Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 1032:
Romney, Rapport and Handshakes

Everyone should want to build rapport during a handshake. One essential component of such a influencing handshake, is having the palms and fingers oriented vertically (perpendicular to floor). Much too often, the person who is perceived as more alpha orients their hand on top - in a dominance display. Although there are occasions for this, they are relatively uncommon to rare. If you're trying to win votes, you want people to perceive you as "one of them" - as an equal. Thus this hand orientation is particularly important. Of course, this nonverbal is also just as instrumental if you're a sales person, CEO, attorney, physician, clergy or in any other non-elected position of leadership. In this image Mitt Romney shakes hands with supporters in Jacksonville, just prior to winning the 2012 Florida Primary.


Negotiation Body Language Secret # 1011:
Seeing the Big Picture
Tactics vs. Temper
Jan Brewer and Barack Obama

This Blog is non-partisan. I critique and analyze the nonverbal communication of many politicians (and others), not limited to party or country.

Go figure! Politicians sometimes cannot see the big picture. Their actions are often laden with the self-destruction of school aged boys on a play ground. They're supposed to be statesman/stateswomen - master communicators, but this is rarely so. Enter Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. It is well known that she and President Obama have widely different political views. She's a republican, he's a democrat - no mystery here. But if your goal is to win another to your way of thinking, the classic finger-point, hand-chop in the President's face as he gets off Air Force One as a substitute for a warm greeting - is not the way to accomplish it. Jan Brewer is either very naive or political grand-standing here. Regardless of your political leanings, although such stunts may help one with their political base, this will rarely persuades swing voters - and NEVER the opposition - on the contrary, it makes them more resistant to change. It also makes you look unrefined.

The President, rather than pulling away, leans forward and embraces her left arm/elbow. This is the nonverbal equivalent of speaking in softer tones and at lower volumes when someone is raising their voice or even yelling at you. It works. The human instinct very much expects the equivalent of an arms race escalation of negative body language. It is very disarming when the opposite occurs. Obama, somewhat more skilled and experienced, uses his nonverbal acumen to dial-down Brewer's temper .... with an equal effect on his own. Biofeedback in two directions. Amazing stuff body language is. The use of calming nonverbals in oneself begets calming nonverbals and emotions in both the sender and the receiver. Had Brewer been a 300 pound, six-foot-four-inch male governor with a goatee instead, I'd like to think he'd have the same counter-move ..... but maybe not.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 926:
When Not to Ask for the Sale

While the man on the right side of this image is asking President Obama to consider a decision, based on POTUS's nonverbal signals, this is an example of a completely wrong time to do so. It is rare to see a head-of-state display arm-crossed body language and certainly Obama is no exception. This arm posture is a strong indicator that Barack is emotionally closed-off and even defensive to the alternative being discussed. 

The configuration seen here on the President's mouth can, based on the other nonverbals it is clustered with - signify honest consideration, but this is not the case here. In such scenarios a completely different appearance of the eyes would be displayed (e.g. eyelids opened slightly wider than normal with a wrinkling/contraction of the forehead). In this nonverbal cluster-context - Obama's mouth indicates doubt and incredulity. 

Barack Obama is looking down and to the right, which is highly consistent with strong emotional overtones (although Mr. Obama is left handed and this phenomenon is more highly correlative with right-handedness).

If you want another to make a decision in your favor, ask for the sale, win a vote, get a date or ensure you client is acquitted, etc. - it behooves your cause to know when ..... exactly when ..... to ask. Pitching at the wrong time is an incredibly common mistake. How's YOUR timing?


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 925:
Hemsworth's False Smile is Worthless

At first glace to the untrained eye, Liam Hemsworth's mouth looks as if he's trying to squeeze out a smile at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards. If you look carefully though, you'll notice his "mustache area" is slightly tensed and his upper lip is mildly stretched and thinned as well. Hemsworth's nostrils are flared too. His eyelids are partially closed, but not in the sincere smile manner. If his lids were closed as a result of a true, felt smile - we would see the classic, concave-down furrow nonverbal sign in Hemsworth's lower lids (see Secret #921: Spotting Giants' Sincerity). This young actor is not smiling sincerely at all, moreover his attempt at a social smile is also poor. Liam's emotions are disgust (best exemplified by his flared nostrils) and anger (his out-of-context Clint Eastwood-like eyelid squint as well as his thinned upper lip).

