Body Language Analysis №4141: Vladimir Putin and Michael Flynn in Moscow (Part II) — Nonverbal and Emotional Intelligence (PHOTOS)
This photo was taken in Moscow in December of 2015. The event was a dinner honoring the 10th anniversary of the Russian news agency RT (Russia Today).
You probably recognize are the two men shaking hands — Vladimir Putin and Michael Flynn. The recently retired US thee star general was paid at least $45,000 to speak at this event — although he did not seek security clearance from the Defense Department or the US State Department as was required. Flynn also failed to include a record of the payment in his reapplication for security clearance in February 2016. Several US officials report being startled by the fact he was at the same table as the Russian President — seated immediately to Putin’s right.
Note that Flynn’s entire body — his feet, hips, torso, and head — are directly pointing toward Putin. Not surprisingly this nonverbal dynamic is termed, “(Full) Body Pointing”. In the context of a handshake, full body pointing is proper form — as it demonstrates respect and being fully present in the moment.
Unfortunately, due to the low resolution and the angle of the photographer — we cannot discern either man’s degree of eye contact.
Flynn is slightly “stepping into” the handshake — leading with his left foot by 8–10 inches.
A split second prior to making contact in this moment, both of their hands are oriented relatively parallel to each other, and perpendicular to the floor.
In contrast, although we cannot see the direction of his feet, President Putin is not body pointing in Flynn’s direction at all. Rather he’s oriented at approximately 45 degrees away from the American. Normally during those handshakes when a one person is pointing away from the other person with their feet or hips — their upper torso will rotate compensate along with their neck and head, completing the rotation. It’s profoundly important here that Vladimir Putin is not turning his body at all — except, probably his eyes.
We don’t body point or look directly at another person who we don’t like, respect, or trust. This is particularly true with a handshake.
Summary: During the time of this photo, the US and Russia were on semi-hostile terms. Michael Flynn’s handshake demonstrates respect for President Putin — however, Putin shows disrespect, dislike, and/or distrust Flynn.
Contrast Putin’s subconscious nonverbal behavior (disrespect toward Flynn) — with the very deliberate (conscious) decision to seat Flynn in the chair of honor — immediately to Putin’s right. Whenever such behaviors are in contrast — it’s the subconscious actions (Putin’s body language) which tell the true thought-feelings.
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.