On Monday, President Trump hosted dozens of leaders from America's Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) at the White House. The photograph above was taken in the Oval Office. Kellyanne Conway has taken much criticism for kneeling on the couch.
Regardless of one's political ideology - from nonverbal communication and emotional intelligence perspective - her behavior (to borrow a bit from Winston Churchill) was disrespectful, wrapped in rudeness, inside a political faux pas.
Let's break it down the body language:
Mistake: Protocol and etiquette dictate, that while in the White House when the President stands, staff and guests must also stand. But Conway's mistake was much more than bad etiquette or poor protocol.
Mistake: From a public relations, empathy as well as a political point of view - this was slow pitch softball and the Trump administration struck out. The fact that the only person in the room who is sitting is white and (with the exception of the President) everyone else is African American and standing up - projects profoundly poor optics.
Let's assume for a moment, that Donald Trump was not President of the United States, but instead, a president of a mid-sized company somewhere in Ohio - and the women and men surrounding him were potential business partners. Let's also posit, that Ms. Conway was one of Trump's vice presidents helping to facilitate the meeting.
Mistake: Unless you're injured, suffering a disease, handicapped or being honored in a ceremony, you should NEVER sit while others are standing. It conveys a high level of disrespect as well as contempt and/or disgust (e.g., "You are beneath me").
Mistake: Forget your phone! Be fully present. Be in the moment. There is a professional photographer in the room (ergo the picture above). You can get a copy of the image from them. If you're texting someone or posting to social media, then you're projecting an even greater level of disrespect. You wouldn't expect this behavior from anyone else who was trying to gain your respect - so don't treat others (with whom you're supposed to be showing similar courtesy) in this manner.
Mistake: The lack of eye contact (phone or otherwise) is a profound breach of respect.
Mistake: If a person had to sit, for whatever reason, their feet should be flat on the floor - not crossed - and certainly not sitting on one's knees. From a nonverbal behavior perspective, the LACK of her feet being FLAT on the floor - projects a further and strong level of disrespect. This is true whether a person is sitting or standing.
Mistake: Conway is whole-body-pointing away from the President and the other dignitaries. Instead, her eye contact, head, torso, abdomen and feet - should all be pointing toward the person in the room who commands the most respect.
Mistake: Shoes off the couch.
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