Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1892:
Harry Reid, "That's a Clown Question Bro!" -
Tongue in Cheek

In this video of Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) responding to a reporter's question regarding Mitch McConnell (R-KY, Senate Minority Leader) wanting to wait in order to hear Mitt Romney's opinion on "The Dream Act" before McConnell answers - Reid memes Washington National's rookie sensation, Bryce Harper.

Last week, Harper responded identically (in words, tone and emotional context) when asked about consuming a beer in Toronto - where being 19 he's legal, but not so in many places in the States (see video below) Harper is also Mormon - which prohibits consumption of alcohol. In the political world as well as in professional sports, while candidates, office holders and athletes certainly have to watch what they say - with the cameras rolling and many more watching - grandstanding, posturing and body language is more tempting, more common, more dramatic and thus easier to spot. In most professional scenarios (even in politics and professional sports) when there is no video and no press - the body language is a just as prevalent, but more difficult to spot.

Both Senator Reid and Harper displayed contempt when they heard their respective questions. Harry Reid displays his contempt with a unilateral, snarl-pseudo-half-smile with the right side of his face/mouth and tightening of his mid-face (seen at 0:13) while Bryce Harper signals this same emotion with an extended eyelid closure. Reid is of course older and much more experienced - and his contempt display is fully unconscious. Harper shows us an extended (and complete) eyelid closure - which is partially consciously (edge of consciousness) controlled, but Harper being 19 is less experienced in the interview process - and probably cares less about this particular issue. A much more common cousin of the extended eyelid closure (aka extended blink) is the partial, passive eyelid closure - often seen with some subtle nostril flaring and mid-face tightening - but is subconsciously controlled. There is often a simultaneous but anger component with this partial eyelid closure - manifested by a dynamic thinning of the lips.

Harry Reid also shows us a fantastic "Tongue-in-Cheek" nonverbal during the 0:19 - 0:20 clip. The tongue in cheek can have different meanings depending on the other body language with which it is clustered, but here it's message is clear - "I gotcha". It has a strong component of self-righteousness and smug, "I've just won" emotional tones. Senator Reid was waiting to use Harper's line and in his mind, this was the perfect time. Very often though the verbal message will be very friendly and agreeable (Harry is being deliberately blunt of course - not caring to hide his opinion) - and although, depending on other coexisting body language signs with which it is clustered the tongue-in-Cheek can indicate other meanings/emotions - most of the time, if you see the tongue in cheek - a red flag should go up. Proceed cautiously.