Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2635: Raúl Castro and Barack Obama Shake Hands at Nelson Mandela's Memorial - Body Language Tells (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

The big news from Nelson Mandela's Memorial Service today was Barack Obama's and Raúl Castro's handshake. It is being viewed as hints of a possible thaw between Washington and Havana, but what does the body language of the two leaders say?

At 0:02 seconds into the video, President Obama is jaunting up stairs, sees who is the top of the stairs and turns his head away to his right.

In this instant we see three distinct signals:
1. A Jaw Jut
2. A Bulge just below his Lower Lip (signaling his jaw is clenched)
3. Thinned and horizontally oriented lips

All of these are body language signals of anger - particularly when clustered.

At the 0:06 mark as they shake hands they bow towards each other.

In this wider angle handshake view (still at 0:06), take a few tenths of a second later, we can see that President Obama's hand is slightly more dominant oriented with approximately a 10 to 15 degree rotation.

In this image (0:09), Raúl Castro gestures with pats on his stomach. This MAP (Manipulator, Adaptor, Pacifier) has a low sincerity quotient as it is a pat (vs. prolonged contact), it's his non-dominant hand and it is over his abdomen (vs. over his heart).

Note Obama maintains a partial bow.

Here Obama bows again - further (0:10 mark). It is unusual in the Western Hemisphere for extended or more pronounced bowing to occur during handshakes. Particularly with tall men (e.g. Obama) - when shaking shorter men's hands (Castro) it can be very often be interpreted by the shorter man as patronizing, condescending and arrogant - even though it may not be the intended message of the taller individual (who may indeed be vainly trying to signal respect) and may often signal weakness (of the more prominent bower) to others.

The Cuban President's lips are thinned in a brief anger (near-microexpression) display (above).

At 0:11 Castro's mouth takes on a brief "Bitter Smile" configuration.

Obama continues to bend forward - and he may very well be trying to speak candidly to Fidel's younger brother - yet the prolonged bowing (or bending) is negatively received. It painfully reminds shorter men of this weakness/perceived weakness.

Raúl Castro then looks away - as often is done during prolonged eye contact. His asymmetrical (mouth) smile is insincere.

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1874:  Bad Handshake and Mitt Romney - a Political Prevalence

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

Negotiation Secret # 703: Bad Handshake?  Let me count the ways! (Sarah Palin)

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

Negotiation Nonverbal Communication Secret # 1131:  Romney's Handshake, Santorums Bicep's, and Dominance

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2523:  Hillary Clinton, Body Language and the 2016 Presidency -  Rapport Builder vs. Rapport Destroyer 

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2616: John Kennedy and Richard Nixon Handshake at Kennedy Inaugural Address, One Body Language Maneuver to Counter a Dominance Display