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.