Thursday, October 31, 2019

Body Language Analysis No. 4401 Nancy Pelosi's and Donald Trump's 'Meltdown Meeting' — Nonverbal and Emotional Intelligence (PHOTOS)

When a person has little or no empathy — and/or when they're far from their emotional baseline, their ability to interpret how others will view an event becomes dramatically distorted. Rarely has this behavioral axiom been better exemplified than last Wednesday at the White House. President Trump and members of his cabinet met with congressional leaders to discuss Turkey, Syria, and the Kurdish people.

After Donald Trump engaged in ad hominem attacks toward Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer left the meeting. After the meeting, Donald Trump tweeted out the above image which will no doubt become historic.

The photo quickly went viral. And the collective Body Language was profoundly telling — just not in the way Donald Trump believed it to be. It backfired on the President in ways that cannot begin to be quantified.

What follows is a detailed nonverbal analysis of this now-famous photo, with multiple cropped close-ups.

Notice President Trump's orientation to both Speaker Pelosi and the table. Both his chair and Trump's torso are leaning away from Pelosi. For him, this configuration is highly unusual. Trump's almost always leaning forward — whether he's seated or standing.

Moreover, the President's hands are hidden beneath the table. This too is not at all Trump's normal behavior. When he's seated at table or a desk, his hands are most often on its surface — otherwise, they're folded across his chest. What we see here is rare for Trump. Hiding one's hands is a red flag for withdrawal, a need for protection, a hidden agenda, and dishonesty.

Donald Trump's medial (inner) eyebrows are vectored downward. The expression on his face is an amalgam of both anger and fear. Donald Trump's body language is projecting a significantly beta and protective emotional tone. He's fearful and withdrawing while telegraphing significant dishonesty.

Look back at the full picture. Notice how Trump repositioned his glass forward on the table? He frequently does this with any objects placed in front of him. This is a manifestation of narcissistic personality disorder. Narcissists routinely force themselves into others' personal spaces and take up more room in common spaces.

In contrast, Nancy Pelosi's body language is hyper-alpha. She's not only standing up — she's the only one standing. Pelosi's whole body is leaning forward — her thighs against the table.

Nancy Pelosi is pointing with her most powerful finger (the index finger aka forefinger) on her dominant hand. Her arm is moderately extended — again, over the table. The remainder of her fingers and her thumb are retracted (amplifying the finger's power). Speaker Pelosi is pointing just over the head of President Trump, seated directly across the table from her. Pelosi's eyebrows and her forehead are elevated. While it is expressing emphasis, her face is not conveying significant anger, nor does she have an expression indicative of yelling/high volume in this moment.

Later that day, Speaker Pelosi recounted what she had been saying to the President when this image was captured: "With you, all roads lead to Putin".

On Trump's side of the table, nearly everyone is either sitting away from the table or looking downward with their hands clasped (frustration and beta). We also see a Gestalt theme, with multiple hands being hidden.

Three out of five of the men sitting to Trump's right have their head, neck, and torsos bending forward. Quite notably, NONE of these three men are looking up. This is consistent with shame, sadness, and/or deception.

Immediately to Trump's right is General Mark Milley — the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Along with his head, neck, and torso leaning forward — his jaw is clenched, which is signaling an adrenaline surge. He's not only looking down, but his eyebrows are also dramatically lowered. His lips are thinned (anger). The corner of his mouth is angled downward (indicating regret and/or sadness). His fingers are tightly intertwined (frustration).

To General Milley's right is Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. His torso is leaning backward, away from the table, although his hands appear to be on the table and intertwined or clasped (view mostly occluded). McConnell's face is not visible.

Seated to Senator McConnell's right is Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. He's also leaning forward, looking down. His hands are clasped. His mouth is foreshortened with the left corner turned downward (Sadness, Regret).

To John Sullivan's right is House Minority Whip, Steve Scalise (R-LA). He's leaning far forward (particularly his head and neck), and looking down and appears to be writing.

The man seated to Scalise's right is White House counsel Pat Cipollone (to Trump's far-right, at the end of the table). He's sitting back with his torso away from the table. Although our view of him is limited, his arms appear to be crossed (defensive, close-minded, protective) and he seems to be looking at Nancy Pelosi.

Immediately to Trump's left is Defense Secretary Mark Esper. His torso, neck, and head are upright — the only person on Trump's side of the table with a semi-engaged posture. However, his hands are clasped. Esper's behavior, both here and at other times he's appeared in photos or speaking, is significantly robotic. Behaviorally, he strives to live in the middle of the Bell curve. He avoids extremes. Mark Esper is hyper-contained and prides himself on this characteristic. Esper's jaw is clenched too — but not nearly as tight as General Milley's.

To Esper's left is House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy. He was captured during an extended blink in this photo. His eyebrows are mildly lowered, however, his forehead is mildly elevated (this opposite direction dynamic of these two adjacent tissues is a red flag). His torso is also leaning backward - pulled away from the desk in another variation of non-engagement. Intriguingly, McCarthy's hands are mostly hidden too — with his fingers beneath the table, with his thumbs hooked on its surface — whilst he appears to be pushing back, away from the table. His mouth is mildly regretful. McCarthy is blocking Trump's behavior. He is trying to tolerate the situation in which he finds himself. He's mentally pushing back. He does NOT want to be there.

