered themselves friends and even shared a room on the Capitol Limited (a train line) that night on their way back to D.C.

The first of the four 1960 Presidential debates took place on the night of September 26, 1960 in Chicago - but a significant event occurred several weeks before in North Carolina. Richard Nixon had severely injured his knee there and he had to take two weeks off from campaigning. He recuperated in Walter Reed Medical Center and his infected knee received antibiotic injections while he grew understandably frustrated. He lost weight. Mr. Nixon still looked sick and run down on the night of the debate. While putting in long hours trying to make up for lost campaigning time, and only hours before the event, he re-injured his knee and thus was in a good deal of pain while on camera.  

The temperature of the studio that night was warmer than most would find comfortable. This coupled with Nixon's knee pain, caused him to perspire noticeably during this first ever televised U.S. Presidential Debate. He was seen blotting his face with a handkerchief several times that night. Richard Nixon didn't freshly shave for this evening event, and while he refused to use stage make-up, he did use a product called "Lazy Shave" which was supposed to hide his stubble. But it only served to make his sweat more noticeable.

During the first debate, Nixon wore a suit jacket that was close to the same color as the stage background. Subsequently, he blended-in and was physically, poorly-defined. Kennedy, on the other hand wore a dark suite which contrasted well against the background and made him strongly stand out. This "visual metaphor" gave the impression that he was more well-defined - beyond that of his physical appearance.

John Kennedy was well rested, uninjured, relaxed, tan, freshly shaved and well-prepared. He had spent many hours practicing for the debate, while Nixon was "campaign-cramming" up to the last minute. Immediately after the event, Nixon's Mother had even called him to ask if he was ill. In stark contrast, Nixon is on record writing, "I've never seen him (Kennedy) so fit."

While the radio listeners gave Nixon the slight edge in post-debate polling, they made up the distinct minority of those in the country. By that time, 88% of American homes had televisions and the Debates were watched by over 50% of Americans. Television viewers gave Kennedy the win by a landslide. They didn't vote with ears, they voted with their eyes.

There are those who doubt the significance of body language. While Kennedy won the debates convincingly, the election was one of the closest in American history. The debates made all the difference. Many historians feel that Nixon, had he been elected, would have taken the Joint Chiefs advice rather than refusing it as did Kennedy. Thus Nixon would have very likely responded with direct military force (rather than the Kennedy-directed Naval blockade) during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of '62. Most historians feel this more aggressive action would have probably precipitated a nuclear war.

The mighty doors of history swing on small hinges.

See also:


Monday, January 17, 2011

Flirting and Romance Secret # 21: The Romantic Height Ratio

Boguslaw Pawlowski, Ph.D., a Polish Anthropologist has determined that there is a golden ratio when it comes to male-female attraction as well as longevity of their relationships. Specifically, if the man is 1.09 times taller than his mate - if the woman is 0.917 of the height of her's - this is significantly predictive of the long-term stability of the relationship. In addition, when other factors were controlled for, men and women were more attracted to the opposite sex, the closer they were to these height ratios.

If you're a woman who's 5'4" (1.626 M), this means you're "perfect" match (according to Pawlowski's work) is a man who's 5'9.75" (1.772 M). When I was writing this post - the first (famous) couple that popped into my head was Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. Go figure - they were married for 50 years and their ratio works out to be 1.09!. The second famous couple I thought was Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick. They are going on 23 years of marriage and their ratio is 1.085!


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 25:
Silvio Berlusconi and the Exaggerated Pout

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's Prime Minister displays an "Exaggerated Pout" during a news conference. Depending upon the other nonverbal signals with which it is clustered, a pout can be a signal of sadness - but when you see an exaggerated pout as Mr. Berlusconi shows us (without other expressions of sadness) - this is a signal is a body language way of saying, "Isn't it obvious?" or "This should be clear to everyone". Moreover it signals that there is a disparity of what is truly being felt and that which is expressed verbally. It is often seen in conjunction with the gesture cluster of a elevated eyebrows (and contracted forehead muscles) shoulder shrug and a palms-up display. Silvio's shoulders are elevated here and his palms-up gesture completes this cluster. Many confuse the exaggerated pout for a sign of sincere consideration. Don't make this mistake.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 110: Hands Clasped in Front of Mouth

Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, commits three body language faux pas in this single photograph, which as a speaker or leader, one should never display. Whenever hands are clenched, particularly in an elevated position, the emotion of frustration present. Mr. Medvedev's down-tilted head with downcast eyes, in this context, are also highly consistent with frustration. Number three on this list is the act of covering his mouth - which is indicative of possible deception.