Anyone can spot severe anger or disgust. How skilled are you at picking out moderate or subtle examples? Miss them at your own risk.


Negotiation Body Language Secret # 915:
Interpersonal Space of Candidates

Our Interpersonal Spaces' are usually reserved only for those with whom we are considerably affectionate towards (friendship or otherwise). In each of the images shown here, personal space has been significantly invaded. Above, Mitt Romney is even touching Newt Gingrich's chest (during a break at the Republican Presidential Debate in Jacksonville, Florida). Below, the former Speaker of the House is invading the former Massachusetts Governor personal space with a classic index finger point - a major faux pas in virtually all situations. In the vast majority of circumstances, these encroachments would be alienating and be interpreted as hostile and in some settings even precipitate violent reciprocation. When on stage during a break in the U.S. Presidential Debates though, there is a false sense of friendship-intimacy. If these same men were to use these identical nonverbals discussing the same issues, on the same day - only in private (or for that matter, even a few minutes later when the debate is ongoing), it would most assuredly provoke hostility and anger.

Regardless of their country or their party, most politicians, behave as if they have the right to invade our interpersonal spaces. As if these otherwise normal social behaviors, somehow don't apply to them. In any other setting we may call this narcissism. The most important goal of any politician is to develop rapport - as it certainly should be - and therein gain votes and support. Mitt, Newt and all leaders would do well to stop ignoring these important body language rules.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Analysis # 991:
Australia's Aboriginal Angst and Julia Gillard's Hands

Australia Day, 26 January, marked the 224th anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet of British colonies to disembark in the land down-under.

Australia's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, and many others were at an award ceremony yesterday, in relative close proximity to the longstanding "Tent Embassy" of indigenous-rights supporters (which itself was celebrating an anniversary - it's 40th - on Thursday as well). Chaotic protest and some violence ensued as the two ideologies clashed - although it certainly could have been much worse. What follows is a brief analysis of some of Ms. Gillard's body language.

At the 1:49 - 2:01 segment of this video, when Ms. Gillard's security expresses his concern to the PM, Julia shows us a high-anxiety/low confidence MAP (Manipulator, Adaptor or Pacifier - See another MAP example in Secret # 199: When a Lie is Told, Heard or Visualized ... by Vladimir's Eye) of interlaced fingers and arms held close to her lower chest. As the concern for increased violence crescendos, so do nonverbal indicators of anxiety. Gillard's classic nonverbal signal of the wringing her right hand with her left, exemplifies this nicely (from 2:13 - 2:19).

Earlier today, when the Prime Minister was asked about the incident, she showed two brief expressions of genuine empathy for those deserving of the planned awards, as the ceremony was disrupted and those to be honored were not fully recognized. Ms. Gillard's central forehead contracted briefly - indicating emotional-pain-empathy, with a microexpression at the 3:15 mark (very evanescent) and a macroexpression of the same from 3:17 - 3:19.

It is rare to see Heads-of-State in a potentially violent situation. Yet this reminds us how emotions are constantly displayed and readily available for others to use or abuse. The vast majority of people are completely unaware of just how much information they transmit. Their face and body are open books - constantly on exhibit for others to read.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 399:
Sincerity in the U.S. Congress

Unfortunately, we usually see all too much posturing and insincerity from all political parties, in all venues, in all countries. Thus it is refreshing to see this video full of multiple verbal and nonverbal examples of truly sincere emotions this morning in the U.S. House of Representatives as Gabrielle Giffords resigns her seat. 


Negotiation Body Language Secret # 922:
Gabrielle Giffords' and Barack Obama's Hug

Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and President Barack Obama are shown in these photos and the video of the same event, hugging just prior to the President's State of the Union Address last night. It is rare to have images of both participants' faces when a hug occurs. This gives us the opportunity to evaluate their nonverbals and thus the sincerity quotient of each person. If a "hugger" has true affection for another - the eyelids should be closed during the hug. Of course, such affection certainly need not be romantic. If the eyes are left open, either there is lack of affection or significant mental distraction is taking place. The times we touch another human being (e.g. hug, kiss, handshake, etc.) are highly impactful, don't come along very often and thus should not be squandered. Here we see true affection displayed between Representative Giffords and President Obama.

Gabby Giffords resigned from the House of Representatives this morning in her continuing effort to recover from injuries suffered during an attack on her and others near Tuscon, Arizona on January 8, 2011.

