Monday, November 29, 2010

Leadership Secret # 33: A Conditioned Response to ....

Texas Christian University's Athletic Director Chris Del Conte is shown here at a press conference discussing TCU's acceptance of an invitation for membership into The Big East Conference. Unless you are going for comic relief though, the Double-Victory Sign, is an emblem that should never be used - especially if you are in a leadership role. It has too strong of a negative conditioned-response trigger to Richard Nixon's resignation. Even if you weren't born when it happened, you probably have a very strong visual memory of this, either via photos or parody - a pose he struck just prior to embarking on Marine-One. Many a comedian have satirized the former President with this pose.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Crime Prevention Signal # 12:
Mild to Moderate Disgust, Mohamed Osman Mohamud
Portland, Oregon Christmas Tree Lighting Bomb Plot

This is a photo of Mohamed Osman Mohamud. It was released by the Multnomah County Sheriff's office. Although Mr. Mohamud grew up in Somalia, he's is a naturalized American Citizen.  He was just arrested for a plot to detonate a bomb at the Portland Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Downtown Portland, Oregon.  Here he is showing classic signs of mild to moderate disgust. Mr. Mohamud's "mustache area" is tightened and his upper lip is raised. His lower lip is also elevated and protruding. His nostrils are slightly dilated and his forehead is relaxed. Once again, this is and example of mild to moderate disgust - somewhat difficult to spot, but you don't want to miss it. Frequent and prolonged displays of disgust and contempt (even if subtle) can be warning signs as they are strong, negative emotions; and while they're contextually displayed every day by most everyone, they're also common emotions displayed by those who have strong ideological basis for committing crimes and acts of violence.

see also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2251: Updated FBI Photo of Escaped Convict Kenneth Conley - What Warning Signs do you see in his Body Language?


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Relationship Secret # 2:
We are Programmed to Smile Back

When someone smiles at us, we are programmed to smile back. This is very evident with infants, but it is also very noticeable with other adults, even between strangers. This is true with all facial expressions. If you frown, there is a strong tendency to bring on frowns in others; angry expressions elicits others to be angry, etc. This is not just a Sesame Street jingle, but scientific fact. Much of this, indeed most of it in the first second or two, occurs below the level of consciousness.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Negotiation Secret # 29:
Eye Rub When Someone Else is Speaking -
Angela doubts Vladimir

When another is speaking and a listener rubs one eye, there is a very high probability that the listener doesn't believe what the speaker is saying. It is not the same signal if the listener rubs both eyes though - beware of this pit fall. Here, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel listens as Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin is speaking. We don't know what Mr. Putin was saying at this particular moment, but we highly doubt Ms. Merkel believes him.


Nonverbal Communication Secret # 48:
A Lizard Tongue gives us a Great Glimpse into
Katie Holmes' Psyche

This is Actress Katie Holmes exhibiting a great example of a "Lizard Tongue". Depending on its context and other body language signals seen with it, a tongue-jut can have several meanings: I got caught, I've been bad, I got away with something, excitement or I did something silly (Navarro). It can also indicate self-deprecating humor depending on the other nonverbals with which it is clustered. The Lizard Tongue is not to be confused with the "Tongue in Cheek" nonverbal, wherein the tongue is pushed to one side, against the inside of the cheek, and is often not visible. When you see the tongue-jut - take note as it is often seen with a "serious face" and in business or other formal settings.

See also:

Secret #1599: Roger Clemens Lying Before Congress?

Secret # 1153: President Obama's Tongue in Cheek


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Negotiation Secret # 54:
The Manubrial Touch Betrays Our Feelings

Rachel Reupke is a audiovisual artist from London. Here she is shown at the Zinebi Short Film and Documentary Festival in Bilbao, Spain on November 23, 2010. Her right hand is massaging her neck and and specifically touching & covering her "Manubrium". This is the (proper anatomical) name for the top of the "breast bone" (manubrium-sternum bone). This particular self-touching is a very common Manipulator-Adaptor-Pacifier (Navarro). If you search your visual memory, most everyone can recall seeing this many times. Upon searching your memory further, you will remember that this gesture was often accompanied by significant (sometimes underlying) emotion. It is a more commonly observed behavior with women/girls/boys, although men do this as well.  A common adult-male equivalent is the false tie-adjustment. Both are significant signs of anxiety, concern, discomfort, fear, worry or vulnerability - and they're very reliable.

