Friday, September 14, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Intelligence # 2113:
Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, the U.S. and the
Self-Righteous Head Wiggle

Compared to most politicians, Benjamin Netanyahu has very good nonverbal displays. His nonverbals are also easy to read - if you're observant, nonpartisan & objective. In the video above (at 0:32, 0:42 - 0:43, 0:46 and 0:48 - 0:49), while he is discussing the need for a tight reign on Iran's ambitions for nuclear weapons, the Israeli Prime Minister displays a classic example of the Self-Righteous Head Wiggle (SRHW). It has been alleged that President Obama declined to meet with Netanyahu during his upcoming trip to a United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York later in September.

In this nonpartisan analysis, the SRHW is characterized by a high frequency and short lived back-and-forth motion of the head - very typically in conjunction with a definitive verbal statement. Often the SRHW is accompanied by a similar side-to-side motion of the torso (0:41) and/or the mandible (jaw). Sometimes there is a forward vector to the head motion, which is seen more often in one-on-one scenarios (although Netanyahu exemplifies this above in the context of a press conference at 0:48 - 0:49) and when there is a clear superior-subordinate relationship present. A backward vectoring of the head-neck is also common as well (which implies an incredulity emotional component). In addition, the Prime Minister closes his eyelids for a longer duration at the 0:48 - 0:49. This is known as an extended blink and in this cluster-context, acts as an amplifier to his emotional beliefs. 

Like all body language, well over 99.9% of the time, the SRHW is initiated and displayed subconsciously.

The SRHW tends to be used by relative alpha personalities in hierarchical settings when they are in a position to be assertive and have a high degree of confidence that their position or actions are correct. This common and under-appreciated nonverbal is often coexistent with anger, contempt, disgust and incredulity - although these feelings often are not expressed verbally.

During situations such as negotiations, sales and other rapport building scenarios, if the SRHW is displayed - it will sabotage any agreement. If you see it - you clearly have work to do in order to achieve a meeting of the minds. It is also a very useful body language tell to be aware of during voir dire (jury selection).