Please see also: Crime Prevention & Body Language Secret # 10: 3 Killers - What Commonalities?

Heal well Gabby.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 921:
Spotting Giants' Sincerity

Can you spot sincerity? Are you sure? Most experienced, educated and financially successful people cannot. One common nonverbal component of sincerity is a true smile. Insincere smiles are exceedingly common. Pictured here, Steve Tisch, Chairman and Executive VP of the New York Giants and Eli Manning, their quarterback, both show us sincere smiles after their recent victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship Game - although Eli is suppressing his joy slightly. 

The key to detecting a sincere smile is looking at the eyelids - they MUST be partially closed. Yet, it is not as simple as this - for the eyelids may be partially closed in different ways. The characteristic closure must involve the outer portions of the Orbicularis Oculi Muscles (the pars orbitalis component) - which pull the eyebrows and the skin beneath them slightly DOWNWARD - while simultaneously (along with the zygomaticus major muscle of the cheeks) "bunch-up" the skin of the lower eyelids creating the highly characteristic concave-up creases (best exemplified here on Mr. Tisch's lower eyelids).

There are many characteristics to sincerity, and the ability to detect the subtle body language changes of true, felt smiles (or false smiles) are obviously a very important skill to learn and refine. Remember, if an insincere smile is displayed, it does not necessarily mean that the person as a whole is insincere all the time - but it does mean that in that moment, the emotion of joy-happiness is having to be forced/acted. If chronic insincerity is displayed however - this is a completely different issue, as there may very well be sociopathy present. Insincerity is not as clearly defined as lying, however those who are insincere, will eventually lie to you - probably sooner than later, and probably very often.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 931:
Harbaugh's Fear and Anxiety

Jim Harbaugh, the Head Coach for the San Francisco 49ers, is pictured here expressing two classic nonverbals - Fear and Anxiety. The posterior neck touching/scratching/rubbing are extremely common body language tells for "Pure Anxiety" and they are usually NOT associated with deception.

The emotion of fear is clearly, but partially expressed in Harbaugh's (left side) mouth expression.

The 49ers lost to the New York Giants yesterday in the NFC Championship game and will face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 913:
Low Confidence, Low Trust and Demure

When hands are placed in the front pockets, particularly when the thumb is included, it sends signals of low confidence and non-engagement. As with all nonverbals, this effect is amplified when standing in front of an audience. Mitt Romney (shown here with South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley) is surely not the only political candidate who has a problem with putting his hands in his front pockets though. Unfortunately many people have this habit - and it is certainly NOT a nonverbal sign consistent with leadership . It does not engender trust in others, and indeed it often creates feelings of distrust. Even in the best possible context, the pocketed hand is a very BETA and a very demure Body Language signal.  The former Massachusetts Governor commits this nonverbal political mistake often - even during debates. Intriguingly, placing or keeping hands in the pockets will interfere with one's ability to formulate quick answers and speak fluidly. Without a doubt, we don't want our leaders displaying this configuration. Mitt needs votes. Mitt needs delegates. Mitt needs to show us his hands.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 562:
The Politician's Double-Hander

Here we see Mitt Romney in the midst of a "Politician's Double-Hander" handshake while campaigning a day before the South Carolina Primary. The former Massachusetts Governor is exampling well a particular nonverbal signal perpetuated within the political world. However, along with the vast majority of politicians, he doesn't realize that the Double-Hander is virtually always negatively received (Pease). It sends signals of false intimacy and feigned familiarity. Be warned. When anyone who doesn't know you well gives you this kind of handshake - they will always have an agenda - sometimes it is obvious, but often it's clandestine. Of course, Romney's and every other candidate's motive is to win your vote. In a nutshell, the Double-Hander sends strong nonverbal signals of insincerity. This one the last emotions any leader should ever project. What's your Sincerity Quotient?


Friday, January 20, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 793:
The Finger Point - A Rare Exception

During the Republican Presidential Debate yesterday in North Charleston, South Carolina, Newt Gingrich committed the all-too-common nonverbal gaffe by gesturing at the audience using the conventional and very adversarial index-finger point, at the 1:08 to 1:15 mark in this video. Pointing at the audience in this manner is virtually always a major faux pas

Mama always told us not to point. But....there's exceptions to almost everything ....and here's one.

