Hand and arm nonverbal displays (what most people refer to as "gestures") when used with nuance are powerful nonverbal tools. In body language parlance, gestures fit into categories termed either as "Illustrators" or "MAPs" (Manipulators, Adaptors, Pacifiers). These nonverbal signs can build rapport or destroy it - they may project either alpha or beta characteristics - or they may reflect arrogance or more humble qualities. Many people use gestures in an incongruent manner relative to their verbal language and paralanguage (vocal qualities) - and in such disparity - will "leak" their true thought-feelings. In contrast, when all three communication channels (verbal, nonverbal, paralanguage) are aligned - sincerity is present and recognized.
Last night, when delivering his statement regarding the attacks in Paris, Barack Obama made almost no hand or arm gestures. Only an occasional crossing and uncrossing of his hands on the top of the lectern - as well as a gripping of its sides were displayed. Other than these milder hand and arm movements, no other gestures were used in this 4 minute speech. When speaking about such a somber and tragic event - particularly when it's still unfolding, lower positions and a relative lack of use of the hands projects a greater reverence and respect for those who had lost their lives in the attack.
If President Obama's hands had been elevated and using movements and configurations which, in almost any other setting would be "normal" or acceptable - would have been out of context here. Moreover had Mr. Obama displayed even moderate hand use in this situation, it would be both interpreted and signify an insensitive emotional tone with a veiled political agenda. The President's lower position and minimal hand usage is an analog of the genital guarding/fig leaf configuration.
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