Saturday, February 11, 2017

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3846: Donald Trump, Shinzō Abe and Handshake Faux Pas - Body Language and Emotional Intelligence (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

Prime Minister Shinzō Abe met with Donald Trump yesterday at the White House. As virtually all World Leaders do, the two men posed for a highly photographed handshake - this one in The Oval Office. It's a safe assumption that the two men also shook hands when they first met earlier that day in relative privacy. Thus it's also probable that at that first meeting only their official government photographers captured that handshake. Such private-first, public-second handshake choreographing is commonplace with heads-of-states visits.

At the very end of this video, Prime Minister Abe turns to his head, and torso to his right, with his eyes turning further - looking up and to his right. This is an example of a "Suppressed Eye Roll". Some have suggested that Abe did this because of the length of the handshake, yet this was not the reason. These longer, hyper-posed, pseudo handshakes for the public are common place when prime ministers and presidents meet. The real cause of the Japanese Prime Minister's expression was because Trump deliberately squeezed his hand quite hard - and he was in pain.

This was a silent scream.

During attempts to suppress strong emotions, such as pain or tears of sadness - forceful eye gaze is a common nonverbal epiphenomenon. This behavior is most commonly seen in a primarily upward direction (photo above shows this direction somewhat), yet it can occur in other directions too (e.g., a slit second later [below] Shinzō Abe's looks directly to his right [away from the source of his pain]).

Although short-lived, it's difficult to overlook the extreme configuration of the Prime Minister's mouth - which, when coupled with the Elevated Central Forehead Contraction - indicates emotional and/or physical pain.

He also rotates his head - and to a lesser degree his torso - away from Donald Trump.

If you carefully listen to the video, you'll here Prime Minister Abe say, "Please - look at me." (0:32 -0:34). A fundamental truth across most all cultures (there are rare exceptions for some superior-subordinate scenarios) is that during handshakes, eye contact is of profound importance. Little or no eye contact projects strong feelings of disrespect.

Trump repeatedly and quickly pulls Shinzō Abe's hand-arm toward his chest with a jerking motion. This body language variant is a default of the President's and is an extremely common narcissistic behavior. It's an attempt to project power and a hyper-alpha status (e.g., "Don't forget I'm stronger than you").

Trump also bent (flexed) his Japanese counterpart's wrist to about a 45 degree angle. Coupled with grip strength, this added another component of pain. It's facilitated by Trump's upward vectoring of their hands (It's not normal for handshakes as well as being disrespectful).

Intriguingly, Mr. Trump immediately verbally outs himself when he says, "Strong hands -" then gesturing the bending motion he had just performed (0:43 - 0:45). Trump knew this had not been a "normal" handshake maneuver and he was aware he had hurt the prime minister (this is akin to a guilty child telling his mother he didn't eat the last cookie before anyone asks).

It cannot be over emphasized that, during a handshake, one should always match the grip strength of the other person. This principle is universal - true across all cultures. Some people have been (very) wrongly taught that a good handshake requires a strong grip - don't make this mistake. Be aware enough, and in the moment enough, so that you match the other person's grip strength. And never try to intimidate the other person by squeezing too tightly.

Trump touches the back of Shinzō Abe's hand toward the end of the lengthy handshake. Their relative positions and the fact that Abe's hand is on top makes a "double-hander" handshake more likely. This maneuver up-regulates Trump's portion of the handshake to a higher alpha status.

Notice this is also performed via a patting motion rather than with constant contact. While I would not recommend either form of the double-hander for a person in Trump's specific scenario - the patting motion dynamic projects a particularly patronizing emotional tone (e.g., patting a child on the head).

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3845: Kellyanne Conway's Commercial for Ivanka Trump

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3842: Bill Belichick and Julian Edelman

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3840: Donald Trump regarding Vladimir Putin: 'We've Got A Lot of Killers. Do You Think Our Country Is So Innocent?

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3829: Mary Tyler Moore - Flirtatious, Sexy, Alpha Female Smile

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3799: Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia - Full Lips and Lip Pursing

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3711: Vin Scully calls Kirk Gibson's legendary walk-off homer during Game 1 of the 1988 World Series

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3659: Ryan Lochte's "Today Show" Interview regarding Alleged Rio Robbery

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3594: Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Fareed Zakaria