At the 2:10 to 2:22 mark in this same video, Gingrich points again - however this time at CNN's debate moderator, John King. In a debate setting, the moderator is, of course, not the audience and so Gingrich plays off the very positive feedback he had just received from them to further advance his cause and thus he nonverbally prosecutes and convicts King, his network and other big media as the real criminals. 

This is a rare exception to the "No Finger Point Rule". Such pointing should not even be directed towards the other candidates. 

Later in the video, at the 2:38 to 2:43 mark, Speaker Gingrich gestures to the other presidential hopefuls in the very friendly  palm-up manner, briefly engendering an artificial solidarity with his adversaries. This is how Gingrich should have pointed to the audience at the beginning of his answer (see paragraph one, above). Who would have thought that Newt's second ex-wife could be such an asset? Talk about a "Backfire". On the eve of the South Carolina Presidential Primary, several polls show the former Speaker of the House in the lead. If Gingrich goes on to win the Republican nomination, this may very well be the moment we look back on as the turning point in his campaign.


Negotiation Body Language Secret # 831:
Santorum's Hands and the Alpha-Beta Hybrid

Where to put the hands? Well, this topic is very context related. It is NEVER a "one sized fits all" scenario. However, here Presidential hopeful, Rick Santorum, former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania shows us a great "Alpha-Beta hybrid" with regards to his hands. Santorum has both hands in his back pockets, and while this is not a configuration you should hold for the duration of any speech or presentation, 20 to 30 second portions of this body language sprinkled throughout an appearance conveys an approachable and open personality. 

This variation of the Arms-Akimbo nonverbal is a good compromise between the prototypical ALPHA thumbs-backwards-hands-on-hips arms akimbo (see Confidence Secret # 14: High and Low Confidence Drivers: Arms Akimbo and Assertive Attitudes) and the BETA thumbs-forwards-hands-on-hips arms akimbo (see Dating & Romance Secret # 227: Are You Comfortable Around Your Ex?). They're difficult to see, but Santorum has his thumbs positioned forward and outside, while his fingers are inside of his pockets. This thumbs-forward is a BETA nonverbal. However, the elbows/arms sticking out (laterally) from the body is an ALPHA body language signal. Hands in the pockets is a BETA beacon. But his thumbs out of pockets shifts the sign to a bit more in the ALPHA direction. 

Rick Santorum's feet are an intermediate distance apart - which is also a good ALPHA-BETA mix in the right setting. Here however, I'd recommend the former Senator stand with his feet a bit more apart. For a Presidential Candidate, his foot-to-foot distance is a bit too demure. He'd look a bit more like Ronald Reagan or John Wayne with his feet a shoulder width apart. On the eve of the South Carolina Presidential Primary, Santorum needs a little more "Gipper".


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 881:
Perry Endorses Newt ... or Does He?

In this video, Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) suspends his campaign and endorses Newt Gingrich. At several times during this short speech, Governor Perry's left eye brow and left forehead elevate indicating skepticism. This is a clear nonverbal signal that he does not completely believe everything he is saying. Whenever the verbal and the nonverbal are in disagreement - the body language is always correct. In addition, towards the beginning of this video, Perry twice exhibits a "Bitter Smile" (showing regret) simultaneous with an "Inward Lip Roll" (indicating an attempt to hold-in negative emotions) when announces he's ending his bid for the White House.


Negotiation Body Language Secret # 919:
How Newt Stands Influences Voters

There are times when a presidential candidate should stand with his or her feet together .... but this is NOT one of them. Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich is seen here at a Town Hall meeting in Florence, South Carolina and while he's gesturing confidently with his hands, his feet position do NOT transmit confidence - ergo emotional dissonance is present and being conveyed here. South Carolina's Presidential Primary is Saturday, 21 January 2012.

Presidents and candidates for any head-of-state position should stand with their feet together at funerals, weddings, religious ceremonies, when they are former office holders - standing next to currently highly ranked elected leaders, visits with the Pope, Dalai Lama and other religious leaders, when attending ceremonies honoring those who have fallen in battle, during the Pledge of Allegiance/Star Spangled Banner (or another country's anthem), and perhaps a few other exceptions - otherwise, standing with one's legs and feet this close together conveys lower confidence. Shorter people have a tendency to do this - particularly when behind a lectern/podium, as they are attempting to be at their maximum height. What is rarely considered though, is how standing in this lower confidence formation will influence the manner in which one speaks - their word choice, tone, cadence, ability to recall information, etc. In short, a confident stance engenders true confidence in action and performance. Ideally, Mr. Gingrich and other males should stand with their feet a shoulder's width apart, while women should stand with their feet slightly closer together (about 85 - 90% their shoulders' width).

