On Thursday night, The New York Times published a story suggesting that Hillary Clinton was the subject of a criminal probe regarding her use of her personal email account during her tenure as Secretary of State.
On Friday morning, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD, ranking member on the House Oversight Committee) then went on record saying, "I spoke personally to the State Department Inspector General on Thursday, and he said he never asked the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation of Secretary Clinton’s email usage. Instead, he told me the Intelligence Community IG notified the Justice Department and Congress that they identified classified information in a few emails that were part of the FOIA review, and that none of those emails had been previously marked as classified."
Early afternoon on Friday, the Justice Department released a statement saying, "The Department has received a referral related to the potential compromise of classified information. It is not a CRIMINAL referral."
Rep. Cummings' Team then posted the following statement, "We note that none of the emails we reviewed had classification or dissemination markings, but some included IC-derived classified information and should have been handled as classified, appropriately marked, and transmitted via a secure network."
About 90 minutes later, Hillary Clinton as show in the above video says, "First, I wanna say a word about ah, what's in the news today. And ah, it’s because there have been a lot of inaccuracies and as Congressman Cummings made clear this morning, maybe the heat is getting to everybody. We all have a responsibility to get this right. I have released ah 55,000 pages of emails. I have said repeatedly that I will answer questions before the house committee. We are all accountable to the American people to get the facts right and I will do my part."
Now, since this website and post are critiques of body language and not of politics, forget for a moment your political leanings and conduct a thorough thought experiment. Also assume she is innocent of any wrong doing. If you were Hillary Clinton's chief adviser - and if you could rewind this moment and have her conduct herself any differently, would you? Your answer should be unequivocally, "Yes".
Throughout her whole statement, Mrs. Clinton has a barely contained smile. This is an awful expression to project in this context for at least two reasons. If you believe Mrs. Clinton is innocent, her partially suppressed smile transmits a smug emotional tone. Smug may be okay if you're a staunch supporter, however if you're even slightly biased toward Mrs. Clinton having done something wrong (deliberately or otherwise) with regards to her using private email accounts and/or private servers while she was Secretary of State, then her gloating (smiling out of context) by some will be misinterpreted as guilt (e.g. a thinly veiled variation of a duping delight).
From a political view-point, such smiling out of context will only serve to decreases her "likability" and increase her "unfavorables". Additionally and most importantly, such mass-misinterpretation will amplify the problem of a public perception Mrs. Clinton has regarding trust. This was a fundamental fumble of crisis management.
Examining this video further, there were several high confidence nonverbal signs displayed by Mrs. Clinton. Did you catch them? Here are two:
Early in this video, Hillary Clinton grips the (lateral) sides of her lectern. More specifically, this is forward grip (towards the audience). John Kennedy was the first to do this frequently - although he did so because of pain associated with his chronic back injury. Bill Clinton later resurrected this nonverbal display to his advantage - for it projects confidence. It's extremely difficult for a person to use this particular body language (a MAP surrogate [Manipulator, Adaptor, Pacifier]) for more than a second or two if their confidence is low. Mrs. Clinton's confidence is high. In isolation this hand-to-lectern configuration conveys strength and assertiveness without arrogance or condescending emotional tones. She is well advised to use this more often (too few women use this body language display) - but WITHOUT the smug smile. Without a smile, such a nonverbal cluster would have projected an excellent alpha-beta emotional tone. Both signals together are however are hyper-alpha and thus she destroyed some rapport among the swing voters during this crucial soundbite.
At the very end of this video, as she says, "... and I will do my part", Mrs. Clinton displays a "Self-Righteous Head Wiggle".
A self-righteous head wiggle (SRHW) is nonverbal display characterized by a side-to-side movement of the head and neck (although there may be torso, whole body and jaw components present as well). It's usually of moderate to high frequency with varying degrees of amplitude. It's displayed by a person who in a high-alpha mindset with strong opinions and of high confidence. The accompanying vocal qualities are virtually always congruent with these emotions. There is no accurate way to capture this body language in a still image - so please view the video to appreciate it in a dynamic context.
There were several other high-alpha nonverbals in this video. What else did you see?
Take home point: Hyper-alpha body language is fundamentally polarizing.
Mrs. Clinton: If you continue this and variations of it, the dems will like you more, the republicans will like you less - and you will push away much of the swing voters. Yes, be confident. Yes, be assertive. Yes, be strong. But never be smug, never arrogant. It's not just words which convey such emotions - it's profoundly and most importantly pivotal upon your nonverbal signals. And just "winging it" will decrease your likability and increase your unfavorables. Even Meryl Streep isn't that good.
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