Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Body Language Analysis No. 4054: Donald Trump and Chuck Schumer in the Oval Office - Nonverbal and Emotional Intelligence (PHOTO)

 Photo credit: Alex Wong

Today Donald Trump dumbfounded both the Republicans and the Democrats. This morning, Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, called the Democrat proposed, three-month debt limit increase plan "unworkable" and "ridiculous". Yet only three hours later, the President deviated from the Republican plan and agreed to the Democrat's desires and tying it to an eight billion dollar relief for Hurricane Harvey.

The photo above (and close-up below) show Chuck Schumer and Donald Trump in the Oval Office. Although there's no other images or video of this moment, we can glean a good amount of information.

In this particular instant, Senator Schumer is not looking President Trump in the eye - rather just above his mouth. However, if we had a video of this moment, we would still see this same pattern over a longer period. It's very common - and in fact a human default - that unless there is significant intimacy, severe anger/rage, or impending physical violence - when faces are this close, direct eye contact is very short-lived. If the two men were, instead, standing four or five feet apart, eye contact would not be nearly so emotionally uncomfortable.

The design of Senator Schumer's reading glasses necessitates him looking over the top of them when he's not reading or performing a task in a similar direction and distance. A nonverbal repercussion of this is that looking over the top of such glasses projects patronizing emotions toward the recipient.

Moreover, when looking over the top of glasses, although it's not necessary - very often the forehead muscles are simultaneously contracted and elevated across the entire width. This also results in upward vectoring the eyebrows. Such forehead-eyebrow elevation is exactly what Senator Schumer is doing here. Depending on the other nonverbal signals - a contracted forehead also commonly projects feelings of doubt and incredulity. And although rarely desired, these emotions often are what the other person feels.

President Trump is defaulting to one of his common nonverbal behaviors - an invasion of personal space via a "Pseudo-Hug" with Senator Schumer. Trump is grabbing Schumer's right arm just above the elbow and he's gripping the left side of the base of Schumer's neck and inner (medial) shoulder. If true affection is not established, such personal space invasion doesn't build rapport - rather it destroys it. Many people are blind to this faux pas and thus it becomes a long-term pattern/violation.

Notice Chuck Schumer is pointing his right index finger at Donald Trump while the rest of his hand is probably configured in a fist - only a few inches from Trump's upper chest/neck. Because we don't have video, we can't see any motion in this moment, however the majority of times this gesture (illustrator) is accompanied by an up-and-down shaking movement. This gesture is known as a "Finger-Point-Hand-Chop". It's a hyper-alpha, aggressive, and nonverbal dynamic which here, carries even greater weight because Schumer is so close to Trump and using his dominant hand.

We cannot see much of Donald Trump's face, however, this is not a sincere smile. Although his eyes are partially closed, the President's mid-face is tightened in a manner consistent with a very common form of pseudo-smile - that of a "Disgust-Smile". His jaw (mandible) is also jutting forward - which is not consistent with a sincere smile, but rather with adrenaline surges associated with negative emotions.

Summary: This Oval Office moment between Senator Schumer and President Trump is not at all collegiality or friendliness as some have implied - but rather one of marginal tolerance, poorly feigned affection, and push back.

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Photo credit: Alex Wong

See also:

Body Language Analysis No. 4053: Donald Trump Regarding DACA - "I Have a Love for These People"

Body Language Analysis No. 4051: Predicting Kim Jong-un's Behavior

Body Language Analysis No. 4049: The Arrest of University Hospital Nurse Alex Wubbels

Body Language Analysis No. 4047: Joel Osteen, Houston, and Hurricane Harvey

Body Language Analysis No. 4037: Charlottesville Protester Quits Boston University after Death Threats

Body Language Analysis No. 4005: O.J. Simpson's Parole Board Hearing

Body Language Analysis No. 3980: Mitch McConnell Delays Health Care Bill Vote

Body Language Analysis No. 3941: H.R. McMaster’s Press Conference, Part II — Donald Trump, Russia & Classified Info

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3911: Simone Biles gets Pranked on "Ellen"