Thus, emotions causes us to adopt a specific body language consistent with the current specific feeling(s) - but what's just as true is, maintaining a nonverbal signal causes an emotion to begin and/or persist. Nonverbal communication works in both directions - what often gets very overlooked is that our bodies and faces are, among other things, control panels for our emotional states.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 871:
Mouth Covering Candidate

Sudden mouth covering accompanied by elevated eyebrows, elevated forehead and increased scleral-show (eyes lids opened in a "White and Wide" appearance) indicate surprise-disbelief and empathy. There often is an element of fear accompanying this facial-appearance-hand-gesture as well, although in this particular example of Presidential Candidate hopeful and current Texas Governor Rick Perry - we would need to see either a brief video of this and adjacent moments, or images immediately before and after to definitively identify the emotion of fear.

See also:  Relationship Secret # 21: Surprise + Fear + Empathy

See also:  Leadership Secret # 221: Hillary's Empathy


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 903:
The More I see of You ....
Plexiglass Podium

The more people see of you, the more they trust you. The less they see of you, the less they trust you and thus your ability to influence others drops significantly. Here, U.S. Presidential hopeful, Texas Governor Rick Perry speaks at a recent event utilizing a Plexiglas podium. This is an increasing trend - particularly in political circles - and it's a good one. If at all possible, use a Plexiglas podium/lectern. A similar tactic is one with thin, central beam - as this also affords a similar amount of visibility of the speaker/presenter. When the lectern is a conventional solid one, a lot less of the presenter is visible - and trust in what is said is significantly reduced. This is especially true when the solid podium is relatively tall or when a speaker is relatively shorter. As a speaker, leader or teacher - you need every advantage in influencing the audience. Knowing the environment in which you'll be speaking and if necessary, altering it in advance will significantly increase your success.  Don't neglect this one.


Negotiation Body Language Secret # 399:
The Whites of His Eyes and an
Abandoned Ship

Costa Concordia Ship Captain Francesco Schettino is shown in this photo with a fairly subtle expression of fear. While most everyone can recognize extreme examples of various emotions, it amazes me how often people, who have otherwise very good interpersonal skills, cannot distinguish moderate emotional expressions, let alone subtle examples. This image shows very mild tension in Schettino's mouth - with the corners pulled slightly down and posteriorly (backwards). What is a bit more telling however, is the former Captain's eyes. His eye lids are opened slightly wider than normal displaying a bit more whites of the eyes (sclera) than is typically seen. When the eyes are opened in this "White and Wide" fashion - three emotions should immediately come to mind - surprise (see Secret # 21: Surprise + Fear + Empathy), rage (see Secret # 817: Anger and Steroids in Milwaukee) and that which we see exampled here - fear. 

The Costa Concordia is a cruise ship which ran aground off the coast of Italy and partially sank on Friday, 13 January 2012. At least 11 people were killed and there are still 29 missing at the time of this writing. Including the crew, there were 4,229 on board at the time of the accident. Captain Schettino is currently in jail and could face up to 15 years in prison. 


Friday, January 13, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 882:
Bashar al-Assad's Chronic Insincerity

Bashar al-Assad, the President of Syria, displays in this video a great nonverbal example of insincerity. Whenever the central forehead muscle is contracted (furrowed) - two sincere emotions should immediately spring to mind: physical pain and emotional pain. These emotions may be either directly experienced or felt indirectly via empathy. In these cases there should also always be displayed the corresponding and congruent nonverbals of the mouth for sadness, pain or even fear. In other words, a forehead that is expressing sadness, pain or empathy for others should have a mouth that matches these emotions. But if an emotionally neutral mouth or smile occurs with the central forehead contraction  (even a subtle or very brief smile) this is incongruent with pain-sadness-fear empathy or physical/emotional pain. Al-Assad displays this particular facial incongruity throughout this video and many others.

