Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Negotiation Secret #191:
Another Indicator of a True Smile

Is Natalie Portman offering up a sincere smile here, or is she giving us a good social smile? One way to tell is the speed of onset and how quickly it fades. A sincere, felt smile begins and departs slower, while an insincere and social smiles tend to have a significantly quicker onset and are similarly fast to disappear. Of course, this is a still image, so we cannot use this method here. In the real world though, this dynamic is a reliable method to help detect sincerity.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Body Language Secret # 509: Threat Assessment
On the Basis of Body Language Alone

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, if you had worked Threat Assessment at Boston's Logan International Airport, would you have suspected Mohamed Atta as a potential threat - not on the basis of his ethnicity or his name – but on the his Body Language Alone? Although this photo was from his Florida driver's license, what are some negative emotional cues evidenced in this image - regarding his head position? What about his jaw? What characteristics of his mid-face are sending a warning? What about Atta's Lips? His nostrils? What are the significance of his eyelids positions, particularly his left eyelid? If you're interested in knowing more, please email me at


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 391: Pursed Lips May Sink Ships

This is the current President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. In this image he displays a very subtle example of Lip Pursing. Most episodes of pursed lips are easier to spot, and they are all usually very evanescent. Lip pursing is a sign of disagreement with what is being seen and/or heard - and it is a very reliable sign that an alternative plan is held or being considered. Interestingly, it usually is made in the context of authority and confidence. It also is a signal that the person who bears this expression is intent on taking action and has the means to do so. Their plan, at least in some significant part, will be implemented - and often often clandestinely. If you see this, do not dismiss it - for it may be your only warning.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Body Language Secret # 309: Road Rage and Self-Awareness

When we drive our vehicles become extensions of our bodies. We become very territorial and protective in a manner that later surprises us. Rarely are we aware or even remotely objective of these emotion when they are happening. The next time another driver cuts you off, resist the temptation to look over as you pass him/her. In times past when you have done so, even for a split-second, this simple physical act dialed-up your blood pressure, your pulse, your adrenaline and your tendency to rationalize. Not doing so adjusts all these important emotional modifiers in a healthy and opposite direction. Being fully mindful of these physiologic propensities we all have, will allow us to control them in real-time, or even as these negative emotions are in crescendo. A tremendous, but rarely mentioned benefit of body language is this heightened emotional awareness and thus less anger and its many negative consequences.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Body Language and Advertising Secret #101:
Contempt doesn't Sell

Advertising 101: Associate your product or service with positive emotions.

Abercrombie & Fitch will pay Mike Sorrentino, aka "The Situation" and the other members of "The Jersey Shore" to NOT wear their clothes. A&F says they're concerned about the association their customers and potential customers may make with Sorentino, et al. Most all advertising is made with "Friendly-Beta" personalities - NOT "Arrogant, over-the-top Alpha" personalities. While there are exceptions to this rule, they are rare. Mr. Sorrentino somehow has come to believe the contempt, his face so often expresses, is somehow attractive and makes him desirable. Abercrombie & Fitch wants to disassociate themselves from "The Jersey Shore", and I'm only surprised that they waited so long to do so.

Contempt is an incredibly negative and destructive emotion. At its fundamental root, it involves the belief that another person or group of people is inferior. At the University of Washington, Dr. John Gottman has found it is THE most predictive indicator of relationship failure. Incredibly, the recipient of contempt is also subjected to significantly increased rates of infections and illnesses. 

Contempt is characterized by a unilateral mid-face tightening. A classic one-sided nostril flaring/dilation is also seen with a snarled/elevated upper lip. There is often forehead tightening and while this contracture may involve its entire width, it very often involves just the central forehead (which indicates a greater level of contempt). It is extremely common for the head to tilt away, rotate away and retract away from the person(s) of contempt. All of these head movements, in particular the tilting, give rise to the familiar "upturned nose" which is so characteristic for this emotion. Also classic for contempt is a (largely unilateral) wrinkling of the nose.

Contempt, like all emotions, may be expressed very quickly (less than 0.5 seconds) in a  microexpression (Ekman). It also may be displayed in a very subtle fashion. While both of these displays are difficult to recognize, almost everyone can be trained to spot them. Not being able to spot contempt can very literally be hazardous to your job, your health and your marriage. Are you missing this emotional display?


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Body Language Secret # 323:
Her Body Language Matches Her Words

Eva Mendes never gets enough credit. Sure she's gorgeous - and she certainly gets attention for her looks. But she's also incredible at matching her Nonverbal signals to her words and the overall dynamics of the scene and script. For being a good or great actor/actress is non just about delivering on a few words. Anyone can memorize and then speak a line. But to deliver it with just the right tone, volume, crescendo/decrescendo, pitch etc., not too many get right. And then add on Body Language - very few actors can combine all with consistency. I believe when we say, "She's a great actress" - what we really mean, is that she made me feel like I was there/she was REALLY the person on the screen/I forgot I was watching a movie, etc. Another way the pros say this is, she "suspended my disbelief". Well, you can't really suspend people's disbelief without pulling off the Body Language equation to the acting formula. Hats off to Ms. Mendes and so many other actors and actresses who, perhaps get attention for their attractiveness, rather than their acting. Thank you Eva.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 289: Varying Levels of Confidence

There are two body language signals displayed in above photo taken at the recent Iowa Debates which convey lower confidence levels. Can you spot them? There is another signal that is very negatively received - in particular when used by a political figure. Who is using this?


