Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2360:
Bill Clinton and the Body Language of a
"Loose Hand, Palm Up Point"

This past weekend in St. Louis at the Annual meeting for the Clinton Global Initiative University, President Bill Clinton was asked if he would rather serve eight more years as President, or complete sixteen projects at the Clinton Global Initiative, he paused and said, "I would rather keep doing what I'm doing, because I think America will have some very good choices for President".

Of course, with Hillary Clinton at his side this response drew a huge response from the crowd as the former Secretary of State is the de facto Democratic Presidential Nominee in 2016. It's hers if she wants it. 

Bill is a master when it comes to body language. Even if you're his political opposite, when you meet him he has the ability to make you feel, for a few moments, as if you are the only other person in the World. Many a republican have said this. Given her level of experience, Hillary is pretty good with her nonverbal communication - yet she could still learn a lot from her Husband. 

In the image above Bill utilizes a nonverbal nuance of which few politicians are aware - the relaxed hand, palm up index finger point. Most people are ignorant of just how cross-culturally highly offensive is the act pointing with the forefinger (aka index finger). Once you have learned this bad habit as a child - it is difficult one to "unlearn". 

Many modifications of the forefinger point will soften the caustic nature of this body language illustrator. Some cultures will instead point with their elbow in order to be more polite. Other cultures will pucker their lips and gesture with a quick movement of the lips/head/neck. Yet another kinder modification is to point with the palm up, hand/fingers held loosely. In the above photo, Mr. Clinton is doing pretty well, however he could have done a bit better her if he was pointing with all his fingers and his palm directed upward a bit more - yet he's still far ahead of the pack on this one.

Another big advantage of having the fingers in a loose configuration, is it will tend to simultaneously relax the face muscles. When the hand in tense - the face will mirror this tension - which is often manifested as anxiety, sadness, anger, contempt, fear or disgust. When the fingers and hands are relaxed, so becomes the face. This is one reason why a hand massage feels so good.

The significance of palms up is also very important. It is universally interpreted as more giving, supportive, open, accepting and kind - whereas the palm down point is much more authoritative and often hyper-assertive. There are rare times when this gesture may be called for - but most "leaders" (or those in leadership positions) dramatically over use it. Those who use the palm down point often are not only offending others (either out of choice or naïveté) - but its chronic use is a strong indicator of narcissistic personality disorder.

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2339:  Alpha, Beta, Body Language & Rapport Destroyers

Negotiation Secret # 339:  Don't Point at Me! I am not your child!

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 349:  Pointing with Two Fingers (or more) 

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

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2321:  Cardinal Timothy Dolan on "Face the Nation"  Problems in Catholic Church & Electing a New Pope  Clergy are Not Exempt from Body Language Tells ...

Negotiation Secret # 441:  The Political Point - How Not to Use It

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1918:  Vladimir Putin - Pointing with Pen Surrogates - Sharp vs. Blunt

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2322:  Jeb Bush & Matt Lauer - Which one is the Narcissist?  Body Language Red Flags