Dmitry is of course only human, and like the rest of us, he is much less cognizant of what his hands, face and body are doing in real-time than he should be. Becoming aware of such gestures in yourself make you more aware of these same behaviors in others. We all think we're observant, but few of us really are.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Crime Prevention & Body Language Secret # 10:
3 Killers - What Commonalities?

Above and below are the photos of three killers. Do you notice any common traits? I would call your attention to their eyes and their mouths.  They are difficult pictures for most people to look at, but there are important similarities to note. In all three their eyes don't match their mouths. While there are certain disease states that may cause the eyes to be opened wider than "normal", none of these three fit such a pattern. Eyes that are opened wider than normal for a brief moment are consistent with surprise - but surprise is the most fleeting of all emotions, lasting only for a second or two and in its full manifest, is accompanied by a wide open and rounded mouth. If surprise lasts longer than that, it has a component of insincerity.

Another emotion which has a facial expression of widely opened eyes - is fear.  The face of fear however, has a mouth pulled out to the side with tightly stretched lips and a view of the teeth - usually the bottom teeth are more visible. The neck muscles are often prominently tightened and the head is usually retracted away from the object of fear. The nostrils are prominently flared as well. None of these photos are consistent with fear.

Rage, an extreme state of anger often accompanied by violence, shares the facial characteristic of eyes which are "white and wide" as well. This level of anger has a squared-off  and open mouth with an accompanied baring of teeth and again - nostril flaring. None of the photos below demonstrate rage.

What these photos have in common is that in each case their eyes don't match their mouths - at least for any healthy or commonly seen emotion. All their mouths demonstrate smiles, while their eyes, being wider opened than normal - are consistent with an increased adrenaline state. These two findings don't match and are (fortunately) relatively rarely seen together. Whenever the body language of different parts of the face and body aren't congruent - a red flag should go up. Beware!

The top picture is Marshall Applewhite, and although he is not a murderer in the classic sense, he was the "Heaven's Gate" cult leader, who in 1997 led 39 others in a mass suicide.

The second picture (immediately below) is Jared Loughner, who was the shooter in the recent tragedy in Tucson, Arizona.

The last picture is Joseph Duncan, a convicted serial killer of at least seven people between 1996-2005.


Negotiation Secret # 101: Recognizing Subtle Sadness

New York Jets Quarterback, Mark Sanchez at the 2010 ESPY awards in Los Angeles, displays an often missed sign of sadness. Mr. Sanchez's central forehead is contracted while at the same time his peripheral forehead is relaxed. If you look carefully, there are subtle beginnings of and "upside-down" horseshoe shaped furrow forming on the inside corner of his left eyebrow. In it's more pronounced form - a full horseshoe is common. These are highly characteristic of sadness and very difficult to make voluntarily.

In addition, Mark's left inner eyebrow is upturned - and although his right eyebrow is not similarly changed, this partial expression tells us that the emotion of sadness is either subtle, just beginning or being partially suppressed. Whenever the inner eyebrow is upturned - think sadness. 

Another subtle signal of sadness seen here, is Mr. Sanchez's mouth is slightly down-turned at the corners.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Grief and Hope in Tuscon

I wish to express my deepest condolences to all the families of the victims of the violent event which occurred in Tucson on Saturday, January 8, 2011.  May all those who have been injured heal quickly and completely. May the lives of those who have died before their time inspire us.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 24: Fear and Duff in South Central L.A.

Hilary Duff exemplifies a mild to moderate level of fear in this photograph. She's participating in the "Blessings in a Backpack" food program in South Central Los Angeles. One very classic display of fear is the eyelids are opened wider than normal. I call this characteristic appearance - "white and wide". Ms. Duff's eyes are open moderately wide here. Her eye brows are also elevated - and although not extreme here, this is also consistent with a mild to moderate fear. Her mouth is stretched to the sides with an accompanying display of both her upper and lower teeth. The display of the lower teeth is particularly characteristic with fear. 

While certainly not extreme, Hilary's neck muscles' are tightened - again consistent with mild to moderate fear. Another often overlooked and very common signal of fear (although it can be seen with other emotions) is when the head is retracted away from the object/subject of fear. Ms. Duff demonstrates this signal as well.

