Earlier this week Mr. Kushner made a surprise trip to Iraq. The photo above is from that trip - and not surprisingly, it has drawn tremendous criticism.
From a purist's perspective, the clothes we wear are not considered part of our body language vocabulary - but the purists are sorely mistaken.
Our clothes are profound nonverbal illustrators - for they are extensions of our face/body and much of the time project our personality as well as the context of our mental state. In some settings this principle certainly applies more so than others. In nonverbal parlance, the term "Illustrator" describes a subset of body language signals we display (>99.9+% subconsciously) to emphasize, underline, italicize and act as exclamation-points for other aspects of our verbal communication and behavior.
If Jared Kushner would have donned semi-military garb - or at least jeans and a T-shirt, no one would have thought it unusual. But by choosing to highlight himself and moreover looking extremely Brooks Brothersesque while doing so, he dramatically and arrogantly distances himself from those people with whom he's attempting to build rapport. It sends signals of aloofness, ignorance, incompetence - and a complete lack of empathy. Kushner is very much saying, "I have to be here, but I don't want to" as well as, "I belong to the country club - and you don't". Indeed, many of those in Iraq (or others simply viewing this image) would interpret his choice of garb in this setting as a nonverbal equivalent of a middle finger shoved in their (our) collective faces'.
"When you visit the land of others, take a friend with you, but leave your laws at home."
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