Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2161:
Body Language of the Third Presidential Debate -
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney -
What Did They Do With Their Hands
When They Weren't Talking?

"It's what you do when you don't have the ball" - Larry Bird

Last night in the third presidential debate, President Obama's and Mitt Romney's hand positions when they weren't talking gave us a glimpse into the emotional minds of each candidate. Throughout virtually the entire debate, when he wasn't speaking Mitt Romney's hands were together with his fingers intertwined. This body indicates a closed off and defensive mindset. Moreover, most people who lack nonverbal training will interpret this hand/arm configuration as impatience, patronizing and excessively hierarchical.

Tension in the hands tends to engender, as well as mirror, tension in the face - particularly the mid-face and the mouth. The opposite is true too. In addition relaxing one's hands tends to relax one's face (this is incredibly demonstrated via hand massage). Mitt Romney showed significant facial tension in the third debate. The audience and the undecided voters sense this emotional tension. It is just as powerful as his Romney's words.

Often people, presidential candidates included, have some difficulty with relaxing their hands in these and other similar situations. In such scenarios it is wise to loosely hold a pen. And as long as there is also not the additional habit of fiddling with the pen, it will tend to relax both hands (make sure it's a variety withOUT a "click"/button) and therefore relax the face and in turn the emotions.

President Obama used this pen-holding-hand-calming technique to his advantage last night. When he wasn't speaking he held a pen gently with both hands - and this was also reflected in his relatively relaxed facial displays. 

If you're unsure if a person is displaying subtle and negative facial nonverbals - look for tension in their hands. This is a great place to look for nonverbal clues.

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1815: California Governor Jerry Brown's YouTube address - Taxes, Cuts and State Budget

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1888: Rod Stewart & Rod Wood - How the Hand and Face Collaborate

Nonverbal Communication Secret # 1995: Barack Obama, Social Darwinism and the Political Point

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2132: Variations on a Theme - The Palm-Forward Dominant Spider (The Claw) vs. The Split-Finger Fastball

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1918: Vladimir Putin - Pointing with Pen Surrogates - Sharp vs. Blunt

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2160: Index Finger (Forefinger) Pointing in Politics - The Third and Final 2012 U.S. Presidential Debate - Body Language of Being an Alpha Male without Offending 

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

Below is the full 2012 third U.S. Presidential Debate