Saturday, June 30, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1918:
Vladimir Putin - Pointing with Pen Surrogates
Sharp vs. Blunt

It's a major body language faux pas to point with one's forefinger (aka index finger). It is universally offensive and destroys rapport. Although there are superior nonverbal methods to "soften" the effect of the conventional index finger point is to point - one way is to point with a pen as a substitute. Vladimir is shown here "pen pointing" on two different occasions. Above he is pointing with the sharp end of the pen and below he's using the blunt end. As subtle as this may seem to some, the sharp-end method "feels" to the person being pointed at almost as if the forefinger is being used - while the blunt-ended variation has a softer emotional feel - it's less offensive and friendlier.

Note too how these respective pointing methods are mirrored in the face. Above, the Russian President is displaying an inward lip roll (indicating anxiety with an attempt to control a negative emotional display) in combination with lip-thinning (a nonverbal sign highly consistent with anger). In the image below, Putin's face is much more pleasant - almost friendly. 

Tension/negative emotions in the face are very often reflected in hand tension - and while the pens are not part of the hands or body - here they act as extensions of it or body language surrogates.