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Leadership Secret # 231: Who is His PR Agent?

The cropped photo displayed above belongs to the face of a major public official. Believe it or not, this is his official public photograph. What specific emotion does this indicate? I wonder who his PR agent is, because this is one of the last expressions you would want any leader to wear. I recently randomly poled 25 people, and all 25, while not all were very specific, they all gave me negative emotional descriptors. It never ceases to amaze me how many otherwise successful people - are completely unaware when they are expressing subtle or even moderately negative emotional signals. 

Who is able to read your emotional expressions? What tells are you giving away? Who screens your photos?


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 187: How NOT to Shake Hands

While Mitt Romney enjoys national front-runner status (or nearly so depending on the pole) in the race for the Republican nomination for the 2012 U.S. Presidency, here at the recent Iowa State Fair he defaults to a old-style political mistake. His primary error (but not the only one shown in this image), is his gripping of the left upper arm/shoulder of this potential voter. This is virtually always negatively received. It is an example of an excessive display of dominance and alpha behavior. In some settings it implies friendship-intimacy where none exists. Both are emotionally-inappropriate here and not in Mitt's best interest. Similar maneuvers are gripping the left elbow or the double-handed (sandwiched) handshake. While he certainly wants to seem "presidential", this is not the way to accomplish it. When attempting to build rapport, the "little things" add up quickly. While others may not be able to list the reasons they feel uncomfortable vs. comfortable, their subconscious will quickly integrate what is seen and felt - and will leave them with an accurate gist. What emotions are you projecting?


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sincerity Secret # 121:
Are You as Sincere as Pippa Middleton?

Why is Pippa Middleton so popular? Well, she's gorgeous, her sister is The Duchess of Cambridge and she just received some worldwide press coverage as her maid-of-honor. But I would content that her level of extreme sincerity is also one of the reasons. Why are some people thought of as sincere and some are not? Perhaps the most important answer to this question is that their Body Language is highly congruent with their words and their behavior. When there is disparity between the two - people are left with an strong feeling of insincerity. Sincerity detection is similar to lie detection, but it casts a broader net. Those who are insincere, will eventually lie to you - probably sooner than later, and probably often as well. Can you detect sincerity? Do you project this magical quality? On a scale of one to ten, how would your co-workers rate your sincerity? Your spouse? Your Children? I'm amazed this isn't spoken about more often - for it is absolutely one of the most important qualities a person can have - and detect.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 116: Two Types of Smiles
Which One is Sincere?

Here are two actors from one of the best television dramas ever. The West Wing received three Golden Globes and 27 Emmy awards including Outstanding Drama Series which it won in four consecutive years. Bradley Whitford played the Deputy Chief-of-Staff, Josh Lyman and Janel Moloney played his senior assistant, Donna Moss. They are both incredibly fantastic actors, however this photo shows one of them with a sincere smile and one with an insincere, (but certainly better than most people's) "Social Smile". Which one is sincere? Are you sure? The fact both that excellent professional actors find it difficult to always smile on-demand, underscores the validity and value of body language.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Nonverbal Communication Negotiation Secret # 323:
I am Not a Crook!

It never ceases to amaze me just how many alpha personalities cross their arms in front of their chests' and believe they are projecting power, confidence, assertiveness or some other positive attribute(s). Attorneys do it in court, physicians do so with their patients, CEOs routinely pose this way on magazine covers and sometimes (although it is increasingly rare) even heads of state do it. The above video is the famous moment when U.S. President Richard Nixon said, "...Well, I am not a Crook..." and afterwards he took a step back and slightly to his left, then he crossed his arms tightly. I can think of no better example of this "dis-behavior" than Richard Nixon displayed here. Today is the 37th anniversary of his resignation - perhaps a good time to revisit this moment in history and this dramatically overused, misunderstood and telling body language signal.

The act of stepping backwards (even if it were done without the arm-crossing) in this context, is a strong body nonverbal tell of defensiveness.

When people cross their arms across their chest, defensiveness-insecurity and closed mindedness are the most common emotional tones. There may be, of course, other emotions overlapping too. When clenched fists are seen there may also be and anger-hostility component present. Tightly clenched fists may very well be an indicator of an impending violent act. Tucked fingers may indicate a more pure emotional state of insecurity. While a arms crossed with fingers & hands gripping the opposite biceps may indicate an anger-insecurity mix. And although not fully visible, this last variation is what Richard Nixon appears to have been using in the above video.

The obvious exception to the above examples is someone who is cold - people will decrease their surface area by crossing their arms - and often in this setting they with ball up their fists or put their hands under their opposite armpits. This is often very obvious and is usually accompanied by an elevation of the shoulders, foreshortening of the neck and bending of the neck so that the chin covers the neck.

