Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 70: Robert Redford and The Sting of Denial & Anger

Robert Redford feels The Sting of Frustration. The emotion of frustration has components of anger, disappointment, denial and conflict.  His fingers are brought to his forehead and his thumb to his cheek in this extremely classic physical metaphor for frustration and pain. The actor/director's lower teeth are barred and his jaw is protruding slightly consistent with mild anger. The head tilted downward is also indicative of  a negative emotional tone.

Mr. Redford's eyes are closed which in this setting is known as visual blocking. We close our eyes for an extended time (sometimes for just what seems like an extended blink and often a good bit longer) when we don't like what we see. It's as if we have a wish to erase an event or momentary denial for what we have just seen (or heard). Those who are strong visual-thinkers will also do this when imaging or recalling a negative event in their "mind's eye".

When you see this cluster, especially the characteristic hand gesture, the overwhelming emotional tone is frustration. Those who display this cluster often (and I don't mean to imply Mr. Redford does - we all do this on occasion) have a increased propensity for passive-aggressive behavior. It is also very instructive to think of this  gesture cluster as a time-compressed version of the first and second stages of grief (denial and anger).

Often people don't yell or verbally admonish others when they feel the emotion of frustration. Reality is often subtle until it's too late to effect positive change. Like any teacher, I give try to give good examples which act as models and maps for those who are learning. Always remember though, the map is not the territory, and the real world is full of grey-zones where issues are not so clear cut. Try your best to discern the details and nuance which most others gloss over, for it is in these times when you will most benefit, lest emotions build to extreme.