Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2104:
Mitt Romney's Convention Speech - Part II

In his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention on Thursday night, Mitt Romney displayed many body language tells. The following is a nonpartisan nonverbal analysis of some of these signals (for some audio analysis on National Public Radio see Analysis # 2101: Mitt Romney's and Paul Ryan's Body Language - My commentary on KPCC, Southern California Public Radio).

Notice at the very beginning, Mitt takes a couple of very short shuffle-steps towards the lectern, then he elevates up on his toes two times. This nonverbal is highly indicative of excitement-anxiety, or "good anxiety". Mitt stands with his feet too close together though. Many people make this mistake. While this feet together stance is indicated for displaying respect, deferential behavior and beta emotions at funerals, weddings, receiving remains, ceremonies at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and greeting major religious figures - the vast majority of other scenarios such as speeches and debates are settings where alpha-assertive behavior is needed and expected. Here, Romney's feet should be about shoulder's width apart. This posture will project more confidence, assertiveness and other alpha behaviors expected of a presidential candidate. Moreover feet-apart body language will directly engender all of these feelings in the speaker's emotional-brain and thus positively influence the ease, fluidity and power of the speech.

While the background certainly provided good dark-light contrast to Mitt's suit (a detail missed by Richard Nixon prior to his first debate with John Kennedy; see also: A Watershed Body Language Moment: Nixon-Kennedy Debates 1960) the many shades of blue-grey were heterogeneous and distracting as was the large print behind Mr. Romney.

The less we see of a person, the less apt we are to believe them. This nonverbal principle is a very important one and here is one key place to apply it. The lectern used at the republican convention was a wide wooden one. A clear, plexiglass lectern would have been wiser. This simple switch would have translated into greater trust, likability and votes. Mitt - never waste an opportunity to build rapport.

The former Massachusetts Governor has a problem with a relative lack of use of his hands. He also has a very bad habit of putting his hands in his pockets when speaking or during debates (which is a signal of emotional dissonance - it destroys rapport, erodes confidence and cost him votes). Somewhere in his distant past an ill-advised mentor may have told him not to use his hands while speaking. Such advice is dead-wrong. Of course, a person can gesture with their hands too often or too dramatically. It's also a faux pas to use them incongruently with the spoken words and vocal tones. In the nomenclature of body language, these movements are termed "illustrators" - because they emphasize, highlight and underline the verbal messages. The face and other parts of the body may also act as illustrators. When properly used - they build credibility, rapport and attention. They will also even increase the memory-recall of the audience. Mitt's use of hands was a bit better at the convention than usual - although he has a lot of room for improvement. Romney's hand gestures in previous speeches/interviews dramatically contrasts his enthusiasm and credibility for the subjects being discussed - see also:

When Mr. Romney gets nervous, he has a strong tendency to speak with an asymmetrical mouth - using the right side of his mouth much more. He did this throughout much of his acceptance speech. And although not the case here, when clustered with other nonverbals, an asymmetrical mouth during a speech or conversation can be a signal of insincerity.

Throughout much of his acceptance speech Mitt smacked his lips at the ends of sentences. This is relatively new body language signal for this candidate. It's a paralanguage-nonverbal amalgam that here is a signal of confidence and assertiveness.

Mitt - overall your body language in your acceptance speech indicated a relatively good sincerity quotient - however you squandered this opportunity to build rapport and votes. You need to improve signicantly, particularly for the upcoming debates. Mitt -  give me call me.