Sunday, September 29, 2013

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2541: Barack Obama, Permanent U.N. Security Council Members, Syria's Chemical Weapon Disarmament and a Presidential Gaffe - Body Language in the Oval Office (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

In this recent video, President Obama commits a big nonverbal mistake. He typically has outstanding body language skills but it appears here that he was not fully present in the moment. Unfortunately this probably burned some bridges with the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh with whom he was sitting.

Note: The original video has, since the original post, been removed from its online source. The images below however, were captured from this video. 

India has long sought to be a permanent member of the United Nation's Security Council. At the beginning of this video (0:03 - 0:08), Barack Obama gestures with a loose fist thumbs up configuration directly at Mr. Singh and yet was speaking about Russia and the other members of the P5 (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China), the other (rotating) members of the U.N. Security Council (of which India is not currently one) - and the efforts to disarm Syria of chemical weapons.

This mistimed gesture made it seem to Mr. Singh and those who were watching - that Mr. Obama had somehow momentarily confused the Indian leader for a Russian one - or perhaps that India was on the U.N. Security Council. Of course neither of these is true. When he realized this mistake, Mr. Obama reflexively retracted his hand and arm away from the Prime Minister and closed both of his eyes and verbally paused as he tried to collect his composure.

Bilateral eyelid closure in this context is significant for emotional processing and a desire to emotionally "wipe away" an event which was just witnessed or "erase" a mistake that was just committed.  It is useful to think of this as the emotional mind trying to "catch up to" what the intellectual mind already knows to be true.

In addition Mr. Obama is displaying a near microexpression of contempt (on his left) which is almost certainly self-directed. He is scolding himself for having made such a major mistake.

Oodles of other nonverbal signs are in this video. What other significant tells do you see?

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis #2291:  A Tight Fist and Tension in The Face -  Jay Carney's Body Language as he defends  Chuck Hagel's performance during  Senate Confirmation Hearing

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 # 2374:  Tom Cruise on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Body Language of Emotional Dissonance

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2285:  Emotional Processing during Crying - Body Language of Survivor of Brazilian Nightclub Fire

Negotiation Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1510:  Handshakes, Statesmanship and Dominance -  Manmohan Singh & Asif Ali Zardari

Leadership Secret # 17:  The Only Time for the Politicians' Double Hander

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2511:  Barack Obama & Vladimir Putin Handshake at 2013 G20 Meeting