Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Negotiation Nonverbal Communication Secret # 1019: Gingrich's Hands -
Low Confidence and High Confidence Tells

Newt Gingrich, who during the Republican Debates, consistently has exhibited the best body language skills - at least as far as hand gestures are concerned, gives us a great example here of the contrary. Newt signals to us plenty of lower confidence - and then recovers to a higher confidence state - during this one-on-one interview with Wolf Blitzer. The first 42 seconds, the former Speaker's hands can't be seen, however throughout the next two minutes or so of this video, Newt uncharacteristically exhibits quite a bit of hand-wringing - which is strongly consistent with a higher anxiety and lower confidence emotional tone. When such subjects as the super PACs, the caucuses/primaries in Minnesota, Colorado, Missouri, Nevada and Florida are mentioned - Newt's hand wringing is very evident.

At the 2:14 mark however, when Newt says, "... I think after tonight you'll see this is a wide open race...", he transforms to a low steeple gesture, which is a signal of high confidence and therefore a momentary drop in his anxiety level. After a brief relapse of hand wringing, he low steeples once again (2:22 - 2:30) when he references Governor Rick Perry. Interestingly though, when The Speaker later references the Texas Primary (April 3) - he wrings his hands yet again - indicating that he believes his chances of winning that State's Primary, or perhaps of pulling even in the delegate count (which he also speaks of) with Governor Romney by that date, are not good - despite his words to the contrary.

In the last portion of this interview, when Mr. Gingrich speaks about the idea of a Lincoln-Douglas style debate, he again displays the low steeple and his thus his confidence, particularly in his debate skills.

It is important to emphasize, that I'm not suggesting that Newt should have steepled throughout this or any interview or debate. Steepling should be performed only occasionally and for a few seconds at time. Most politicians steeple too much - and thus transmit feelings of arrogance and condescension. Rather, this video is a great example of how rapid changes in hand gestures can give us tells of a person's confidence levels - and how these correlate with equally dynamic subject changes/speech.