This image of Sasha Obama speaking with Ryan Reynolds at the recent State Dinner for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (and his wive Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau) went viral - most notably because of Malia displaying a consciously driven and universally recognized nonverbal emblem of encouragement/optimism/agreement to her younger sister - giving both thumbs up. Yet what else can we glean in this moment?
When two people first meet - or are meeting for the hundredth time, upon greeting (in the vast majority, but not all cultures), their bodies should point directly at one another - feet, hips, torso, shoulders, head and eyes. This conveys respect and a full attention as well as feelings of being fully present in that given moment. When among friends or familiar/well-received colleagues, about 5 to 10 seconds after a greeting, their bodies should angle apart a bit, approximately 20-25 degrees. When a very first meeting occurs, this body-pointing will be delayed a bit longer, until approximately 30 - 45 seconds has passed.
If too much turning takes place (e.g., greater than 35 - 40 degrees), or this turning occurs too soon after meeting, this will be project feelings of disengagement/aloofness, disrespect, arrogance or preoccupation with another person/issue. However if the body-pointing (directly at the other person) is maintained for too long, depending on the other nonverbal signals with which it's clustered - this will signal low emotional comfort/anxiety or sometimes confrontation/anger (.... and what other emotion?).
Of course Sasha, being just 14 (as with every teenager) is still probably still learning such social skills (and despite their famous father, she and her sister are still star-struck), but Ryan Reynolds has not yet rotated either - why? The answer is most probably several fold: this was most likely within the first few seconds after their meeting - or perhaps Mr. Ryan also has anxiety/low emotional comfort. After all, this was his first state dinner (as it was for both Sasha and Malia) and very probably his first White House visit too. Moreover, with cameras flashing all around, even those experienced with the limelight will rarely relax very much.
Did you notice that Sasha has a smile of true joy-happiness - a Duchenne Smile? Did you overlook President Obama in the far background? Of all the people in this image, who is displaying the highest anxiety? Who has an element of regret?
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