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, is seated to McCarthy's left. Like Trump, he's also positioned his hands beneath the table. This is a troublesome configuration for anyone in authority to adopt during a meeting. Barring a physical condition, individuals who sit with their hands beneath the table in such scenarios are very often hiding something. It's deception tell — particularly if a question is asked, and, as they answer verbally, their hands retract into hiding.

At the far end of the table — and slightly on Pelosi's half, is White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland. His eyes are also closed. It's statistically unlikely that both he and Kevin McCarthy would be both naturally caught blinking. Thus, this blinking is behavioral and of longer duration. They are blocking and distancing themselves from the situation.

Note Eric Ueland's hands are also beneath the table — leaning backward with his torso, withdrawn from the table. It's intriguing that Mr. Ueland, who has a relative power seat (at the end of a long table, away from the door), has chosen to orient himself on Speaker Pelosi's side of the table rather than on Trump's hemisphere of the room.

To Eric Ueland's right (closer to Pelosi) are Representatives Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Liz Cheney (R-WY), and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Although Ms. Cheney's and Mr. Menendez's face are partially occluded, it's clear that all three of these House members have their hands to their mouths. This hand-to-mouth dynamic is a common body language configuration to adopt when one is witnessing an argument — but not directly participating in it. These two Democrats and one Republican are nonverbally in a state of emotional processing — in cognitive-emotional dissonance. Their intellectual brains are aware of a dramatic confrontation — while their emotional brains are trying to fully process its ramifications. This hand-to-mouth signal also conveys our desire to see a person (who's getting over-emotional) calm their temper.

It's also quite notable that Engel, Cheney, and Menedez all have at least one of their respective arms/elbows/hands on top of — not beneath the table. This signals more engagement and honesty compared with people whose hands are beneath the table (conveying withdraw, need for protection, hidden agenda, and dishonesty).

Seated immediately to Speaker Pelosi's left is House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer. He is the only Democrat in this image sitting back from the table. His eyelids are also closed (third person in this photo) — probably also in the midst of an extended blink. Again, desiring to psychologically block the behavior of the President.

Immediately to Nancy Pelosi's right is Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Senator Schumer is leaning forward and also looking down. Although he's possibly reading the document in front of him, it's much more likely that he doesn't want to look at the President shouting. Both of Schumer's arms are on the table (engaged).

Jack Reed (D-RI) is seated to Schumer's right. Like Reps. Engel, Cheney, and Menedez — Reed also has both arms on top of the table (more engaged) but with one hand to his mouth (again, in this context, it's a signal of both emotional processing and a desire for calm tempers/dialog/discussion — rather than anger/yelling/ad hominem attacks).

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) is not only leaning back in his chair (disengaged) with his hands and arms beneath the table (hiding, like a turtle who is pulled into his shell) — but his hands are in a seated fig-leaf configuration. A fig-leaf (whether used seated or standing) conveys significant beta mindset, vulnerability, and a need for protection.

Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX), seated in the lower left corner of the image (blurred, closest to the camera) has an expression combination of disgust, a suppressed smile, and impatience. He's leaning forward and it appears he has both hands on the table with his fingers intertwined (frustrated). 

SUMMARY: The body language is profound in this image. Most of the Republicans in the room — including President Trump have hyper-beta emotional tones. They're withdrawn, protective, projecting a hidden agenda, and suggesting dishonest intent.

General Mark Milley, whose political beliefs are not publicly known, bears special attention. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is feeling a combination of anger, shame, frustration, regret, and sadness.

In contrast, most of the Democrats in the room are engaged and in disbelief at the President's behavior. With the exception of Nancy Pelosi, they're not hyper-alpha but alpha/assertive in their mindsets.

Nancy Pelosi is hyper-alpha, although not hyper-angry, in this moment. If we suddenly developed amnesia and we weren't aware of their relative elected positions of power, we would think that Nancy Pelosi was indeed the President — and that Trump was in the midst of being fired.

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Post Script: A friend of mine who's a real estate professional was recently assaulted. She was showing a house to a man and she misinterpreted nonverbal warning signs. At her behest, I'm reducing my Body Language teaching fee by 67% for any individual or Real Estate company who's interested. These can be conducted on-site, or remotely via video chat. Please email me for more information.

See also:

Body Language Analysis No. 4400: Trump speaks with First All-Female Astronaut Spacewalk 

Body Language Analysis No. 4399: Donald Trump — Stalling, Protection, Deception, Contempt 

Body Language Analysis No. 4398: Mohammed bin Salman regarding the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi ("60 Minutes" Interview) 

Body Language Analysis No. 4397: Donald Trump Defends Himself Against The Whistleblower

Body Language Analysis No. 4396: Brett Kavanaugh's Confirmation Hearing — Reading Between the Lines

Body Language Analysis No. 4395: Mike Pompeo - "Just the Past Ten Days Alone, We've Killed Over a Thousand Taliban"

Body Language Analysis No. 4394: Donald Trump, "I am The Chosen One"

Body Language Analysis No. 4393: El Paso Mass Shooter - Using Body Language as a Threat Assessment Tool

Body Language Analysis No. 4360: GE's CEO Larry Culp's CNBC Interview and Subsequent Stock Sell-off