President Obama stirred massive controversy when two days ago he told the World if the United Kingdom would have to "go to the back of the queue" if it leaves the European Union (Brexit) and subsequently attempts to negotiate its own trade agreement with the United States. The President further stated that an US-UK trade agreement is not going to happen "any time soon" ... "Not because we don’t have a special relationship but because given the heavy lift on any trade agreement, us having access to a big market with a lot of countries rather than trying to do piecemeal trade agreements, which is hugely inefficient".
The image above of David Cameron and Barack Obama was captured Friday at Number 10. From a nonverbal communication perspective the President - who normally has pretty good body language instinct - here he committed an enormous faux pas.
With the exception of an injury or a handicap (and then only when invited to do so) a President should never invade another person's personal space and touch them (intimate space) in an attempt to (appear to) "assist" them through a doorway (or similar). The only other exceptions for this action in public are his family. This is true for multiple reasons:
A. It's an invasion of intimate space and thus a projection of false intimacy.
B. The people who commit this body language error are always alpha personalities and perceive the people to whom they are "guiding through the door" to be their betas. Even if such a scenario were true (e.g., a boss to a subordinate employee) - the leader should never want to make others feel inferior, rather they should endeavor to lift and inspire their behavior - to make them feel more capable, not less.
C. In this example, President Obama is doing this to another Head of State - David Cameron. They are equals. In treating him in this manner, Mr. Obama sends the wrong message to Mr. Cameron, The UK and the World.
D. This is not The White House - this is Number 10. President Obama should not treat a member of his own cabinet in the Rose Garden this way. It is particularly bad body language when performed in its analog setting on foreign soil, for then it become a further invasion of space - as if he were taking a momentary (false) "ownership" of David Cameron's Residence.
E. "Guiding" another adult through a doorway by placing a hand on their arm, shoulder, back, etc., particularly in such a public setting (with the exceptions of those listed above) is patronizing and condescending. Even if the two men were roommates and best friends in grad school - in a public context this should never be done.
This website serves as an objective reference source for the science and art of Body Language/Nonverbal Communication. In an effort to be both practical and academic, many examples from/of varied cultures, politicians, professional athletes, legal cases, public figures, etc., are cited in order to teach and illustrate both the interpretation of others’ body language as well as the projection of one’s own nonverbal skills in many different contexts – not to advance any political, religious or other agenda.
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