On this day of the 2016 Iowa Caucuses, take a moment to view the above video segment from the most recent republican debate in Des Moines, Iowa. Senator Marco Rubio is featured three times during this clip. In each of these segments, especially the first two, the junior senator from Florida uses one particular nonverbal signal far too much.
Using any body language excessively (regardless of the type), just as with speaking or writing any word too frequently, will strongly suggest lack of vocabulary (spoken language, written language or body language), lack of experience (at least in this example, on such a large and important national stage) - or anxiety (the brain has difficulty multitasking during times of distress so it resorts to using the few "default settings" with which it has grown accustomed).
Sen. Rubio's intention is to project his assertiveness, determination and anger - by using a downward index finger (forefinger) point with the added hand chop dynamic. This is most certainly a high alpha body language display. The trouble is, as with most politicians and almost everyone using alpha nonverbal signals - is that they go overboard and use them far too dramatically and much too frequently. When over-used, alpha body language is, by definition, hyper-alpha and will polarize and destroy rapport rather than creating or building it.
In the political realm we will see hyper-alpha body language displays by members of the opposing party challengers (in this case the republicans opposing President Obama) much more often than members of the incumbent party running for the same political office. Moreover, hyper-alpha displays are also seen more often before the respective national conventions and a final party representative is then chosen. After the republican and democratic conventions the candidates will of course be trying to win the middle third of the electorate who are undecided - thus their nonverbals (intuitively or coached) will become more diplomatic/rapport building and less hyperbolic/less polarizing.
Did you notice Rubio's additional mistake? He wasn't really using an index finger downward point as much he was pointing directly toward the audience/camera. This is a profound faux pas, as pointing with an index finger towards anyone, even if they otherwise like you (and will vote for you) will alienate them. Index finger pointing is viewed world-wide as extremely offensive and patronizing.
As with any athlete after a game, Senator Rubio (and his staff) should take time to view and critique his performance, alerting him to this and other mistakes.
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