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Analytical Report on the Body Language of Politicians

AnalyticalReport on the Body Language of Politicians

AnalyticalReport on the Body Language of Politicians

Bodylanguage, better known by the name Kinesics,&nbspisa language in which physical behavior is used to express feelings.Such behavior includes&nbspfacialexpressions,body posture, eye movement, gestures, touch and the use of availablespace. It is a phenomenon observed in both humans and animals. Inthis chapter, we intend to look at the interpretations of human bodylanguage, with special emphasis on the political arena. Theapplication of such interpretations is relative hence differentpeople internalize body language in different perspectives. A studyby Almond&amp Coleman, (2015)indicates that the ‘thumbs up’ sign mean ‘good’ for thewesterners, ‘one’ for Italians and ‘five’ for the Japanese.However, there are obvious cases that do not call for criticalanalysis to figure out what the speaker or individual in question istrying to relay. For instance, it is universal that a more confidentperson will most likely be determined by characteristics such as:standing tall with shoulders back, solid eye contact with a &quotsmiling&quotface, use of gestures like hands and arms purposefully anddeliberately, slow and clear speech, and moderate to low tone of thevoice.

Inour daily activities information on this is important especially whendealing with critical matters such as leadership and politics.Politicians are the best examples to use in our analysis of bodylanguage.

BodyLanguage and Politicians

Goingby historical evidence, most politicians realize the importance ofnonverbal image with the common phrase “seeing comes before words.”It is widely agreed on in the US that nonverbal image found itssignificance in the political arena since the first televised ‘GreatDebate’ between Kennedy and Nixon. In exposed opinions, JF Kennedyturned out to be the visual winner with appropriate command of hisaudience whereas Nixon found a way to be the audio winner. JF got theupper hand after the debate taking the people’s hearts. Researchhas it that while 93% of communication is nonverbal, words accountfor only 7%(Almond, &amp Verba, 2015).

Goingby the most recent race for the white house in the US as a criticalexample, a lot can be said on the significance of a body language.Citizens of the US were able to make their decision on the ballotdepending on how convincing the two contestants, Republican flagbearer Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton turned out to be.

Ina critical analysis, the following are some of the key nonverbalcommunication examples:

  1. Palm and hand gestures.

Ourbrains pay more attention to hand than other body parts in mostcases. From an evolutionary point of view, this holds more weight.For instance, first encounter with a strange person, one tends tolook out in the hands to see if the other is holding a weapon. In oursubconscious, it makes us nervous when we can’t see someone’shands. In reference to the presidential debate, both Trump andHillary tried to reveal their hands by folding their hands on top ofthe interview desk and at most occasions standing back far enough tomake sure their hands and lap are in the frame to ensure full controlof your gestures.

Useof palm gestures responsively involves means taking consideration ofthe following:

  • Keeping them in the box and within space hand speaking space is the space between the top of your chest and at the bottom of the waist. If you go outside this box, it’s seen as distracting and out of control. Making a reference to the recent meeting between President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump, their gestures were so vivid in relaying a message. For instance, Trump’s downward prayer position is not typical for him. The tentative position highlighted a somehow scared persona.

  • Make purposeful gestures.

  • Know what to say that is to coordinate the message and the gesture

  • Let them be more smooth and better

Gesturesincrease the value of our message by 60%. A politician employingthese gestures is thought to be more charismatic, gets moreattention, gets a better memory and is seen to drive explanationshome in a better way. The presidential debate is a good example whereHillary Clinton was thought to express her views on policies in amore feasible, easy and comprehensive way. Most citizens of the USwould then see her as more conversant with passing bills and policymaking than her opponent.

  1. Facial expression

Historically,a candidate’s performance in the US presidential debate relies notonly on what he or she says but also how they put it across. Itranges from false smiles, toothy smiles, and eye behavior like sayblinking and darting eyes. Such expressions are used in reactionshots, and replayed later in the days after these debates bypolitical analysists to assess the message of a to be President.Studying moods and motives of different politicians using the facialexpression in America can be traced back in the 1198s. In those days,the expressions were categorized as happy/reassuring, at timesangry/threatening or fearful/evasive, for the most part. In thismodern world with high definition technology, this kind of scrutinyis analyzed to the letter. The study goes deep into examining some ofthe intricacies of the &quothappy&quot face by looking at differenttypes of smiles individuals put up. In these current times, votersare keen on the smallest muscle movements they can differentiatebetween appealing smiles and those they find off-putting.[CITATION Steng l 1033 ].

