Thursday, December 27, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2243:
The NRA, Asa Hutchinson's Body Language,
Speaking out of the “Side of the Mouth”
and the Importance of "Norming"

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting in Newtown, Connecticut - Former congressman, DEA Administrator and U.S. Attorney Asa Hutchinson has been asked by the National Rifle Association to lead its plan to put armed guards in every American school. In the above interview Mr. Hutchinson speaks to CBS News anchors Jeff Glor and Rebecca Jarvis about this idea. The importance of "Norming" in the assessment of body language is showcased here. Asa Hutchinson consistently speaks with a conspicuous bias to the right side of his mouth - not just throughout this video, but in all videos - and has probably done so throughout his life. For him this is normal behavior. If we did not take the time to evaluate past speeches, television appearances, etc. and assess the prevalence of this nonverbal display, we would make false conclusions regarding his facial expression and the corresponding emotional states. 

If a person only occasionally speaks out of one side of their mouth, this is a strong sign of insincerity. There are often components of anxiety present as well. To the body language beginner, this asymmetrical speaking style can resemble contempt. Contempt looks somewhat different though and although it can be a prolonged nonverbal display, it's usually is seen in short bursts, even microexpressions.

Mr. Hutchinson has this speaking idiosyncrasy. He makes this expression nearly continuously at least to some degree. For him, this particular nonverbal does not signal contempt, anxiety or insincerity. With the help of a speech therapist, this habit can be minimized and unlearned. Such would be a wise course of action, particularly in children and those early in their careers. For even though few people can read body language accurately, all things being equal - most everyone is left with an uneasy feeling when they are spoken to out of the "side" of the mouth in this asymmetrical fashion. They often won't even notice this sign, they are simply left with a "gut feeling". In this case their gut feeling would be wrong. So one may not have ill-intent or ill-will, but such body language will give people the wrong message.

See also:

Negotiation Nonverbal Communication Secret # 1163: The Importance of "Norming" in the  Evaluation of Body Language

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1889: Vladimir Putin & Barack Obama at the G-20

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2191: Anne Hathaway's Impersonation of Katie Holmes on SNL -  "Norming" Katie and Variations on a Theme

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2238: Sandy Hook Elementary Teacher Lauren Rousseau's Boyfriend's Body Language - Grief & Suppression of Negative Emotions & Empathy

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2233: Body Language, President Obama, 20 Children  and the Tongue-in-Cheek