Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2490:
Hillary Clinton and the Two-Handed Point -
The American Bar Association, Body Language and
Variations on a Theme (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

At a recent convention of the American Bar Association in San Francisco, Hillary Clinton slow-danced with her possible candidacy in the 2016 Presidential race. In a speech on protecting voters' rights, the former U.S. Secretary of State demonstrated a nonverbal signal that should be used very sparingly (or not all) - the "Two-Handed Index Finger Point".

Note: The original video has, since the original post, been removed from its online source. The images below however, were captured from this video

As the former first lady says (0:31 - 0:33), "... gives us the standing and the experience ...", she displays this two handed signal. It is a high-alpha display is consistent with a very self-righteous level of confidence. Thus this body language illustrator should be used only very briefly and only in front of friendly audiences. When displayed for prolonged periods (which is not very long at all, only a few seconds) or in front of non-friendly audiences or with a belief which is NOT universally held - it can often does back-fire. In such scenarios the speaker will likely (and often obliviously) feel very alpha (their ego is fed), but his/her rapport (and likability) will suffer. Politicians miss the connection between likability and body language so often it hurts.

The index finger point should in general be strongly avoided, as it is universally seen as offensive. "Leaders", speakers and politicians repeatedly make the mistake of using it (and almost always by over-using it) - while they remain blind to its damage. They are shooting themselves in the foot. 

In this particular example, Mrs. Clinton does NOT over-alpha the double index finger point - by using it in short duration (two seconds), in front of a friendly audience and by not increasing her volume or tone too much.

In addition, whether by chance or design, she also "dialed down" the intensity of this gesture even further by holding her hands relatively lower (mid chest level) and close together. Both of these modifications down-regulate the alpha intensity of this nonverbal - thus making it a bit more palatable.

What other nonverbal displays does Mrs. Clinton use to her advantage in the video? To her disadvantage?

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2363: Hillary Clinton, Body Language and the Political Point -  Hand Tension Correlations with Facial Tension

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1923:  Hillary Clinton's Body Language re: Syrian Government - The Self-Righteous Head Wiggle

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2385:  Hillary Clinton & Henry Kissinger at  Atlantic Council's Leadership Awards, Her Body Language Betrays Anxiety at a Key Moment

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1531:  Hillary Clinton Describing the  Osama Bin Laden Navy SEAL Raid at the  U.S. Naval Academy, 10 April 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2202:  Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and the  Body Language of the "Fig Leaf"

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2032:  Hillary Clinton in Paris -  Building a Coalition Against Syrian President al-Assad

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2777:  Hillary Clinton, Huma Abedin, John McCain and John Boehner