What nonverbal tendencies do Sergey Kislyak, Sergey Lavrov (the Russian Foreign Minister), and their boss - Vladimir Putin, all have in common?
In the above video (published Wednesday), Sergey Kislyak is fielding questions from a journalist. Mr. Kislyak was the Russian Ambassador to the United States from 26 July 2008 until this past Monday.
When emotional tension is present, particularly when with a superior-subordinate relationship - if one person adopts a "smile" - there is a very high likelihood of deception and/or manipulation is taking place.
Such "out-of-context" behaviors (smiles or otherwise) should always raise red flags.
In these adversarial situations, even when they're of relatively low consequence, a "smile" almost never is displayed because the person welcomes any confrontation. The person is also not "smiling" because they like the antagonist. Indeed, the "smile" is often not even sincere (although sometimes people will experience true joy-happiness in deception and other malicious acts). In such circumstances, these pseudo-smiles virtually always occur for one of two reasons:
- There is an element of contempt present - and it's being masked by a "smile". It's as if to say, "I will entertain your musings, little child". It's condescending. It's a patronizing act - and it's designed to throw off your emotions. It's an intimidation tactic. Incredibly, some people use this method of manipulation as one of their primary staples of human interaction.
- If they maintain a partially suppressed "smile" throughout much of the interaction (particularly if performed from the beginning), they don't have to worry about "cracking a smile" in the act of deception or when being questioned about deceit. If instead, they attempted to keep a neutral/concerned expression - then broke into a smile at the wrong time - they would "out themselves" in an act of duping delight. In this second scenario, on the surface, they're essentially feigning the first tactic (No. 1 above), yet they are only pretending this as emotional camouflage. They disguise their tendency to smile at the wrong time by instead smirk-smiling constantly (because they know they're guilty).
For most people, on the surface these two tactics look very similar (perhaps identical) - and even though both are nefarious, they each have a different motive. The first is truly patronizing-intimidating-contemptuous, while the second tactic is faking (essentially character-acting) these emotions as a cloak for the real purpose - hiding deception.
As mentioned earlier, these "smiles" are often false smiles, ruses - for these often masks for coexisting component of contempt. These feigned smiles often will "feel" like a smirk. Their appearances are asymmetrical. Mr. Kislyak's smirk-smile-contempt is biased toward his right side.
The three Russian leaders mentioned - President Putin, Minister Lavrov, and Former Ambassador Kislyak - all use the two techniques discussed here. Moreover, Sergey Kislyak uses it throughout a good portion of his interaction with this journalist. Of course, these nonverbal behaviors are not at all limited to Russians, or government officials - but are part of each human psyche.
In the image immediately above, after being asked, "But when you met Donald Trump, the President, were you surprised when he disclosed secret information to you about Syria?", Mr. Kislyak first looked away (down to his left) and then responded, "I'm not sure that I heard anything that would be secret". This expression in this photo (although not captured in this photo from an optimum angle) demonstrates Mr. Kislyak's asymmetrical smile-smirk of contempt.
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