Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3340: Bernie's and Hillary's Big Moment - Body Language at the Democrat Debate (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

The big moment from last night's Democrat Debate was of course the "Damn Emails" comment by Senator Bernie Sanders. Some of the nonverbal behavior associated with this mike drop moment is discussed below.

CLINTON: But I'll be there. I'll answer their questions. But tonight, I want to talk not about my e-mails, but about what the American people want from the next president of the United States.


COOPER: Senator Sanders?

SANDERS: Let me say this.


(The video above begins at this moment)
SANDERS: Let me say - let me say something that may not be great politics. But I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.


CLINTON: Thank you. Me, too. Me, too. (Clinton laughing)

SANDERS: You know? The middle class - Anderson - and let me say something about the media as well. I go around the country, talk to a whole lot of people. Middle class in this country is collapsing. We have 27 million people living in poverty. We have massive wealth and income inequality. Our trade policies have cost us millions of decent jobs. The American people want to know whether we're going to have a democracy or an oligarchy as a result of Citizens Union. Enough of the e-mails. Let's talk about the real issues - facing America.


CLINTON: Thank you, Bernie. Thank you.  (APPLAUSE)

Leading up to this moment, Hillary Clinton first nods her head yes multiple times. She looks toward Sanders and then back toward the audience. This is then followed by her nodding with a sincere smile. She then turns her head again back toward Senator Sanders and shortly thereafter reaches out her hand/arm for a handshake.

Next Hillary steps out from behind the lectern and into Bernie's personal space (and her hand is in what is termed his "intimate space").

Stepping out from behind the lectern in this specific moment was personable and warm - a very wise body language move.

Note that because Mrs. Clinton offers her hand in palm-up (beta) configuration - this allows Mr. Sanders to naturally respond in an alpha (palm-down) manner. She should have had her palm oriented vertically (perpendicular to the floor).

Next Bernie takes Hillary's hand and shakes it - but in a manner which is definitely NOT recommended.

Watch the video above - and put it on 1/4 speed for this segment. He pushes and pulls her arm with his left hand clasped over her hand. This is a "Double-Hander" handshake combined with a "Stiff-Arm Thrust". If a person intended to dominate and intimidate another - either the double-hander or the stiff-arm thrust would certainly facilitate such feelings - yet here this is not his intent. He went into an automatic mode without fully thinking about the context.

Next, Bernie loosens up a bit and touches Mrs. Clinton on her upper back - just behind her shoulder. While the vast majority of the time this body language would not be recommended in the context of a debate (and would lose you votes) - this specific scenario is an exception. Mrs. Clinton's laughter is sincere - as is Sanders's Smile. It's quite rare that two candidates display such sincerity. This moment was classic and increased both of their likability quotients.

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3339: First Democratic Presidential Debate - Jim Webb's Proud of Making this Enemy

Body Language Analysis No. 703: Bad Handshake?  Let me count the ways!

Negotiation Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 1510:  Handshakes, Statesmanship and Dominance -  Manmohan Singh & Asif Ali Zardari 

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3151: Barack Obama and Raúl Castro Shake Hands