Afterthe Republican debate held in September, Donald Trump`s visagedominated both social and traditional media.This saw differentinterpretations from the world, a good example of CNN whose interestwas chiefly in his extreme facial expressions The new studies havetried to elaborate the criterion in judging or interpreting differentsmiles. This is done by an interesting study by University ofArkansas psychologist Patrick Stewart and his colleague using theat-the-time ongoing Republican primary as a test. They put together avideo from the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)where aspirants had converged to reach out to voters and convincethem in the primary voting. In the course of the study short videoclip of each candidate was obtained and a rigorous analysis was doneto determine the anatomy of each grin made. One participant waschosen to try and identify the emotions by examining the formationsmile displayed and the following were the interesting results.

Type of Smile



Lip corners pulled up and at an angle.

Enjoyment (&quottrue smile&quot)

Lip corners up and muscles around the eyes contracted.


Lip corners up eye muscles contracted and jaw dropped to reveal teeth.


Lip corners up, eyes contracted, jaw dropped, and lip corners tightened and pulled downwards to stifle the smile somewhat.


Lip corner on only one side pulled up at an angle and tightened.

Theresults proved in fact that very few people could hide their truefeeling in their facial expressions. ‘True smile’ as they saidwas hardly consistent in this study due to the heat in the debate.Only one candidate according to this research, the by then-Texasgovernor Rick Perry, expressed a consistent ‘true smile’.

Otherthan smiles, eye communication is also another major aspect of facialexpression that citizens or an audience will use to judge a givenconversation. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, he says, “An eyecan threaten like a loaded gun, can insult, express beams ofkindness, make the heart dance with joy”.Therefore one can easilytell the transparency of a politician’s words from the way he orshe expresses it in the eye. In a more recent example, as analyzed bybody language expert and writer Patty Wood, Obama is thought to havea hard time trying to hide his disappointment. He actually lies anddoes not mean it especially when he is quoted saying “I have beenvery encouraged by the interest in President-elect Trump to work withmy team around many of the issues that this great country faces and Ibelieve that it is important for all regardless of party andregardless of political preferences to now come together, worktogether to deal with the many challenges we face”. Just when hesays ‘he is encouraged’ he closes his eyes. A simple expressionto indicate a real lie he is actually not for this in the realsense. The two have had a bad-word-exchange history that can justifythat the November 10th2016 meeting found them in awkward situations.

Criticshave found a way of using this aspect of nonverbal communication toput candidates in the wrong. In the recently completed polls in theUS Hillary Clinton featured little like a favorite in expressing hereye movements. In a critical observation, her eyes were seen to beclearly to be moving at different alternating frequencies thatresulted in bizarre eye movements. However, this is thought to beassociated with her health problems. According to a report by John R.Coppedge, a general surgeon from Texas, Clinton’s strange eyemovement could be most likely associated with an intermittent lateralrectus palsy resulting from damage to her sixth cranial nerve. Still,this was another health issue that her critics found to discuss.

  1. Body posture

Thisis another body language aspect that has gained dominance ofdiscussion since the late 1970s hitherto. However, a major point tonote is how most writers and body language experts have concentratedmore on defensive body posture and gesture. It is a wide aspect ofnon-verbal communication ranging from the positioning of arms,sitting positions, the positioning of the head and so forth. To get abetter understanding of this, we, therefore, put each under scrutinyas follows

  1. Use of available space and controlling body posture

Itis important to maintain or keep in position when making apresentation before people. Thereare various things which a speaker cannot control when delivering aspeech, but proper posture is certainly one variable that isachievable if well informed. It is important to begin your speechwhile standing straight on your feet leaving a space of approximately7 to 12 inches between them. With this one acquires a good balancefor the rest of the body and thus, gives you enough space and comfortwithout looking like a robot. In a stage with support elements suchas the lectern or a stand, it is important to avoid leaning on it asif it were a post or something. When introducing a new point, forinstance, take your hand off the stand and make a gesture to show achange in direction. Similarly, when intending to change thediscussion to another topic, you can take a step away from the standand towards the listeners or crowd. Purposeful movement of this kindhelps insure a confident and natural posture. In the recentlycompleted presidential debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton,Trump is seen making circles in his space during Clinton’s turn. Heis envisaged by top body language expert as a lion: ready to launch abiting attack, then instead keeps his attack energy by continuing tomove and circle in his space. In a way, he was showing his dominanceover her, and this sends a great message to the people looking on.

