Donald Trump spoke with Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Shinzō Abe and François Hollande last Saturday. Yet the new American President spoke with Malcolm Turnbull, he told the Australia Prime Minister, “this was the worst call by far.” The phone conversation was supposed to last one hour, however Trump ended it abruptly after only 25 minutes. Trump's antagonism was reportedly related to an agreement the Obama administration had made with the Australian government to take 1,250 refugees whom are currently in an Aussie detention center. He clearly does not want to do this.
President Trump, who had just signed an executive order earlier that day temporarily barring the admission of refugees into the US, told the Australian PM he was, “going to get killed” politically and then accused Turnbull of wanting to export to the US, the “next Boston bombers.”
All of the images captured in this post were taken during that specific phone call between Donald Trump and Malcolm Turnbull. The reason for the hazy resolution is primarily because the photographers and videographers were standing outside and filming through the windows of the Oval Office. Reflections can be readily seen against the navy blue of Trump's suit jacket.
Although no recordings - or word-for-word transcripts are available (rather only snippets of phrases), it has been reported by multiple news agencies, both Australian and American, that Trump's tone and words were hostile.
Whenever assessing another person's real-time thought-emotions or predicting their future behavior - we should always take into account several key variables:
1. History of past behavior of the individual in question
2. Their precise words used
3. The accompanying vocal qualities
4. Their Nonverbal Behavior
In this post, we will focus on the fourth factor - Trump's Body Language. In each of these images we see an excellent example of what is known as a Partial Emblematic Slip (There are many nonverbal signals which may be manifested via a partial emblematic slip, but this is perhaps the most infamous).
Did you notice the President has his middle finger extended in each of these moments?
Let's break down the term: Partial Emblematic Slip
An Emblem is a nonverbal signal, most commonly conveyed with the hands - yet it may be performed with any part of the body, signaling a well-accepted and specific meaning in within a geographic region or subculture. The emotion projected via an extended middle finger (most commonly with the back of the hand facing away from its displayer) is indeed understood in virtually every culture around the World (and thus is essentially referred to as "Universal").
It is called Partial because the Emblem is not displayed in its typical, conscious full-fledged manner - but rather moderately extended. In addition, it's also conveyed in a nontraditional location - here, extended on the face during a phone call.
The word Slip is included, because it's nearly always subconsciously performed. Although occasionally people will disguise this insult deliberately, Trump almost surely did not know he was displaying this body language signal.
Conclusion: We can have high confidence in the reports of just how hostile and vitriolic President Trump was toward Malcolm Turnbull during their phone call last weekend. Indeed, Trump was truly flipping-off his Aussie counterpart.
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Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3573: Angela Merkel, the G7 and Destroying Rapport
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3512: Emilia Clarke, "Me Before You" and Body Language