Beware of those who are often or continuously insincere - particularly when they are "significant others", employers, business partners, "leaders" or .... heads-of-state.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 772:
Haley Barbour's Dominance

Yesterday, on his last day in office as Governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour pardoned, granted clemency or early release of 203 prisoners. Although some of these individuals have already been released, today a Mississippi judge has blocked any additional inmates from going free. In this image, we see Gov. Barbour a few years ago being visited by then President George W. Bush. Haley's Hand is rotated inwards about 40-45 degrees - and partially on top of Bush's hand, thus this is a subtle to moderate dominance display. It is obviously not as overtly dominant as the completely palm-down handshake used by so many alpha males of the political persuasion, but it's a definitive dominance display none the less. You can bet President Bush got the message. 

It is very possible that the highest office holder in a modestly populated southern state is accustomed to being very dominant to essentially everyone he meets and re-meets. Ergo, he may be oblivious to the dominance message he's sending to the President and leader of his own political party. It's also possible he's deliberately and very consciously doing so - although this is considerably less likely. Deliberately or not - negative repercussions still result - as the recipient is another human being with a very human brain, psyche and ego. It's one thing to project dominance to a subordinate or perhaps, in the right setting, someone you perceive to be a peer. It's quite another to send similar signals to your superior. Governor Barbour was probably very unaware he was "one-upping" President Bush. Being ignorant of your own body language and the signals you're sending can be very detrimental to your career. Bruised anyone's ego today?  


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 377:
Inward Lip Roll with a Bitter Smile

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, Ben Rothlisberger is shown in this image with a very characteristic "Bitter Smile" (Ekman) combined with a "Inward Lip Roll" (ILR) after his team's loss to Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos, 29-23 in overtime. This light-lipped, concave-down closed mouth expression is highly consistent with the emotions of regret and bitterness. Incredibly, most everyone believes they are displaying an neutral expression or even a subtle smile - when in fact this is a form of a frown (ergo the oxymoronic label "bitter Smile"). We all make this expression much more often than we believe, and it is one of the best and most ubiquitous examples of how human beings routinely lack objectivity regarding our own appearances - particularly those accompanying negative emotions.

Additionally Rothlisberger is rolling his lips inward so that they are no longer visible. This Inward Lip Roll is a strong signal of anxiety. Additionally, it is very often associated with a considerable effort to control/minimize an outward expression of a negative emotion. It's as if the psyche is calling on inner reserves to control the loss of temper.

This characteristic combination of expressions exampled here by the Pittsburgh QB is seen on the sports field either after an injury or loss - and rarely at other times. Rothlisberger endured both on Sunday.


Negotiation Body Language Secret # 779:
What Does Staring Indicate?

A question I often hear is: What does staring mean? The answer is not as straight forward as some would like it - for its meaning is dependent on the other body language signals with which it is coupled. When someone is staring at you (not to be confused with someone staring "through you" aka "The Thousand Yard Stare"), six common meanings should spring to mind. Not in any particular order they are: anger, intimidation display, sexual attraction, curiosity, intense concentration or an attempt for a person who is lying to try and look honest/sincere. Intriguingly, a person who is lying may also have diminished eye contact (see Secret # 335: What does "eye contact" really mean?).

This video of a young girl (Sofia) at the Wellington Zoo in New Zealand, shows how staring commonly sets off primal instincts - even across species. It is common for a person (or large felines, dogs, etc.) to go into "protective mode" (flight, fight or freeze) - when being stared at. Instincts often assume the worst, - with the original emotion being completely misinterpreted. Here Sofia's curiosity is being mistaken as a threat. This happens on varying levels in human-to-human interactions billions of times daily. What have you misinterpreted today?


Monday, January 9, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 398:
Rick Santorum's Anger and compensatory MAPs

In this image of the Republican Presidential Candidate hopeful at a January 5, 2012 Northfield, New Hampshire town hall meeting - Rick Santorum demonstrates two significant nonverbal mistakes that an experienced speaker should never commit. The former Senator from Pennsylvania is compressing and tightening his lips in a highly characteristic horizontally straight line. This configuration is very consistent with the emotion of anger. The mild (Santorum's left) to moderate (right) partial closing of his eyelids is also congruent with mild to moderate anger and incredulity.

