Nonverbal Communication Analysis №3728: Barack Obama Tells Donald Trump to Stop Whining — Body Language and Emotional Intelligence (VIDEO, PHOTOS)
Yesterday, during a press conference in the Rose Garden with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Barack Obama took a jab at Donald Trump. What follows is a partial nonverbal analysis of the above video clip from that event.
At the very end of this video (beginning at 2:26), President Obama says, “And so — ah, I’d invite MisterTrump to stop whining and go try and make his case to get votes ….”
As he says, “Mister”, President Obama displays a microexpression of contempt on the left side of his face (his left), which is relatively subtle.
A split second later as he says, “Stop”, the President makes a more pronounced contempt display — this time on his right (again, a microexpression).
Both of these examples are not able to be fully appreciated via still images, therefore watching the video at 1/2 or 1/4 speed is highly recommended.
Notice that President Obama is leaning on his lectern with his right arm/elbow. This should never be done, particularly at the presidential level — unless of course one wishes to convey a lower energy, low assertiveness and casual sloppiness. This body configuration does not convey strength and is inconsistent with an alpha personality. Moreover, this body language is made even worse because the President is, to a degree, turning his back on Prime Minister Renzi.
Although there are exceptions to the rule, the vast majority of time, when speaking in any capacity at a lectern, podium, on stage, television, etc. the hands should be free of a pen (or pencil). One reason for this is the speaker may point with the sharp end of the pen — performing a surrogate of an index finger point. And while this while this doesn’t have the full impact of pointing with that finger, it certainly is negatively received and should be strongly avoided.
Another common error while holding a pen is “clicking” it — or as President Obama did (during 0:23–0:26) uncapping and recapping it. This is a very distracting and a common rookie mistake — and yet here is one of the more accomplished speakers in the World making this error.
Of course, tomorrow night during the third and final of the 2016 Presidential Debates, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will probably occasionally be taking notes. In such a context it can serve to give the appearance of critical thinking (which of course is often also true) and can sometimes unnerve one’s opponent.
There are also individuals (usually relative beginners) who feel uncomfortable speaking and will often admit, “I don’t know what to do with my hands”. Intriguingly, if one holds a pen (recommended to be small and capped with each end blunt) it often relaxes the hand, the whole arm — and even the shoulders as well as the opposite hand and arm. This trick is not recommended for everyone and must be approached with caution — as it’s extremely easy to begin fiddling with the pen — thus backfiring the entire technique.
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.