Interestingly, and similar to the thought process which hopefully accompanies any medical diagnosis, an absence of a sign or symptom can be just as significant as its presence. I am reminded here of the Sherlock Holmes Short Story (by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who, like myself, a physician), "Silver Blaze", where Holmes says, "the curious incident of the dog in the night-time is now easily explained: the dog made no noise because no stranger was there...Obviously the midnight visitor was someone whom the dog knew well". When anyone is known to use this gesture, and yet it is not seen during times when they're recounting stories which would normally cause significant anxiety, stress or discomfort - this lack should call into question their honesty.  The same is true of any other body language signs which are "normal" for a given individual in a specific emotional state.

It's a mystery why Sarah Palin, a former governor and many other well-financed, educated, powerful, and otherwise well-informed people don't seek out body language expertise before they (or their publicist, campaign manager, etc.) choose photographs which send signals that they don't want to send. Insecurity, anxiety and vulnerability are not qualities that anyone would want to show deliberately. A public relations faux pas.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Processing Emotional Information:
Negotiation Secret # 55

John Key, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, speaks at a press conference in Greymouth regarding the 29 miners trapped in the Pike River coal mine. Sadly, all 29 miners are believed to have perished. When processing emotional thought, 95% of right-handed people (Mr. Key is right-handed) look down and to their right. While we do not know what Mr. Key was saying at the precise moment of this photograph, but we know for certain he was feeling a sincere emotional connection with these miners and their families.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Leadership Secret # 22:
Inspiring Confidence vs. Looking Vulnerable

William Reilly, the co-chair of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, looks on during preliminary a hearing regarding BP's Macondo well accident-blowout. This photo was taken in Washington, D.C. on November 8, 2010. 

The gesture adopted here by Mr. Reilly is an interesting one considering he is in a government appointed position of investigation. While we don't know what Mr. Reilly was thinking at the moment of this photo (he could have just remembered that he forgot to pay his mortgage or that he was hearing some gruesome testimony detailing the tragic deaths of the workers who perished in the accident) this particular "Praying with Mouth Covering" gesture/expression is only seen when there is significant emotional involvement and is consistent with worry or concern.  It is not a gesture that displays nor does it inspire confidence - thus it is rarely seen in experienced leaders.

If you've ever watched a rescue live or even on T.V., you'll commonly see the "Praying with Mouth Covering" signal adopted by those around you. I saw this displayed during the events of Sept. 11, 2001 and more recently with the rescue of the Chilean Mine workers. It can be also be seen in every close sporting event if you look in the faces of some of the spectators. Below is the sister of Helio Castroneves, Katiucia, as she watches her brother in the final laps of the Indy 500 on May 24, 2009. Moments later he won the race.

So when you see anyone adopting this gesture, you can be sure there is great emotional involvement and empathy. Although empathy is a crucial quality of all good leaders, it is important if you're in a position of leadership, to keep this body language signal to an absolute minimum since it does not display, nor does it inspire confidence.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Negotiation Secret # 14: The Double-L plus ....

Say you're sitting across from this expression at the negotiation table - what do you think the other party is truly feeling (despite what they may say)? This is a very "real-world" and common scenario and yet the answer remains elusive for all but a few. Andras Simor, Governor of the National Bank of Hungary has negative feelings towards the opinion he is hearing. To evaluate this negative cluster, lets begin with his left hand covering his mouth and his thumb supporting his chin in a "double-L" formation. This alone should be enough to send up an alert in your mind (Although we are unable to see if it is present here, the double-L is often accompanied by the opposite arm folded across the chest - which is a strong signal of a closed-off and defensive mindset). 

Mr. Simor's upper lip is thinned which is a significant sign of anger - warning number two. In addition, Andras' head is tilted down and forward which is another strong signal of negative emotional tone - a further minus. Lastly the Governor's face is not turned directly at the person of interest, but only partially so - leaving the eyes to do the rest of the work - and even they are falling short in this photo. We look directly at those we respect, like and believe and not doing so strongly suggests opposite feelings. The ability to spot this and other critical evaluation clusters will give you a distinct advantage in negotiations. How many have you missed this week?


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Negotiation Secret # 40: Can You Spot Mild Anger?