Mr. Santorum is also self-touching. Self-touching fits into a class of nonverbal behaviors known as Manipulators, Adaptors or Pacifiers (MAPs). With rare exceptions, speakers of any profession are ill-advised to self-touch any body part - particularly their face or the other hand. Like many other MAPs, the "Hand Wringing" seen demonstrated here by the former senator - is a body language tell indicative of anxiety. Santorum has enjoyed a recent surge in the poles with a very near win in the Iowa Caucuses. The New Hampshire Primary tomorrow will, of course, provide many more opportunities for Santorum and the other five remaining republican candidates to show us their nonverbal anxiety.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 731:
Body Language, a Beautiful Prime Minister and a
Bad Handshake - Yingluck Shinawatra

Yingluck Shinawatra is the first female Prime Minister of Thailand. Here she is shown shaking hands with Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda - although for a head-of-state, she's not doing so very well.

The handshake is great example of a "Goldilocks" body language. Similar to the fairy tale of the same name, it has to be performed in a "not too much, not too little, but just right" manner. Neglecting to use this nonverbal middle ground sends very wrong messages. When there isn't enough extension of the arm during a handshake (e.g. as Ms. Shinawatra displays above), messages of non-engagement and aloofness are transmitted. However extending the arm too much (see Negotiation Secret # 299: At Arm's Length) sends signals of distancing (e.g. "I'm not really sure about you", or "I don't really like you that much" or "I don't really want to be here", etc.). Prime Minister Noda strikes a happy medium however, and is extending his arm in an ideal in between (Goldilocks) manner.

Notice also how much Prime Minister Shinawatra is leaning forward. Having a table between two people shaking hands (as in the above example) is highly discouraged. Taking time to walk around to the other side of the table/desk when shaking hands builds warmth and rapport. Ms. Shinawatra amplifies this error by engaging in the handshake while standing further from the table than her Japanese counterpart. This increased distance necessitates a forward lean - and along with the interposition of the table sends a distancing, non-rapport, non-bonding building body language message identical to that described in the above paragraph. The opposite scenario of shaking hands standing too close - will make others feel uncomfortable, sometimes very uncomfortable. Entering into another's personal space should be reserved only for those who we know very well and feel comfortable hugging.

The Thai Leader is also not making any eye contact. While this is obviously a posed photograph, it is imperative to remember that quality and sincere eye contact (as Prime Minister Yoshidiko Noda exemplifies) cannot be over-emphasized. Not all "Bonding Moments" are created equal - and those during the few seconds of a well executed handshake will set the tone for entire diplomatic, business and personal relationships.

To her credit, Prime Minister Shinawatra is displaying a fairly good social smile - however Mr. Noda's smile has a higher "Sincerity Quotient" and indeed is a sincere smile - highly indicative of happiness-joy emotions. Each leader's hand and finger position is optimal here as well - with a symmetrical, neither-on-top, equal-dominance configuration - each palm being perpendicular to the floor.

A quality and sincere handshake has more components (some but not all of them delineated here) than most otherwise socially adept people realize and even very few CXOs perform them well - thus they squander the precious moments and opportunities of an initial greeting or re-greeting. Shakespeare's Brutus spoke it well:

There is a tide in the affairs of men, 
which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
and we must take the current when it serves,
or lose our ventures.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 901:
The Over-used Steeple -
Backfire in Berlin

Many politicians over-use the nonverbal gesture known as the steeple, and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel is probably the most guilty of this body language faux pas. There are several variations of it - and here we see Ms. Merkel demonstrating what is referred to as a "Low Steeple". When used very briefly in selected contexts, it can project confidence, assertiveness and leadership. But it very often it is used too much, on virtually every occasion, in dumbed-down, shot gun approach ..... and subsequently it backfires. Sadly, this is what Angela Merkel's advisers have told her to do - to use this signal often - and it has become a self-satire. She is lampooning herself. When held higher, say in front of the mid or upper chest, the conventional steeple has even more potency (a "High Steeple"). But it doesn't take much use to over-steeple - and thus send signals of arrogance and condescension. These are two of the last emotions a leader should ever want to project. A little bit of knowledge is dangerous and herein is another great example. Despite the fact that Angela Merkel is a head-of-state and highly educated she's sending messages she doesn't know she's sending.

