Thursday, September 14, 2017

Body Language Analysis No. 4062: Donald Trump meets with Tim Scott - Nonverbal and Emotional Intelligence (PHOTOS)

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump met with Senator Tim Scott in an apparent effort to gain some understanding and much needed political ground from what has been, thus far, the low point of his presidency - the equating of violent white supremacists and neo-Nazis protestors in Charlottesville last month with counter-protesters.

After the meeting, The White House made the double faux pas of calling the Republican Senator from South Carolina "Tom Scott".

Today, the President once again suggested a moral equivalency between the two viewpoints.

On Air Force One, when asked about his meeting with Senator Scott, President Trump said, "I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what's going on there. You have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also, and essentially that's what I said. Now, because of what's happened since then with Antifa - you look at really what's happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people are saying and people have actually written, 'Gee, Trump might have a point.' I said, 'You've got some very bad people on the other side also,' which is true."

In the image their meeting (above), several things should immediately jump out at you.

1. Donald Trump's "Low Steeple" (more specifically, a "Low Conventional Steeple"):

President Trump has a longstanding habit of configuring his hands in a low conventional steeple (as he is doing here). This body language display is historically virtually nonexistent in any US president - and there's a good reason for this. When used only in very small doses (for literally half a second) it's an alpha, assertive, and dominant gesture (illustrator). However when over-used (which requires little frequency or duration) it rapidly becomes hyper-alpha, over-bearing, and aggressive. It's over-kill multiplied by a thousand. This is particularly true when you're president - because everyone already knows who you are, your power, your influence, etc.

Yet this is one of Trump's defaults positions. He constantly does this 90+% of the time when he's sitting. For him, it's "normal" (a statistical definition, but not a recommended or relationship-healthy body language). Therefore, in this moment, President Trump's low conventional steeple is not out of context.

2. Donald Trump's legs are crossed:

The President almost never crosses his legs. It's very rare for him. Importantly, his left leg is crossed over his right leg in a "European Style" - toward Senator Scott. This is a relatively relaxed position - especially for Donald Trump. It also demonstrates an attempt at engagement, respect, and recognition which is rare for Trump.

Note that Scott is not mirroring Trump's leg point. Scott's legs are crossed in the opposite direction. Moreover, he's crossing his legs in a manner halfway between the European style and an American "Figure 4". This is both a relatively uncomfortable position - as well as demonstrating his dislike and poor rapport for this President.

3. The President's Torso is Turned toward Senator Scott:

Trump's torso turning is engendered by his leg crossing (while Scott's manner of crossing works against it). This also shows relative engagement and respect. Senator Scott's psyche is not letting him do the same.

4. Head Turning:

Both men have their head turned toward each other - but Trump a bit more so. This is not surprising given the position of The President's torso and legs.

5. Eye Contact:

At the moment of this photo - both men have eye contact. Again, this is relatively rare for The President. Good eye contact skill is the single most important component of building rapport. Of course, eye contact is not simply a manner of "looking" - it's a dance, it's improvisational, and a tree with many branches.

6. The President's Clothes Don't Match

Much has been made of the President's suit jacket and pant's not matching. Many of us have done something like this on occasion. Yet it's profoundly hard to believe this wasn't caught before he entered the West Wing - let alone prior to appearing on camera.


As with all body language, a simple image is but one moment in time and may lead us astray in our interpretation of the emotional dynamics. A video of the entire event, would, of course, yield much more accuracy. Having said that, President Trump's nonverbal displays in this photo appear to indicate he was quite relaxed during this meeting. However, Senator Scott's non-engaging nonverbal behavior suggests it's possible/probable that this image may have been "cherry picked" and not representative of the meeting's emotional Gestalt.

The President's considerably relaxed and engaging body language may have been more reflective of his emotional state in anticipating his upcoming meeting (later the same day) and a possible agreement with Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi regarding DACA or possible new DACA-related legislation.

The President's non-matching of his clothes speaks as much or more as to the emotional state of the West Wing's staff. The further we are from emotional baseline, the less observant we become. This phenomenon is often profound. When you think of the many people who saw the President prior to this meeting, it makes one question their collective situational awareness and willingness to speak truth to power.

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See also:

Body Language Analysis No. 4061: Pennywise,"IT", and Bill SkarsgÄrd's Demonic Smile - Why is IT so Scary?

Body Language Analysis No. 4059: Steve Bannon Interview - Part II - "60 Minutes"

Body Language Analysis No. 4057: Steve Bannon's "60 Minutes" Interview

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

Body Language Analysis No. 4041: Former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak regarding Secrets from Donald Trump

Body Language Analysis No. 4015: Reince Priebus' First Post-Resignation Interview

Body Language Analysis No. 3989: Peter Sagan Regarding his Disqualification from the Tour de France and Mark Cavendish's Crash

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

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3875: Children Interrupt Dad During BBC News interview