Friday, November 23, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2200:
President Obama growing a Mustache? -
Body Language and Facial Hair

In President Obama's Thanksgiving message yesterday, he sports one or two days of mustache growth. The last U.S. President to have any facial hair was one hundred four years ago - William Taft in 1908.

Worldwide, 50% of men have some form of facial hair. In the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and the Pacific Rim it's 33%. Currently only 1.2% of the male U.S. Senators, 6.8% of Governors and 10.8% of the U.S. House members have any facial hair - all substantially below the national average. Repeated studies show that those with facial hair are universally trusted less than clean shaven men

Amazingly this emotion even holds true in the minds of those males who themselves have a beard, mustache, goatee, soul patch, etc

Incredibly, preverbal children rapidly prefer images of their fathers with no facial hair, even if all but the in last few hours their dads had hair there.

Mug shots of freshly arrested men have a much higher incidence of facial hair. And in the courtroom guilty verdicts are also statistically more likely. 

An interesting aspect to this facial hair & society is seen in the world of sports. It appears that facial hair affords an increased success rate in some positions - such as baseball pitchers and goal keepers.

As far as politics and particularly true leadership are concerned, it is an extremely unwise idea for any President to grow facial hair. This is true in elections - and also office holders. One simply cannot ignore the strong tendency toward mistrust. It is an aspect of body language that is engrained in our brains. And Biology always trumps fashion. It is simply a nonverbal truth that having any facial hair statistically works against developing and maintaining rapport, negotiation and trust.

Barack's beginnings of a mustache will be short lived. Shave Mr. President.

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Negotiation Secret # 337: Facial Hair, Trust and Politics

Leadership Secret # 39: Facial Hair and Perception  

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