Although it is brief, this video segment of Vladimir Putin and Fareed Zakaria is packed with some very classic and particularly telling nonverbal signals. Several of these are highlighted below.
During the early portions of the above video segment (0:17 - 0:18, 0:20) - and once again at towards the end (1:55 - 1:58), Mr. Putin's left middle finger is covering his lips in a horizontal orientation.
This is an example of a very specific body language display known as a "Partial Emblematic Slip".
The display of a middle finger (giving "The Finger") extended while the other digits are flexed (contracted) is one type of an "Emblem" - the meaning of which is well acknowledged and known World-wide. Of course this gesture, when fully expressed, is held high and blatantly displayed. Yet here it is horizontal and touching his lips. Moreover the other fingers and the thumb are only slightly flexed. Thus this "bird" is not classically displayed - but camouflaged and partial. The great majority of the time this variety of derogatory nonverbal emblem is performed subconsciously - and this is why it is referred to as a "Slip".
Partial Emblematic Slip
Vladimir is saying,
An additional aspect of this display is that it's occurring over his mouth - thus the Russian President is not only flipping the bird, but he is also telling Fareed Zakaria to hush - or to be quiet. Mr. Putin does not want this question to be asked. Mr. Putin then corrected Mr. Zakaria - calling Donald Trump "a bright person" rather than "brilliant", "outstanding" or "talented".
Notice the sudden lateral displacement of Putin's lips to his right captured here (Please view the video to more fully appreciate the dynamics of this subset behavior).
Beneath the obscenity, this "Lateral Lip Purse" is momentarily letting us inside of Putin's Mind. Although Vladimir has anticipated this question regarding Trump - this signal is telling us he's in the process of deciding exactly how to answer. Typically the lateral lip purse shows us the decision is between two or sometimes three choices - rather than a multitude.
Here we see another tell - a "Loose Forward Lip Purse" mostly covered by Vladimir's finger.
A loose forward lip purse signals a covert plan and/or a clandestine disagreement. These are displayed by a person who perceives himself to be a relative alpha with respect to whomever they're interacting. They also believe they have a good chance of successfully executing their plan.
What body language display(s) tell us whether Putin's obscenity was directed at the person asking the question (Fareed Zakaria) or the subject of the question (Donald Trump) - or both?
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