Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2419:
Sexual Assault in U.S. Military
Senate Armed Services Hearings -
Kirsten Gillibrand and a Body Language Crescendo
(Video, Photos)

Today the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee conducted hearings on Sexual Assault in the U.S. Military. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) a veteran U.S. Naval Aviator and 5.5 year P.O.W. (whose father and Grandfather were both four-star Admirals in the U.S. Navy) recounted a conversation with a mother responded "... I could not ..." when asked if he could give his unqualified support for her daughter enlisting in the military. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) also spoke in an impassioned and very sincere manner. Some of her body language is evaluated here. This critique (or any within this website) has no political agenda - only to teach and offer analysis of nonverbal communication.

Senator Gillibrand has a very high sincerity quotient in the above video. Her words, paralanguage and body language are all highly congruent. Note that both her rate (e.g. words/minute) and volume of speech increase as her segment continues. "But" (and its refined synonym "however") are two of the rare words that can be "heard" far in advance. When Gillibrand starts the sentence at 0:32 ("I agree with you ...."), you can feel "but" coming 31 seconds in advance. This technique amounts to a preamble (and increases the anticipation and attention of her audience) for the more formidable and alpha-priority declaration which is to follow. In addition her tone of voice also grows more impassioned with time (oft very undervalued and poorly acted in the insincere).

Thus this "speech" has the quality of a nearly perfectly choreographed presentation. Her Nonverbal, verbal and paralanguage are all highly congruent. Sen. Gillibrand (or any other politician of any stripe) could only do this if she were truly and passionately sincere.

What may not be evident to many though is that the "alpha coefficient" of the Senator's nonverbal displays also crescendos considerably. Without listing all of her body language or even all of her hand-arm illustrators, very notable is the use of Sen. Gillibrand's Pseudo-Prayer Hand-Chop (1:45 to 1:52), then her mid-level Conventional Steeple and close variations from 1:52 to 1:55; and finally her Index Finger Point (aka Forefinger Point, with her dominant hand) when she says "not" at 1:56 and with more vigor at "rape!" at  2:01. It's also very important that she does not point directly at the military brass to whom she is speaking, but off to the side at 2:01 - which is an alpha-beta hybrid (however it's primarily alpha; and this same variation vs. the more aggressive point - would have also been advised at 1:56). All three of these gestures should be used very sparingly - not only in an absolute sense, but also within any conversation, speech or presentation. Most everyone who uses any of these three nonverbals, over-uses them (very easy to do) and thus comes off arrogant, patronizing and condescending. Gillibrand gets it right though - she pulls it off beautifully here (regardless of your political beliefs). Again, she (or you) could not do so unless she was very sincere. If you were conducting voir dire - on the basis of her sincerity, you would want to select her for the jury.
See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2414:  Sen. John McCain after his Trip to Syria - Body Language of Regret and Contempt

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2214:  John McCain Jokes - sort of .... and  John Kerry senses Deception

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2195:  Sen. John McCain's Body Language when comparisons made between Condoleezza Rice to Susan Rice &  War with Iraq to Benghazi, Libya Attack

Nonverbal Communication Analysis #2223:  Dick Armey's Body Language and the Fiscal Cliff

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

The "Pseudo-Prayer Chop". It is Highly Alpha. Use it very rarely for it
will project arrogance, condescending 
& patronizing emotions in most contexts or if used a but brief durations.         

The "Low Conventional Steeple". It is Highly Alpha. Use it very rarely as it
will also project arrogance, condescending & patronizing emotions in most contexts or if used in anything but for short durations 

The "Index Finger Point". It is highly Alpha and Universally Offensive. Use this extremely rarely. It is another nonverbal which will also project arrogance, condescending & patronizing emotions in most contexts or if used in all but for short durations.
If you use this iIllustrator, do NOT point directly at them.