Inshort, one should try to avoid shifting the weight of his or her bodywhile speaking. Make a mentalimage of &quotplanting oneself in one place&quot you start tospeak. It will help in stabilizing the posture and in another waykeep you from &quotbouncing&quot on your feet from one place toanother while speaking. Putting into imaginary conjures up the ideathat you will have to stay in one place for a little longer. Leaningback on your shoulders also gives one a better posture that commandsa sense of confidence and control. When also speaking to a group ofpeople on a large stage that needs you to stand with no support, itis good to keep your hands free and very important do not pocket.

  1. Sitting positions and head positioning

Mostcases interviewing politicians has been an interesting point noted bythose interested in it. It virtually carries the same weight asdelivering a speech to your audience since anything spoken duringthis time is usually in an attempt to woo votes and convincecitizens. The best positioning of one’s head is maintaining yourhead and chin up. Among many big mistakes committed by most speakersis looking down maybe at their notes when in between points of adebate or on some occasions when they seem to be nervous. Wheneveryou look down, your head too goes down as though bowing insubmission. Everyone knows it is the last thing they expect from acandidate of their choice. It displays incompetence on the debater asarguing in the political game calls for mighty bargaining power andauthority, keeping your head and chin up is a nonverbal position thatcommands strength, confidence, and optimism. Creating smallwaves as some would call it is another kind of old school techniquethat most politicians would employ to send a message to thesupporters and crowds. Putting a spotlight on American PresidentBarrack Obama who has excelled in this, he is fond of makingacknowledgment gestures through head movements or hand gestures. Hedoes this when approaching or walking out of the podium. It is apowerful delivery method since it is a skilful way of showing offone’s social proof and recognition. It is a way of appreciatingyour supporters in the audience besides displaying the friendly andrelatable side of an individual (Johnson, 2013).

Inthe case of a debate or one-on-one conversation like in a meeting,sitting posture can be used to interpret the message and intention ofan individual. First of all, it is important to ensure evendistribution of your weight on your feet. Sittingincorrectly causes posture problems, equally referred to as serialdistortion. When one places too much weight on their heels, itincreases stress on the ankles, hips, lower back and knees. It causesdiscomfort thus affects your way of presentation. Furthermore,minding your shoulder position is an important aspect to note.One major way to have a better posture, evenwhile sitting, is trying to roll your shoulders back and upwards,pulling your elbows back in a way as though to push your chestforward (Johnson, 2013). To get a morecomfortable position also, ensure your lower back is not forcingforth the chest too much. Such a posture let’s one audience knowthat you are present, conscious and attentive to their concerns. In away to interpret the significance, we use the example of the meetingbetween Obama and Trump after the elections as guided by top bodylanguage analyst Patti Wood. In her opinion the sitting position ofthe two relays quite a lot. She highlights how both gentlemenhad their legs in the male, alpha position usually associated with &quotIam a man&quot notion. She further points out at Obama more stretchedlegs position as though trying to send a message of &quotI stilldominate here.&quot

  1. General appearance, style, and looks

Appearanceacts as an additional tip to compliment whatever you plan to say. Forpoliticians, it is important to note that presentation begins rightat the moment someone recognizes you as the speaker. It sends amessage home to the listeners so that at the start of it, that mightserve as an elevator, the restroom, or a parking garage as some wouldprefer to say. In fact, as soon as you are in the environs of yourspeaking location, one should act as though already on stage simplybecause you may be. Attention is on you and therefore no way forfalse actions, preparation at this point should be out of mind. Inmost cases, the decision on the color to put on when making a publicappearance by politicians is determined in a major way by the colorsof their respective political party. It should be noted that bothstyle and general appearance are important to engage an audience(Stewart PA, 2015). Some the important tips tonote away from substance contained in any politicians’ speech canbe achieved through the following

  • Creating by all means a compelling, story-telling kind of journey that makes it easy both for you and your audience to follow through to the end.

  • Ensure to have a complete similar copy or version of the script close at your disposal that would act as back-up.

  • Try and reduce your script and outline a few trigger words that will prompt you to remember the weight carrying points. Another good illustration is Obama. His long-term speechwriter, Jon Favreau points out on how he uses this technique, to prompt him to tell long stories off the script.

  • Remember to write these trigger words in a way that they are conspicuous enough that they are legible at least from two meters away. By so doing, you can glance at the podium and at the same time your reference to remember the critical points.

