Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2144:
President Obama's Body Language Tell -
Rescuing Big Bird (with help from another bird) &
Elmo's making a run for the border in a White Suburban

Two days ago during a fundraiser in San Francisco, President Obama used a joke he was quite uncomfortable with when he referenced and defended Big Bird, Elmo, Sesame Street and PBS against Mitt Romney's plans - and that's putting it mildly. At the 0:20 mark he rubs his left hand across his forehead. The body language term for self-touching is a Manipulator, Adaptor or Pacifier (aka MAP). Most MAPs - this one included - are in general, signals of anxiety - and in many scenarios, much more specific emotional messages are being displayed.

Note which finger Barack Obama uses during this nonverbal display - his middle finger. Moreover he uses his dominant hand. This is but one of many examples of what in the nonverbal communication world is known as a "Partial Emblematic Slip". An Emblem is a specific gesture, that has a very specific meaning in a city, region, country or occasionally universally (Care must be taken not to falsely interpret an emblem's meaning in one country when you or another may be used to a different meaning). The middle finger display (aka "the bird" or "flipping off") when deliberately and used prominently in a typical position signals a message which is both universal (World-wide) and unambiguous. However when used in an atypical position and without full-fledged prominence (thus termed Partial - here touching the forehead, but there are many other areas it's manifested) its origin is from unconscious sources (ergo Slip). The Partial Emblematic Slip is a very reliable indicator of underlying emotional tone (Ekman).

Perhaps The President resents using a joke that indirectly references O.J. Simpson - who many consider to be guilty of murder. Or maybe he doesn't think using Sesame Street metaphors are worthy of presidential politics. It's certainly possible for him to remember watching Big Bird and Elmo himself (Sesame Street premiered in November 1969 when Barack was only eight years old). We don't know exactly WHY he felt such strong emotion - but we can be SURE he was feeling it.

Whether you're in sales, the courtroom or the board room - beware the Partial Emblematic Slip - for with it are revealed one's true emotions.

See also:

Nonverbal Analysis # 1720: Critical Evaluation, Disbelief & a Partial Emblematic Slip - Valerie Trierweiler & Francois Hollande

Nonverbal Analysis # 2093: Ann Curray's Tearful Goodbye - Matt Lauer's Classic "Tongue-in-Cheek" - and Duplicitous Smile

Nonverbal Analysis # 1818: Political Correctness, a Partial Emblematic Slip at Falcon, Colorado Elementary School

Nonverbal Analysis # 1492: Ben Bernanke's Duping Delight & Partial Emblematic Slip

Nonverbal Analysis # 1873: Hillary Clinton & Kofi Annan on Syria

Nonverbal Analysis # 343: Sarkozy's Clandestine Thumbs Up - an Emblematic Slip

Nonverbal Analysis # 743 & 744: Sarkozy's Shhh! & a Partial Emblematic Slip