What other tells does Richard Nixon show display?


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 454:
Controlling a Negative Emotional Soup

In the above video, one of my favorite actors, Matt Damon gives us several beautiful demonstrations of an "Inward Lip Roll". Here he was attending the recent 2011 "Save Our Schools" March in Washington D.C. The inward lip roll is a sign of increased anxiety and stress - and it very often has a component of anger within it. The lips are, of course, an extremely sensitive tissue. Touching one or both with the hand/fingers, tongue, teeth or other lip is an example of a manipulator/adaptor/pacifier (MAP). We display MAPs during times of increased anxiety. It is helpful to think of the inward lip roll as an attempt to control a negative emotional "soup" - with the main ingredient often being anger.

What other signs of anger are displayed? Anxiety? Contempt (see photo too)? Are there any microexpressions? This is an excellent short video with several outstanding nonverbal examples. Body language is almost impossible to suppress. Our true emotions will always "leak" or "pour" out. Even great actors cannot control their emotions when they are in the thick of them.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Negotiation Secret #315: Somalia Suffering plus corruption

This Somali Woman is displaying several different Emotions. Her primary one is disgust. This is evidenced by her central facial tightening and in particular the flaring/dilation of her nostrils (Something that doesn't come as easily in the desert country of Somalia. It can lead to drying of the nasal passages, throat and thus even can contribute to dehydration.).

Her head is not turned, but her eyes are gazing to her left. This is a signal that she doesn't like, doesn't trust or doesn't believe the person(s) at who(m) she is looking. These emotions, of course, certainly have some overlap with the that of disgust.

She has her head tilted slightly to her right - away from the object of her disgust. This is often seen with disbelief, disgust and dislike.

Her slightly down-turned mouth is, of course, an emotional display of sadness.

The forehead she displays combined with the slightly closed eyelids (inner portion of the obicularis oculi) indicates mild-moderate anger (think Clint Eastwood). There is very possibly a grief-distress component mixed-in with her forehead muscle contracture.

I would summarize her emotions at approximately 50% Disgust, 30% Anger, 10% Sadness along with 10% incredulousness. This is a relatively complex photo to analyze from a body language standpoint - however very illustrative of the real world in which we live. Often more than one emotion is felt and therefor displayed at any one time.

The story behind this photo is very telling. Apparently some soldiers were trying to take food from the relief efforts and some of those who tried to prevent this were shot and killed. I can certainly understand all of her Disgust/Anger/Sadness/Incredulousness when I think about her situation and what she has witnessed. My heart goes out to her and those suffering with her.



Thursday, August 4, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 303:
A Classic Signal of Skepticism

The beautiful and talented Uma Thurman gives us a great example of a "Skeptical Eybrow". Notice how her left brow is elevated and her left forehead is also contracted. This is often accompanied by mid-facial and mouth signs of contempt - but not here. The skeptical eyebrow may indeed be the only visible signal of incredulousness - and it may appear as a very brief, microexpression - lasting less than 0.5 seconds and as little as 0.04 seconds! 


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 102:
The Often Overlooked Midface

The girl is angry. Her anger level is mild to moderate. She demonstrates this emotion by displaying an excellent example of mid-face tightening. Her upper lip is narrowed and tightened (but not rolled in)- a reliable sign of anger. The entire "mustache area" (I refer to this region the same for both sexes - a simple and orienting descriptive term) is tightened as well. This tightening is most easily seen by observing the two tissue ridges of the philtrum becoming flattened (The philtrum is the central concave depression with two lateral raised lines of skin that extends from the inner edges of each nostril to the central upper lip - this conjunction makes the two slightly pointed prominences on the upper lip "peak", giving the "cupids bow" appearance to the upper lip). Look for this dynamic flattening. It is a clue to anger. It often is accompanied by at least some degree of nostril dilation (which is also seen with other emotional states such as disgust - bilaterally, and unilaterally with contempt, etc.). The skin of the lower lids are also tightened (along with being partially closed). So start tuning into this mid-face tension, lest you miss early signs of anger. 


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dating & Romance Secret #227:
Are You Comfortable Around Your Ex?

Are you comfortable around your Ex? ......Cameron Diaz is - at least when it comes to Justin Timberlake. She's not only comfortable, she's supportive. When someone is in the "Arms Akimbo, with Thumbs Forward" stance, it most often indicates a supportive and nurturing emotional mindset. It also may indicate a quizzical emotional tone. It is more commonly displayed by women and is very commonly seen with teachers around younger children or by mothers at the playground.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Negotiation Secret # 235:
What Emotion is Anna Feeling?

What is the Primary Emotion Anna Paquin is feeling at the moment this image was captured? What is her Secondary Emotion? Hint: What is you first impression the moment you first looked at it? Next, break the photo into five segments and evaluate them in isolation - forehead, eyes, mid-face, mouth and neck. When you start to excel at Body Language - your initial impression and your left-brained analysis will be in agreement.