Sunday, November 27, 2011

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 441:
Bill Clinton's Rapport and His Temporary Universe

This is a fantastic photo to analyze for Body Language nuance. It was taken in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina Recovery in 2005 at the Houston Astrodome. In the foreground is the Former U.S. President Bill Clinton. He's a master at making you believe - that for a moment, you and he are the only two people in the World. This is the essence of rapport. Here, he's making this injured victim of the storm feel very important by physically coming down to her level (ergo elevating her status) - very few adults would ever do this, especially someone of such stature. He faces this lady squarely with his feet, hips, chest and face pointed directly at her. [If he stayed and had a conversation, it would be paramount that after the initial introduction (approximately 10 seconds +/-) to turn his body at about a 30 degree angle to hers - otherwise this directly facing nonverbal will send confrontational signals]. Note his vertical hand orientation. Many alpha males automatically position their hand on top. Not Bill. He's a senior statesman and has been a two term president - he doesn't need to send dominance signals. He wants to make her feel like an equal - so he shakes her hand as one should with a peer. Mr. Clinton also has a sincere smile - no bottom teeth showing, not over dramatic and his eyes partially closed - all signs of sincerity. The greeting/introduction/handshake presents us with a rare exception for what is considered a sincere smile. Outside of the context of a greeting, a smile is insincere when the forehead and eyebrows are elevated - but not in this context. Indeed it's the complete opposite. This brief "eyebrow flash" with a concomitant forehead contraction is a strong signal of sincere emotions in this rare nonverbal exception. Moreover, those who don't display this particular body language signal in this setting are also considered less trustworthy, less approachable and less friendly. Regardless of your political ideology - it is obvious that Bill Clinton truly likes people. We all should endeavor to make it so obvious.

A noticeably younger, then Senator Barack Obama stands in the background holding President Clinton's coat.

Both the jacketed woman to Clinton's back-right and the man to his left are secret service agents. Note their eyes are open wider than normal resting eyes. I call this "White and Wide" - and in this context it's a signal of their increased adrenaline state in an area that is relatively insecure. They are "on alert". Normally the "fig-leaf" stance with the hands clasped in the front of the waist or groin is a lower confidence pose (see: Negotiation Secret # 593: Projecting and Detecting Confidence) - however this is another unusual example of a "body language exception to the rule". Law enforcement officers are often taught to stand this way so as to access their firearms more quickly. This position also gives them better use of their hands and arms in the event of an attack. An interesting additional sign is that the male secret service agent's thumbs are pointed up -  a high confidence signal (this would be fairly unusual for an unarmed, non-law enforcement person to adopt such a pose along with the normally low confidence "fig leaf"). Both agents are also standing in the very alpha and confident feet apart manner.