Body Language Analysis №3942: Donald Trump, James Comey, Contempt and Emotional Intelligence (VIDEO, PHOTOS)
From a nonverbal communication perspective, the event was laden with teaching examples — two particularly telling moments are highlighted here.
JOURNALIST (beginning at 20:13): Thank you, Mr. President. Ahum, in the light of a very busy news week, a lot of people would like to get to the bottom of a couple of things, give you a chance to — go on record here. Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey in any way, shape, or form to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn? And also as you look back —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: [over-talking] No. No. Next question.
JOURNALIST: Next question. As you look back over the past six months or year, ahum, have you had any recollection where you’ve wondered if anything you have done — has been something that might be worthy of criminal charges in these investigations or impeachment, as some on the left are implying?
During 20:33, as Trump says the word, “… Next…” (shown above), and again during the later portion of “…question…”, he displays two beautiful examples of extremely brief manifestations of contempt (Microexpressions).
And a few seconds later, during 20:34–20:37, as the journalist says, “… Next question. As you look back…”, Trump then displays what is known as a “Subtle Expression”. It’s also one of contempt. As its name implies, it’s somewhat difficult to detect (for most people) due to its low magnitude. They also typically last longer.
While nonverbal novices are more familiar with the phenomenon of microexpressions — and they get much more press — subtle expressions are just as important in nonverbal interpretation and behavioral analysis.
These examples, placed side by side, serve as an excellent contrast. Please view them several times at normal speed and again in slow motion.
Another intriguing moment comes a few seconds later (20:43–20:44) immediately after the journalist says, “ As you look back over the past six months or year, ahum, have you had any recollection where you’ve wondered if anything you have done” — and then simultaneous with the journalist saying, … has been something …”, Donald Trump blinks, then looks down to his right, then blinks again as he reestablishes his gaze upon the Journalist.
The vast majority of right-handed people will look down to their right during moments of high anxiety particularly when those feelings are linked to sadness or regret.
Blinking which punctuates the beginning and/or the end of gaze direction changes are longer in duration and are much more correlative with anxiety.
Summary: Donald Trump displayed contempt during a key question in today’s press conference — most likely toward James Comey or for the journalist who asked the question. The President also showed signs of significant regret and anxiety when asked about recent past actions.
This post and the associated website serve as reference sources for the art and science of Body Language/Nonverbal Communication. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author. In an effort to be both practical and academic, many examples from/of varied cultures, politicians, professional athletes, legal cases, public figures, etc., are cited in order to teach and illustrate both the interpretation of others’ body language as well as the projection of one’s own nonverbal skills in many different contexts — not to advance any political, religious or other agenda.