Thursday, October 18, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2155:
Body Language Tells at the Second Presidential Debate
Mitt Romney at Attention &
President Obama's Disapproval-Subtle Contempt

In this clip of the second Presidential debates from earlier this week, Mitt Romney makes a HUGE body language mistake. Note during the 0:13 - 0:15 mark when President Obama is speaking, Mitt Romney stays standing with his feet very close together and both his hands clasped in front of groin. He almost looks like an enlisted man standing at attention - and getting reprimanded by his commanding officer (In a very literal sense, that's what's happening). Alpha males do not stand like this. Period. With the exception of a religious ceremony, a funeral, greeting a major religious figure, a cemetery or receiving remains of soldiers - a serving President or head of state should almost never stand with his or her feet together. It is a very beta, demure and unassertive nonverbal posture. It projects weakness and acquiesce and to even an untrained child it certainly doesn't look presidential. Intriguingly, it also works to prevent fluidity of thought and speech. He repeats this foot nonverbal behavior several times during the debate - e.g. 0:22 - 0:28.

The Fig-Leaf hand position sends a very similar message to the Feet Too Close Together Nonverbal - a low-confidence, low-comfort, beta hand-arm MAP (Manipulator, Adaptor, Pacifier) configuration. It is a signal that a person feels the need for protection and is also known as "Genital Guarding".

Notice at the 0:59 mark where Mitt speaks about his intention to label China as a currency manipulator. He points with his index finger (forefinger) - then at 1:01 he switches to gesturing with his thumb. This has the dual advantage of driving his point home without using the universally offensive index finger point - as well as taking advantage of the nearly universally and optimistic "Thumbs Up" nonverbal.

At the 1:12 mark, Governor Romney gestures toward and touches his lower chest with his Left (non-dominant) Finger Tips Only - a much more sincere body language would be to use his dominant hand (his right hand), touch over his Left Upper Chest & Sternum with the Whole hand - most importantly the Palm of the hand. When there is no palmar touch, beware - for sincerity is lurking.

From the 1:39 to 2:01, President Obama is sitting on his chair listening to Governor Romney. His chin and nose are pointed upwards about 10-15 degrees. In general, this body language is to be avoided. However in scenarios such as a debate the President or others may use this sparingly - as a relatively subtle display to indicate his disapproval. It is certainly has a softer impact than Joe Biden's Contempt Smirk or Paul Ryan's incredulity-arrogance of a central forehead contraction with a smile.

The nonverbal Nose-in-the-Air signal of contempt is further amplified with an extended blink at the 1:46 mark in response to Romney saying ".... rather than prescribing their own future ...." at 1:55 when Mitt says, ".... is trying to characterize me as someone who is very different than who I am ...". Not to be confused with the noticeably and dramatic increased blinking frequency seen in both men - which is extremely common in high adrenaline situations such as a debate - these briefly extended duration blinks (still less than a second) indicate issues which especially get under the President's skin. 

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2152: Second Presidential Debate - 16 October 2012 - Barack Obama's Duping Delight - Benghazi, Libya Attack was an "Act of Terror" - Alpha, Beta, Confidence& Acquiescence 

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1251: Las Vegas Channel 8 KLAS Interview - Body Language in Tonight's Debate - Evaluation of earlier Debates

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2150: Body Language Advice for President Obama and Governor Romney for the Second Debate

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2138: President Obama's Anger During First Debate - An Under-Appreciated Body Language Signal

Nonverbal Analysis # 2137: Mitt Romney vs. Barack Obama - First Presidential Debate - Barack's Bad Body Language