When one area of the body adopts a pose - other parts of the face or body will tend to match it. Thus although this is obviously a posed photo, Angela's mid-face and mouth are tightened slightly - consistent with the negative emotional tone of mild anger and perhaps a touch of contempt. If Ms. Merkel would change her hand position and adopt a friendlier pose, her face would soon follow suite and morph into a more pleasant expression. The emotional signals of the hands are strongly linked to the face. Using this cross-referencing technique is a valuable aide when assessing others' nonverbal signs.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Romance, Marriage and Dating - Body Language Secret # 771:
Ann's and Mitt's Affectionate Hug

Mitt and Ann Romney are shown here just after the former Massachusetts Governor's narrow victory in the Iowa Caucuses last night. One signal of a truly affectionate hug is beautifully exemplified here (particularly by Ann Romney) in the head-to-head, neck-to-head and head to chest/shoulder touching. Surface area contact between these areas are directly proportional to the level of affection felt in that moment. Mitt is leaning forward, which is certainly affectionate in this context - however if his head were tilted to his right (towards Ann) - it would be an even stronger emotional display. A twist to this nonverbal in this particular setting though - is that a neck tilt often sends vulnerability signals. Thus although there are exceptions, it is unusual for politicians and other leaders to tilt their heads when in public. Mitt is also in the midst of mental multitasking, ergo his emotions and thoughts are more divided, while Ann is more focused in the moment.

Additionally, eyelid closure during an embrace is strongly correlated with sincere affection. Those who hug with open eyelids are either lacking in affection or emotionally/mentally distracted. When hugs between lovers begin to lack the head, neck, upper chest contact described above or show diminishing eyelid closure - the love is waning.

See also:  Flirting & Romance Secret # 2: Hugs as a Measure of Affection and Impending Break-up

See also:  Flirting & Romance Secret # 39: Affectionate vs. Non-Affectionate Hugs

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 394 & 496:
Rick Perry's Nonverbal Mistakes in Iowa

Governor Rick Perry commits two fundamental mistakes in this short speech - which a politician or any leader with his experience should never make.

At the very beginning of this clip, Perry rubs his nose. A nose rub belongs to a general class of nonverbal signs known as Manipulators, Adaptors or Pacifiers (MAPs). In descriptive terms, MAPs are self-touching behaviors and are highly consistent with anxiety. Moreover, while they are not sine qua non for deception, certain facial MAPs are more highly correlated with lying-associated anxiety. In short, if someone rubs their nose while making a statement or answering a question - it doesn't necessarily mean they are lying, but (depending on the other nonverbals, verbals and paralanguage exhibited) - your index of suspicion should be significantly increased when this body language is displayed. A speaker should NEVER touch their face. NEVER. Of course most audience members won't have any body language training - but this and many other nonverbal behaviors make them feel uneasy. This signal won't necessarily even register at a conscious level, but the candidate/speaker/CEO/salesperson, etc. will evoke feelings of suspicion and/or emotional discomfort in all who see them.

The second major mistake Governor Perry makes is his strong tendency to read from a script rather than making eye contact with the audience. The art of eye contact with an audience is a surprisingly scarce skill and is not as easy or straightforward as the words imply. Suffice it to say though, that in general, the less eye contact that is made by a speaker - the less he is liked, the less he is trusted, the less rapport is build - and thus he/she loses votes and leadership influence. I cannot overstress the importance of quality eye contact. A speaker/leader/candidate should know the issues well enough to talk in an educated and sincere fashion even if woken from a sound sleep.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 336:
Mitt Romney's Three Emotional Tells

Mitt Romney is experiencing at least three emotions here. The former Massachusetts Governor was campaigning in Council Bluffs on New Year's Day. He is currently polling first in the race for the Iowa Caucuses. In the everyday world, emotions are rarely isolated - rather they are superimposed and/or followed closely by others. Separating them accurately is not always easy. Romney body language shows us an Inward Lip Roll (ILR) indicating anxiety, correlated additionally with attempting to control the overt outward display of a negative emotion. This ILR is "blended" with the additional signal of Lip Thinning. Lip thinning is a clear indication of anger. Thus, anger is the negative emotion which Mitt is trying to contain.

The Governor's unilateral eyebrow and forehead elevation are nonverbal beacons of skepticism. Romney's head is not turned fully and his torso is not rotated at all toward the person/subject of his doubt. We do not look directly at people whom we don't like, don't respect and/or don't trust. Romney is exampling this nonverbal cluster of incredulity very well here.

See also: Secret # 531: Sarkozy's Mouth Tells Us What He's Feeling

See also: Secret # 1213: The Chronically Contracted Forehead

See also: Secret # 67: The Incredulous Cluster

See also: Secret # 771: Ann and Mitt's Affectionate Hug