It's often been noted that Marco Rubio is a bit more nervous than many would expect for a U.S. Senator - and particularly during higher priority televised events. You may recall Senator Rubio gave the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union Address in 2013. In this retort his throat grew dry and he took a gulp of water. This is not surprising however - for public speaking (especially with the incredible spotlight of a national and even World stage) is an extremely common anxiety evoking activity. Indeed many rate speaking before an audience at near the top of all feared events. Some people would even prefer death to giving a speech.
During the Republican debate last Thursday, Rubio responded to a question regarding illegal immigration with repeated, fairly monotonous variations of the same nonverbal illustrator. With some mild variations, the Florida Senator used the index finger-to-thumb pinch-point with his right (dominant hand) during his entire response (except at the very end - once his time had expired).
This is a more aggressive, more polarizing, hyper-authoritative nonverbal and should never be used for too long a duration (only a few seconds when driving home a crucial issue).
A person displaying the forward pinch-point - and in a tight fashion as Senator Rubio is here, indicates a higher level of anxiety.
The downward pinch-point is also high on the scale of both an anxiety indicator as well as signaling both aggressiveness and authoritativeness.
Hand tension is highly correlative with facial tension.
This pinch-point is more loosely-held and indicates a reduction of the Senator's stress. Accordingly we can see his face shows less tension as well.
Here - we see a brief "Loose Fist Thumbs-up". It's almost a "Politician's Point" - and is a more relaxed illustrator as well (The thumb is not pinching against the forefinger [index finger], but they are momentarily forming a circle).
In this moment, all five digits come together - in a loose pinch - and importantly, the palm is turned upward.
Palm-up displays generate more rapport and indicate less anxiety.
Senator Rubio is saved by the bell - for it's not until it rings that Marco uses his left hand in this answer. During this entire response it was griping the lectern. The monotonous use of only one arm/hand is a sure signal of anxiety - moreover it has projects less confidence, diminishes trust and significantly reduces the ability to influence others.
Knowing his time is up - at least until he gets another question - Senator Rubio's anxiety drops, he loosens-up his body language and his left hand comes out of hiding. The increased distance Rubio's arms are from his torso in this last moment are also very telling for his momentary heightened confidence.
Notice how relaxed Rubio's face has become - and of course his hands, arms and shoulders are as well. Always remember this control mechanism - lowering the tension in your upper limbs will reduce your nervousness. Senator Rubio would be well-advised to practice more relaxed and fluid arm-hand gestures (yet such nonverbals must ALWAYS congruent). Not only will this project more confidence and build greater rapport (ergo votes) - but it will also have the added benefit of down-regulating the Senator's anxiety level via a user-friendly feedback loop.
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