Saturday, January 26, 2013

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2281:
Inaugural Luncheon Anxiety
Barack Obama's Body Language
Michelle's Mirroring

The above video captures a few moments during the speech President Obama made at the Inaugural Luncheon earlier this week. During this speech, Barack Obama, who normally is a very relaxed and confident speaker, uncharacteristically displayed several body language signals of discomfort, lower confidence and anxiety. 

Note very early in the speech the President scratches above his right ear. This MAP (Manipulator, Adaptor, Pacifier) is a general and reliable signal of anxiety. Touching the ear or just below the ear (not seen in this example) while also an anxiety sign, can indicate other additional thought-emotions. It is interesting to note that Michelle also simultaneous scratches the same area. This mirroring shows that Barack and the First Lady are very "in sync" emotionally. 

Also early on, Mr. Obama's left hand then goes in his side pocket for several seconds before he retracts it. While some falsely interpret this body language as a signal of relaxation - it's not. Along with anxiety, it also is an indicator of non-engagement and a lack of desire to speak.

Barack also stands with his feet relatively close together at the lectern. Feet in this position is indicative of lower confidence, low comfort and beta emotional tones. He (and other alpha personalities) typically stands with his feet a shoulder's width apart - which both engenders and indicates higher levels of comfort and confidence.

In addition, relative to his typical speech, the President uses very few hand/arm illustrators here (what in common parlance are called gestures). This relative lack of illustrators, particularly given his norm, is a strong indicator of anxiety and low comfort (and counter-intuitive given that he just was re-inaugurated). He grips the sides of the lectern platform a lot. And while this is not an awful nonverbal to emulate, and is certainly much better than hands that stay in pockets or below the lectern platform - it should not be overused. John Kennedy popularized this lectern gripping 50 years ago - but he did so primarily because he had a longstanding and painful back injury.

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2276: Michelle Obama's Eye Roll .... What was she thinking? and What Did Boehner's & Barack's Body Language Say? 

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

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2074: Mitt Romney and Senator Kelly Ayotte - What Body Language Tells?

Negotiation Nonverbal Communication Secret # 1143: Santorum Video Analysis  R2E2 and other Tells

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2155: Body Language Tells at the Second Presidential Debate  Mitt Romney at Attention &  President Obama's Disapproval-Subtle Contempt

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2152: Second Presidential Debate - 16 October 2012 -  Barack Obama's Duping Delight - Benghazi, Libya Attack was an "Act of Terror" -  Alpha, Beta, Confidence & Acquiescence ...

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1869: One Body Language Signal a President Should Never Display

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 801:  Mirroring Down Under - Barack Obama & Julia Gillard

Negotiation Nonverbal Communication Tip # 1239: Benjamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama and Iran