On Tuesday, President Trump visited Puerto Rico. His trip, of course, was in response to Hurricane Maria. The storm was the strongest to hit this US Territory since 1928 (which thankfully, had weakened to category 4 at the time of maximum impact). At full strength, it was the tenth strongest Hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin.
President Donald Trump and San Juan's Mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz - had rapidly developed an antagonistic relationship after she criticized the US government's response to the disaster - and he retorted with critical tweets including: "Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help."
What follows is a partial nonverbal analysis President Trump's and Mayor Yulín Cruz's brief interaction. Three different images are evaluated here - captured from varying angles.
The photo above best shows the President's and the Mayor's handshake. Note their respective foot and hip positions. The Mayor's are pointed directly toward the President - while the President's are vectored at a 60˚ - 70˚ angle. This conveys Mayor Yulín Cruz is showing respect for President Trump - but he is projecting no such feelings for her. When we respect another person, we point our feet and our hips toward them.
Mayor Yulín Cruz's feet are positioned slightly less than her shoulder width apart. This configuration shows significant alpha status - conveying her conviction and strength. The fact that only the President's right foot is fully planted - while his left foot up on his toes - shows a significantly more beta emotional tone. The President's stance is "off-balance" and weak - while the Mayor's is "standing firm" and confident.
Notice also the upright position of Mayor Yulín Cruz's entire body - she is leaning only slight forward "into" the handshake. In contrast, the President is leaning primarily laterally - with his center of gravity considerably forward - over his right foot. This dynamic projects a sloppy nonchalance on the part of President Trump.
Another faux pas in this moment is the barrier of the chair. Either President Trump or Mayor Yulín Cruz should have either moved the chair or stepped around it. Whoever did so would have elevated the respect for the other person. Leaving this obstacle in place is a nonverbal metaphor for the impediments in their relationship.
Another key nonverbal display here is the Mayor's left hand. It's positioned behind her back. This is both a distancing signal (e.g., I don't want to touch you more than I have to) - as well as a confidence (hyper-confidence) display.
This facial expression of President Trump's is indicative of profound Disgust (immediately above).
This last image, taken about 0.5 seconds after the first photo shows the President's face displaying significant Contempt.
Intriguingly, the although Mayor Yulín Cruz is in a tremendously less powerful position - she displays much more confidence and strength in this moment.
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