Although we don't know what Hilary Duff is fearful of, we are certain that for a moment at least, Ms. Duff is in fear of something or someone. It is possible that this photo captured a microexpression of fear. Microexpressions are facial expressions of emotion which are not initiated by the conscious mind and appear for less than 0.5 seconds and as little as 0.04 seconds. The microexpression of fear is very common. Only about 1 in 300 people have the ability/gift of sensing microexpressions naturally, but virtually everyone can be taught to see them. The ability to detect microexpressions is without question an extremely valuable skill in any kind of negotiation, in the court room, in the board room or any kind of high-stakes interaction.  How many microexpressions have you missed just today? - hundreds!


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 18: Pointing

If you're a leader, parent, attorney, teacher, physician, etc. - you are damaging your rapport and reputation if you point with your index finger.  Siemens President and Chief Executive Officer, Peter Loescher, is shown here at a news conference in Munich.  As I type this, I'm watching another news conference where the leader is pointing in this same manner.  Regardless of the personality, position or demeanor of the the speaker - pointing with the index finger is always and negatively received by the audience.

If you have to point, point with the whole hand, palm upwards with your fingers loose and open.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 34: Chin Touching

Russian Renault F1 pilot Vitaly Petrov is pictured here during a press conference. Chin touching is indicative of true thought and consideration.

If you see the judge or jury displaying this particular gesture, you may very well being going down the right track - this in NOT the time to pull out your "Plan B".


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sincerity Secret # 18: Contrasting Smiles

Mark Wahlberg is seen here with a marine at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan. This photo provides a great illustration in contrasting smiles. The female marine standing next to Mr. Wahlberg, is wearing a moderate sincere smile, her top teeth are exposed (while her bottom teeth aren't) and her eyes are partially closed. We cannot see her forehead, but there is a very high probability it is relaxed.

Mr. Wahlberg is looking into the sunlight, and while his degree of eyelid closure is consistent with a sincere smile, he's squinting actively, using his inner eyelid muscles - rather than the secondary closure we see with the "bunching up" of outer eyelid muscles. Mr. Wahlberg's respect for the marines and his sincerity is not in question - he visited Afghanistan of his own accord - and this particular expression we see on his face is a reaction to the bright sunlight. It is however, identical to forced smiles which we often see when there is no bright light present - sunlight or otherwise.  His nostrils are dilated and his mid-forehead is contracted. His mid-face is also significantly tightened. All of these qualities are highly consistent with the emotion of disgust. Yet we see this type of false smile exhibited many times every day.  Do you see sincerity where there is none?


Monday, January 3, 2011

Nonverbal Communication - Negotiation Secret No. 30: Lip Biting - Gabe Watson

This is Gabe Watson in the waning minutes of the Arizona Cardinals-Dallas Cowboys Football game in Glendale, Arizona on Christmas Day, 2010. His team, the Cardinals, won the game 27-26. He's looking up - probably looking at the scoreboard or perhaps at a recent replay. In this context (but certainly not all), lip biting indicates vulnerability and anxiety. This expression is often present, but rarely "seen" in the context of business, law, medicine, politics, etc. When you see this, don't dismiss it. It should be a red flag - dig deeper.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 42: Brees' Bitter Smile After Disappointment

Drew Brees sports a "Bitter Smile" just after the New Orleans Saints' loss to the Baltimore Ravens on December 19, 2010. Unbelievably, the vast majority of people believe they are truly smiling when they wear this facial expression. Here, we know it's context - so it's easy to be the Monday morning quarterback. But this facial expression is often seen in other contexts where its meaning is not so "black and white". It is commonly seen in business and in social settings and its meaning and ramifications are almost always unobserved, misinterpreted or dismissed. 


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Leadership Secret # 52: Keeping MAPs to a Minimum

Here, Palestinian President Mamoud Abbas is attending a Christmas Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. It's a safe bet that he went there with pure motives. It's also obvious that he's in an emotional state of considerably increased anxiety. 

It's paramount for a leader to never rub, massage, scratch, touch, etc. any body part - particularly their head, face or neck. Self-touching belongs to a general group of body language gestures which are known as "Manipulators", "Adaptors" or "Pacifiers" (MAPs). In general, they are a sign of increased anxiety that is easy "felt" by others. The leader/speaker is often very unaware they are transmitting this anxiety.  In some settings (but this is NOT an example), and increase in MAPs - particularly to the face - is associated with deception-related anxiety.

Although we often self-touch in order to calm ourselves in moments of stress - the act of displaying a MAP can paradoxically set up a positive feed-back loop and produce even more anxiety.  It's a difficult act to curtail and even the most experienced will slip into this all-to-human default.  Mr. Abbas has many years of public appearances and yet he commits this leadership faux pas. If you want to be confident and project confidence, keeping MAPs to an absolute minimum is a must. How often do you send these messages of anxiety? 

Are you sure?