In this image taken recently during the President's vacation on Martha's Vineyard, Mr. Obama took some time out to comment on the dynamic situations in Iraq including the resignation of Nouri al-Maliki and the Yazidi's plight from their entrapment on Mt. Sinjar.
Whether you agree or disagree with Barack Obama's politics, you probably recognize his superior speaking ability - but you may not be as cognizant of his superior nonverbal skills. You may also be aware of how - unlike many other elected leaders - he is better than most at not letting negative words or actions affect his demeanor. Yet few realize that all of these are intimately connected - the verbal, the nonverbal, emotional awareness and emotional control. This phenomenon is subtly illustrated in the image above.
Jaw clenching is a body language signal highly consistent with anger (although it can be seen in other settings depending on the other nonverbals with which it is clustered). Additional nonverbal anger signs here include the eyebrows being drawn together as well as their downward-vectoring. Nostril flaring also accompanies anger (along with some other emotions). All of these are present in this picture of POTUS.
The President's jaw clenching can be easily seen in this photo. It is important to note however, that there is no jutting of the jaw (a forward displacement of the mandible often resulting in a momentary under-bite). Because Barack's teeth are clenched, his lip cannot roll inwards - which often occurs during the moments far from emotional baseline - so bunching up of the lips and adjacent tissue occurs (A "Peri-lip Bulge" - here in abundance). Chin dimpling is also seen.
In the presence of jaw clenching (as long as there is no jaw jutting) - if the back part (posterior) of the jaw is clenched tighter - the anger tends to be greater and this action facilitates an escalation of the anger. When the front portion (anterior) of the jaw is the primary focus of the tightening - the anger tends to be less - and in this tends to engender the anger's decrescendo. This is a form of body language biofeedback. Of course there are many other factors which may build or lessen anger or any negative emotion in these crucial "refractory periods" - but this is a valuable one. Where does your jaw tighten when you grow angry? Are you even aware of this? How do you dial this down?
Emotional self-awareness is relatively rare. The ability to down-regulate negative emotions is even scarcer. Nonverbal techniques learned and practiced will increase emotional self-recognition and thus aide in self-de-escalation.
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