This past Friday at a National Association of Black Journalists and Hispanic Journalist Joint Convention, Hillary Clinton used the phrase, "... I may have short-circuited ..." when describing her recent statements during a television interview last Sunday where may people feel she mischaracterized the words of F.B.I. director James Comey. What follows is a partial nonverbal analysis of Mrs. Clinton at this event.
Very early in the video, note that Secretary Clinton turns her head, torso, abdomen and lower body fully toward Kristen Welker, the journalist who asked the question. The majority of the time politicians will only turn their head and their torso in the direction of the querier. When the lower half of the body does not also turn - a lack of respect and/or lack of interest is projected to those with whom they're speaking, listening or interacting. Such "Whole Body Pointing" is one nonverbal behavior Hillary Clinton has improved upon in the last several months (but she still has a good way to go). It's one of many body language actions which will build rapport and improve likability.
Steeling herself for Ms. Welker's question (0:14 - 0:15), Secretary Clinton's mouth forms an "Inward Lip Roll" (ILR). An inward lip roll is very often seen when the subconscious and/or edge-of-consciousness mind is trying to suppress emotions from growing (as well as from being outwardly displayed).
The instant after Ms. Welker says, "... debunked ...", Mrs. Clinton has a very visceral reaction were her head, neck and torso lurch briefly backward (0:33 - 0:34). If we look at this moment captured in a photo (immediately above), some body language novices may be tempted to falsely conclude that this is a "looking down your nose" nonverbal signal associated with arrogance and contempt - and if it were a prolonged configuration, this would indeed be the case. However watching the dynamics of the video, and the short duration of the action - particularly when clustered with the recent inward lip roll, this quick backward lurching of the head-neck-torso is indicative of an abrupt increase of anxiety and some level of fear.
Another dynamic present in this video which cannot be captured in a still photo is the almost constant nodding of Secretary Clinton's head while Ms. Welker is asking her question. While nodding one's head three to five times every twenty to thirty-seconds can indeed help to build rapport and engender a lengthier conversation - constantly nodding of the head while listening to another person can often project patronizing emotional tones, impatience and insincerity (depending on upon the other nonverbal signals with which it is clustered). Secretary Clinton is considerably over-using this body language behavior.
During the 0:43 - 0:47 segment we still see Hillary Clinton in profile. This makes it easy to see her multiple "hard swallows" (notice her Adam's apple moving up and down) which are associated with a dry mouth and the tightened vocal cords of anxiety. This action must also be viewed in the dynamic context of video to more fully appreciate the nuance.
This website serves as a reference source for the art and science of Body Language/Nonverbal Communication. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the author. 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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