Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2150: Body Language Advice for President Obama and Governor Romney in Tonight's Debate

Even Mitt Romney believes President Obama is a great speaker. Why didn't this translate into success in the first debate two weeks ago? The answer is multifaceted - but a good bit of it comes down to bad body language. In tonight's debate - in a town-hall format - Mr. Obama's and Mr. Romney's nonverbals will be even more important. 

What many don't realize, is that not only does your body language indicate your emotional mindset, but adopting, maintaining, and/or changing your own nonverbal displays in many and nuanced contexts - will also changes your emotions, the fluidity by which you speak and will even affect your word choice.

Here are dozen body language debate pointers for both Presidential Candidates:

1. Stand with your feet slightly less than a shoulder's width apart. There's not a photo in existence of John Wayne standing with his feet together. This stance projects, builds and maintains confidence.

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 337: Michelle Barchmann's Low Confidence Stance

2. Stand with your feet flat on the floor. Barack Obama was standing on one foot (with opposite leg crossed in back of the other) during part of the last debate. This is Bad Body Language in this context. It sends messages of non-engagement and aloofness.
3. When an audience member or Candy Crowley (tonight's debate moderator) addresses you, turn and point your whole body towards them. Your feet, navel, torso, face and eyes - all should be pointing directly at them. This shows to everyone that you respect them and believe that whatever they are saying is worth listening to - and everyone watching will for a moment "inject" themselves into the shoes of the audience member who is asking the question. This is an absolute must for developing rapport, building bridges - and getting votes. This whole-body pointing should be down-regulated significantly when answering their questions because of course then you're speaking to the entire country.

Note: In everyday conversations, you should turn your feet and body about 20 to 30 degrees after 5 to 10 seconds once you've greeted them. Maintaining the "whole-body pointing posture" during one-on-one conversations is too confrontational. In the setting of a debate, primarily because of the audience-speaker context and greater distances between the audience and the candidates, pointing your whole body toward the audience member while they are asking the question is an absolute must. Failure to do this will cost you votes.
4. President Obama in particular - don't look down when the Mitt Romney is speaking. This gives the feel to the audience that you are being lectured to - or being reprimanded. Perhaps for a second or to if a lectern/podium is being used to write some notes, but look at the audience (primarily) or the other candidate (shorter glances and do not turn your whole body toward your opponent).

5. Hand and arm gestures (illustrators) should be used congruently with speech. President Obama - during the last debate your elbows were much too close to the sides of your torso during your illustrators. Such a configuration is low-energy, demure and beta. Of course you don't want to be overly dramatic with arm gestures either - proportion and context are paramount. 

Mitt Romney - whoever is coaching you must have been reading my blog - for I'm the only expert who's been critiquing you heavily in this issue. You did much better with you hand/arm gestures during the first debate than you ever have before. Big improvement.

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 1915: Mitt Romney's Response to Supreme Court's Decision on "Obamacare" (Affordable Care Act)

6. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CONDITION, PUT YOUR HANDS IN YOU POCKETS. This is a tremendous signal of non-engagement and emotional dissonance. Don't be aloof - be engaged in the moment. Depending on the other nonverbal signals present, hands in pockets may even signal that you are being deceptive, intimidated by your opponents or fearful.

Nonverbal Communications Analysis No. 2074: Mitt Romney and Senator Kelly Ayotte - What Body Language Tells?

7. NEVER TOUCH YOUR HEAD - PARTICULARLY YOUR FACE - OR NECK. These facial MAPs (Manipulators, Adaptors or Pacifiers) are (subconsciously) interpreted by nearly all who watch (even those 99.99% who have no formal body language training) as an ANXIETY SIGNAL. People don't necessary take note of every time another person touches their face - but they are left with a general feeling of unease. When you get a feeling that you can't trust someone (even though they may have said all the right things) - very often they just displayed this type of MAP/Body Language.

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2047: Barack Obama does not Believe

8. Avoid Contempt and disgust displays. You may solidify some of your base - but you'll lose many more of the undecided votes. If you need a primer here - watch either of your counterparts during the Vice Presidential debate. They both displayed contempt in spades. Contempt and disgust will alienate. They are rapport destroyers.

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2146: Biden vs. Ryan Vice Presidential Debates - Both Candidates Displayed Body Language of Contempt

9. Smile with your eyes. Even children can detect a false smile. Smiling with your eyes first will bring your mouth along for the ride. Most otherwise accomplished and socially skilled people (including both presidential candidates) can't differentiate a sincere smile vs. a good social smile. Nor can you produce either type on demand when you really need to do so.

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 353: Brad Pitt's Smiling Eyes - Sincere and Insincere Smiles

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 1010: What Makes the Twinkle in Rashida Jones' Eyes?

10. Don't over-use your forehead expressions. Over-use of the forehead muscles (particularly the central forehead contraction - aka CFC) is a primary indicator of insincerity. All but your hard-core base voters will read this as feigned sincerity. Few things are more repelling than smug insincerity. This is particularly true when a CFC is seen together with even a slight mouth smile.

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2124: This Body Language-Facial Display Should always make you think "Insincere"

11. Avoid using the conventional steeple. Most politicians over-use the conventional steeple - thus sending signals of arrogance and condescension. It's a primary example of using excessive alpha signals. If someone uses too much conventional steeple (which is, in an absolute sense, not very much) - run, don't walk away from them. Despite what they may say, you are a pawn in their game.

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 1503: The Conventional Steeple vs. The Basketball Steeple - Seeking a Balance

12. Hopefully you've slept for at least the past two or three nights. Barack Obama's primary problem in the last debate may very well have stemmed from lack of sleep. He repeatedly displayed several signals consistent with being tired. Many a skilled speaker, or surgeon, or attorney, or sales person have suffered from this fundamental.

Good luck gentlemen. May the best man win.