Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2284:
LeBron James in The White House -
A Fundamental Body Language Mistake

Yesterday, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and the rest of the NBA's Miami Heat visited President Obama in The White House to acknowledge their 2012 Championship season. And while these two are maestros on the basketball court, their "situational awareness" was found wanting in the East Room. For both James and Wade turned their backs to the audience. 

There is a very strong tendency to turn towards someone who commands respect and given the fact that they were standing next to Barack - this is what they did. Rooted in our subconscious, we are directed to point our feet, hips torso, face and eyes towards a person who is an alpha - regardless of whether you agree with his/her political beliefs. Body language etiquette has an important caveat in front of an audience though. And whenever cameras are present (and they always are) even partially ignoring the audience is an error many times magnified - sometimes by a factor of thousands or millions.

Just as any other time when in front of an audience, a handshake (or hug/abrazo) should still be given FULLY facing the other person - however then one should turn their whole body to face the audience/camera. After greeting the President, LeBron and Dwayne would have been much better advised to instead face the crowd and make one or two momentary (a second or two) head/eye turns with arm-hand gestures towards their teammates on stage. This would have still acknowledged and respected them without dissing the audience/camera. Sharing the microphone with the rest of the Heat would have also been consistent with teamwork and leadership.