Saturday, August 25, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis #2097:
Mitt Romney's "No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate" defense - Body Language of Rationalization, Rapport and Empathy

Mitt Romney wants to have his cake and eat it too. That is why during his recent trip to Michigan, he indirectly brought up the polarizing issue of President Obama's place of birth when he said (at 0:38 - 0:39 in the above video) "No one's ever asked to see my birth certificate". While he certainly solidified his political base, he most likely is alienating the independent voters. 

During the interview Scott Pelley asks Romney about why he took a swipe at President Obama. Mitt answers back, "No, no - not a swipe, I've said throughout the campaign and before, that there's no question about where he was born - he was born in the U.S. ..." At the 1:03 mark when he says the word "swipe" the former Massachusetts Governor displays a body language tell known as "R2E2". This is acronym for "Rationalization, Rapport, Empathy Expression". Here it is very brief in the form of a microexpression (lasting less than 0.5 seconds).

The R2E2 looks virtually identical to the disgust-contempt nonverbal displays. It's highly context-related and is used during speech when the speaker is trying to rationalize and/or wants the listener to co-rationalize in an action, behavior, opinion, etc. Rapport and empathy are also being sought. Like all body language - well over 99.9% of the time it's initiated subconsciously. Everyone uses the R2E2. One place it's seen extremely commonly is in a sales situation. If you visit your local auto mall you'll see it many times an hour. There often is an accompanying higher frequency shift in the voice during the R2E2 as well as false/forced laughter and a leaning forward. Sometimes there is a touching of the person who is being spoken to - or an abbreviated gesture of reaching toward them. These additional actions serve as amplifiers and anchors in the effort to gain rapport/empathy/co-rationalization.

When you see the R2E2 displayed, it's a signal that the speaker/displayer believes that you (or they) are not fully convinced of their idea, plan, actions, etc.

In this interview, Romney (of course) is trying to woo back the independent voters. Although this is obvious to most political junkies, in smaller venues and in everyday life - the R2E2 is one (of many) signal(s) which can tell you what others are thinking (both consciously and subconsciously).

See also:

Analysis # 1143: Santorum Video Analysis - R2E2 and other Tells

Analysis # 1732: Rationalization, Rapport, Empathy Expression - How Jewel got her name