Monday, February 13, 2012

Negotiation Nonverbal Communication Secret # 1171:
Not So Fast Swift ....
Taylor's False Surprise

Pictured here with Neil Patrick Harris, the beautiful and talented Taylor Swift examples an outstanding Body Language moment at last night's Grammy Awards. This image demonstrates perfectly a commonly falsified emotion - that of surprise. Surprise is the most evanescent of all emotions - thus one clue to feigned surprise is how long it appears to last. If it's longer than a second or two, there is at least a portion of it that is being forced. But we can't tell that with this example, since this is not a video. Another intriguing characteristic of surprise, is that it almost always transitions rapidly to another emotion - e.g. anger, laughter/joy-happiness, fear, embarrassment, etc. Again we are out of luck here because this is only a photo.... however....

Notice that Ms. Swift's eyelids are NOT opened wider than normal. In order for surprise to be authentic, the upper eyelids elevate and the lower eyelids retract - exposing more "whites of the eye" (increased scleral show). This is physiologic and if the surprise is real, this "white and wide" appearance cannot be suppressed. Although Taylor's eyebrows are made up in a typical elevated fashion, they are not actively being elevated with any muscles. We know this because her forehead is not contracted - at all, it is completely relaxed. All of these nonverbal actions are required if the surprise is sincere.

Now let's say Taylor was 52 rather than 22. One may say, "Well .... she may have recently had Botox treatments to her forehead (Hmmmmmm?). often in such cases, if her surprise were sincere - you would still see eyelid elevation and therefore more whites of the eyes exposed.

I wish to emphasize that we all occasionally force emotions or act in various social situations when we feel it is required or in doing so we will avoid a problem, spare a person's feelings, etc. Thus in any given situation, when a person is expressing an emotion insincerely, it does not mean that they are as a whole an insincere person. But in that moment - the emotion is being feigned.

Congratulations to Ms. Swift for her two 2012 Grammys. Her song, "Mean" won both for Best Country Song as well as Best Country Solo Performance.