Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Secret # 1995:
Barack Obama, Social Darwinism and the Political Point

This video is an excerpt from his Tuesday speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, in which President Obama refers to the House Republican Budget Plan (authored by Paul Ryan of Wisconsin) as "...thinly veiled Social Darwinism ....". At the 0:54 mark, the President begins using (with his right hand) a body language gesture often referred to as the "Political Point" or the "Politician's Point" and continues through out the remainder of the clip.

The politician's point is formed by touching the thumb to the index finger and making a loose circle-oval. Occasionally more fingers are used as The President does here. This form of "pointing" is much more benign than the conventional and very caustic, "Index Finger Point". A rapport destroyer and universally offensive, pointing with the index finger should almost never be done. Conversely, the political point engenders trust, builds rapport and will aide in winning the audience over.

Incredibly, the nonverbals of the face and hand are very closely linked. Thus anger in the face - even subtle anger, tends to be also manifested in hand tension. The opposite is true as well - tension in the hands can often arouse negative emotions which are then manifested on the face. By using more inviting and friendly hand gestures - a speaker can help modulate his/her emotions to a much greater degree - even to an audience of one. 

Nuanced even further, when some speakers use the political point, but pinch their fingers to their thumb tightly, this detracts from the soothing effect on the audience and also has a negative feedback to the speaker. This will often be reflected in an increase in speech volume too. Indeed, at the very end of this video, note that The Presidents begins to pinch more and his emotions and voice grow more heated. Those who keep the finger and thumb loosely held achieve a more full effect of the political point. It's another nice little form of biofeedback courtesy of body language

This hand-face-emotional phenomenon is very probably the basis for why hand massages are great stress relievers.