Friday, May 18, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1815:
California Governor Jerry Brown's recent
YouTube address - Taxes, Cuts and State Budget

California Governor Jerry Brown recently posted a video on YouTube explaining to the people of the State his feelings-opinions regarding increased taxes and spending cuts in order to bring the State Budget under control. While Governor Brown's sincerity quotient is relatively high, if his goal is to influence to voters in California, there are certainly several major modifications he should have made to this speech-announcement & choreography-filming. 

At no time do we ever see the Governor's right hand. The less we can see of a person, the less we trust them, ergo they have diminished capacity to develop rapport and influence us. This body language maxim is particularly true of the hands. By keeping his right hand-arm hidden during the entire video, Brown is destroying rapport. It would have been much better if no table or desk were used at all. The symbolism of sitting behind a desk doesn't work when one is trying to build a shared viewpoint and trust - rather it's destructive. If one feels the need to sit at a table-desk, it should be glassed-topped with thin legs so that much more of the person is visible. 

Brown hardly even used any hand gestures during this speech-announcement. An illustrator is a term to describe the natural hand-arm movements used in speech to visually underline, punctuate and emphasize words and phrases. Most of the time they should not elevate above the shoulders, below the waist and should only extend a couple inches wider than the width of ones' shoulders. Beware of the tendency of haphazard movements some people make when they're nervous or inexperienced. Unnatural looking gestures or lack of (or suddenly diminished) hand-arm gestures (illustrators) are often consistent with deception. When used in harmony with the spoken word, they can serve to increase the influence of the speaker and the recall of the listener. Displayed properly, illustrators build rapport - but many people use them too much, too little or in a counterproductive manner. Brown never used his right hand and his left was only used briefly in a rapport-destroying palms-down gesture towards the end of the video. Note also when he used this over-authoritarian body language - the tension displayed in his left hand was mirrored on his face. 

The Governor should have his jacket unbuttoned as well.  A closed jacket in this context betrays a closed mind. A beige tie is never wields power, authority or leadership. Fashion aside, his tie should have been more brightly colored and vibrant - but not distracting. Beige equals blaaah. Jerry Brown needs to have his shirts tailored as well. The redundant fabric seen between his tie and jacket is a visual-metaphor for weakness and disorganization.

The former Attorney General would have been better advised to have been standing with nothing in front of him while filming this video. The second best scenario would have to been him seated on a chair (not a high stool, as seen so often in debates) with no table present, leaning slightly forward and the bottoms of both feet on the floor. The multicolored background is also visually distracting.

I cannot be 100% sure (only 99 +% sure), but it looks as if Jerry Brown has had botox treatments to his forehead musculature. His forehead is particularly under-expressive. The forehead and eyebrows are certainly needed to display the full gamut of human emotions. Paralyzing this region interferes with our ability to communicate our thoughts and feelings and leaves others with watered-down and inanimate experience.