Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Secret # 1445:
Subordinate to Boss -
Hillary to Barack

What can we learn from this photo? Many nonverbal communication cues over the last three plus years have indicated that President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, despite being former rivals - are now friends. Yet in this image of Barack and Hillary, the President's hand position, clasped behind his back, demonstrates his relative "alpha-status" and confidence compared with hers. Hillary's self-touching of her hands is classic and consistent with the act of asking a question from a relatively "beta point-of-view". These are two of of the most powerful people on the planet, however there is no doubt here who is the superior and who is the subordinate - and their nonverbal cues are entirely consistent with this pecking order. 

Our interpretation of their body language is obviously aided by our knowledge of Hillary's and Barack's relative positions, but in the everyday world of negotiation and similar discourse - those of "equal status" are in constant flux - and thus not always equal. Body language gives objective "tells" as to these strength and weaknesses that to most go unnoticed.