Real Madrid's Coach, Jose Mourinho is giving us a great example of mild anger. Even an infant can spot severe or moderate anger, but many a learned adult will gloss right over mild examples. Jose's eye brows are pulled down and together. The somewhat subtle vertical creases above his nose are signals as well. And although he's no Leonid Brezhnev, it doesn't help that Jose has a bit of a "Mono-brow". Unfortunately, this adds to others' impressions of anger. Shave it or wax it Mr. Mourinho - lest people think you're angry when you're not.

Also conspicuous for anger, is the partial closure of the Coach's eyes (lids) along with a horizontal tightening of his lower eyelids. The "mustache area" above the mouth, as well as the lips themselves, will also classically tighten in the context anger. This is accompanied by a narrowing of the lips. Finally, a dilation or "flaring" of the nostrils is consistent with anger as well as disgust. Don't miss subtle anger - for it has teeth - and you will get hurt.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Leadership Secret # 39: Facial Hair and Perception

It's been 102 years since a U.S. President has been elected with facial hair - William Taft, 1908. Although I haven't got a chance to review the newly elected crop of Senators, currently there are none with facial hair and less than 10 percent of the U.S. House members are included in this group.  About 33 percent of American men and 50 percent of men World-wide sport a beard, goatee or mustache.  In the last 100 years with the crescendo of photography, video and media in general, the presence of any facial hair in the American male Population has waned.

Many studies have concluded that facial hair invokes feelings of distrust in others. Incredibly intriguing and in what should make any doubters take heed - this negative emotion-invoking property of facial hair has been shown to be very strong in PREVERBAL children. Thus, these negative feelings are "unlearned" to a degree as we age, but remain partially or entirely buried in our psyche - something to consider if you're in, or seeking, a position of leadership.

We all like to think we are the exception to the statistical rule. However, we are not really thinking - as much as we are rationalizing. 


Sincerity Secret # 53: Surprise giving way to Fear

Surprise is the most fleeting of all emotions. The distinction between real surprise and false surprise helps differentiate sincerity vs insincerity. If apparent surprise lasts more than a few seconds, there is at least a component of it that is false or exaggerated. It's almost always is followed by a second moderate to strong emotional response - commonly anger, fear, embarrassment, laughter, relief, or disgust. Here, Aiden Grimshaw (of The U.K.'s X Factor fame)is experiencing fear after initial true surprise. Because surprise is so brief, photos of pure surprise are rare, and most of those examples are blended with another emotion - as demonstrated here with Mr. Grimshaw. Both surprise and fear cause the eyes to be opened very widely - which I call "White and Wide", and with the additional bearing of Aiden's teeth (especially his bottom teeth) in the context of a dropped jaw and a widely open mouth is a sure signal of an of element fear rushing in.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Negotiation Secret #22: Critical Evaluation Cluster

When a right-handed person is speaking and their eyes momentarily look down and to their right during the conversation - there is a high probability ( >90% ) that they are processing an emotional issue. With left-handed individuals, this is often reversed (down and to the left).

Tiger's hands are clenched and raised while blocking his mouth in this photo. It is clear that he does not like what he is hearing and his subsequent thoughts are unpleasant. This is a  clear signal of non-engagement and a hesitantly to speak. It's particularly true when the fingers are interlaced, ala' Mr. Woods at this Shanghai news conference. Notice how his thumbs are supporting his chin - this is also a classical critical evaluation sign.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Speaker Secret # 33: Transparency in Words and in Actions

Podiums and lecterns get in the way. People don't trust what they cannot see. When you can, try not to use them - for it distances and insulates you from your audience. But if you are required to, or feel like you have to, there are ways to minimize this effect. Here, Jerry Brown, the newly elected Governor of California, solves the problem by using a plexiglass podium - which is a great idea for politicians. Always remember to keep your hands visible too - at or above the level of the top of the lectern. Mr. Brown is resting them on the front-corners, which is a good position, as long as it's not overdone. Never put your hands in your pockets. It sends signals of disengagement and concealment. It's also a good idea to walk out from behind the podium, and depending on the setting, audience and your profession - you may even want to walk out among them. The over-riding theme here is to keep yourself visible. With all other things being equal, you'll be much better received and believed.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nevada Business Magazine

I'm very flattered to have an article about my body language work published in this month's Nevada Business Magazine.