Saturday, October 20, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2158:
Kennebunk Maine, Alexis Wright, Prostitution &
Spotting the Body Language of the Self Righteous

In Kennebunk, Maine things haven't been normal for a few weeks now. Alexix Wright and Mark Strong, Sr. are alleged to have been running a prostitution business out of Wright's Zumba studio. In the above video, Laura Dolce, the reporter who broke the story is interviewed. At multiple times Ms. Dolce displays a highly characteristic body language movement known as the Self-Righteous Head Wiggle. This particular nonverbal display accompanying a contemptuous emotional tone would be displayed by many who helped to uncover such a scandal in their home town of only 10,000 people.

The self-righteous head wiggle (SRHW) is extremely reliable indicator of an extremely confident, self-assured attitude and smugness. In this video, Ms. Dolce displays the SRHW during 0:57 - 1:01 (pronounced), 1:54, 1:58 - 2:01, 2:55 and 3:18. Like the vast majority of body language, the SRHW is initiated and performed subconsciously. It is characterized by a relatively rapid and brief side-to-side (lateral) wiggle of the head - nearly always coupled by a backward motion (pull-back) of the head/neck (more commonly) and occasionally by a forward bending of the head/neck (somewhat less often). Sometimes the movement involves the shoulders, torso and even the jaw (mandible). The forward bending variety is more common when there is a much-smaller audience (e.g. one-on-one, not in T.V. interviews), when there is a clear superior-subordinate relationship (parent to child, or boss to employee, etc.) and/or coupled with an increased anger component (during an obvious and open reprimand).

The SRHW is a form of a contempt display and is often superimposed simultaneously (or nearly so) with the more classic body language/facial expressions of contempt - as well as those of disgust and anger. It is also extremely common to be tightly temporally correlated with increased vocal pitch, volume and speed.

The self-righteous head wiggle is seen more commonly in a hierarchical setting and more often among the traditionally educated and when relatively powerful are critical of those who are weaker.

In a board room, in negotiations, sales, the courtroom, law enforcement, inter-personally etc. - and many other scenarios where rapport is (and should be a goal) - being aware of this nonverbal, and eliminating it from your body language vocabulary is highly recommended. The vast majority of the time people are completely unaware their nonverbal displays - fortunately however there are techniques to bring the SRHW and other body language to conscious awareness.