Forlooks, it is important to maintain composure despite the sensitivityof the topics of discussion. Such should not be confused with smilesor other forms of facial expressions. Politicians preparing totake the stage tend to be sociable in theiractivities especially before taking the podium. It is important tolook pleasant by all means. When you come across people, you shouldmeet and greet them. Very important to note, one should expressgenuine interest in the other persons, and this is realised throughthe looks displayed. Sticking to our interesting example, a closerlook at the two gentlemen at the statehouse- Obama and Trump speaksvolumes. In her experience in the field, Patti Wood brings forth onhow the looks on both betrayed the context they tried to stick into.According to her, Obama was seen to beextremely resigned, fatigued, and a little bit pessimistic, while onthe other hand, Trump was uncertain, quite serious and a little bitfearful. Wood pointed out at how Obama makes his gestures, he keepshis arms on his legs and looks in a way to suggest boredom and aweary situation(Brecht, 2015).

Asa politician, it is good to avoid contemptuous looks that could senda wrong signal to the people you are seeking votes from. This is anaspect that would be discussed earlier on under facial expressionexcept it found more significance under this subtopic since it isdepicted more depending on the prevailing mood. For example, manypeople often tend to cover the feeling of being nervous with a smile.Of course, this is not bad since smiling helps create a rapport andshow a sign of &quotit is okay&quot to the counterpart like in thegreat debates. However, it is vital that it is a genuine smile ascompared to a smirk comes out clearly and is done with a full mouth.A one-sided mouth raise is a clear and the universally acceptedmicro-expression for contempt, disdain or hatred. In as much assmiling helps connect behavior building when done in extreme itsignifies submission and inferiority (Johnson, 2013).Don’t we tend to believe that the most important someone is, theless they need to smile? In short try and afford a smile from thestart to the end of an interview but be keen no to overdo it so thatyou don’t look inauthentic or submissive.

Tomake sure that this chapter is well understood, it is also crucial tohighlight some of the gestures that we should avoid to ensure thepresentation does not end up being messed up, the kind of gesturesmostly used that could be very detrimental. They include thefollowing

  1. The Frozen elbow

Thefrozen elbow gesture is made by folding the arms besides thewaistline in such a way that they remain in the same position on theside of your body while talking. For any aspiring politician, thisgesture appears unnatural and makes one appear as though forced toappear before the audience. Clearly evidenced by the use of only onelower half of the arm to gesture, that is from the elbow to the palm.

[ CITATION DrG13 l 2057 ]

  1. The penguin posture

Inthis posture, the arm tends to hang straight down stiffly. This meansthat in as much as you might want to make gestures, the arms arestationary, they are hardly moving making the gestures hard to see.This posture hinders you from making gestures visible to theaudience.

  1. The accuser

‘Theaccuser’ kind of gesture involves one pointing directly at theaudience using the index finger. However, this kind of gesture is badsince it might be interpreted negatively. In general, it suggests spassing across judgemental or aggressively accusatory sentiments.Instead of this, it is advised to use open palm indication as most USpresident do, a good example being Obama.

  1. The Public dresser

Thepublic dresser tends to be very unsure of what they are putting on.To avoid this kind of posture, keep off from stroking the beard ortie, pushing one’s hair to and fro, frequent adjustment of clothes,trousers or jacket during the presentation. This is a sign ofnervousness hence a distracting factor for the audience.

  1. The Fig Leaf

Historically,this posture was used by people mainly to hide their nakedness. It isdone by crossing one`s hands just below the belt buckle.It gives animpression of a guilty submission, as though having committed a sinor crime. Such kind of a posture betrays one`s confidence by showinga hidden motive or objective.

  1. The hidden treasure

Asthe name suggests, this is a kind of posture that is characterized bya speaker putting his or her hands in their pockets as though tryingto conceal something. Hands should be left free to swing around sothat they could be visual aids when speaking. It will be then usefulin enhancing your message and driving the point home.

  1. The fiddler

Thisis a kind of distraction in which one tends to meddle around with theavailable objects. These objects range from pens, notes, notes,jewelry, hands, fingers or other presentation aids in place.

  1. The Defender

Itis characterized by crossing one`s arms across the chest in a way toalienate oneself from the others or segregate oneself. It is a way ofescaping by unconsciously trying to answer different from others whenyou exempt yourself. It is too defensive and therefore an awfulchoice of gesture for a loader or politician, one would better useopen-ended gestures that show a sense of accountability andresponsibility.


Itis pellucid that nonverbal communication plays a very important rolein attempting to deliver the message. So to say it is not just aboutsubstance but also style. Politicians are people who need tocomplement their actions and words or at least try to do so. It isthe main reason that in this chapter the examples provided are simplyto echo the significance of interpretation of body language by humanbeings, how it has changed with time and to emphasize the major roleit plays in this modern world. Body language ranging from bodyposture, sitting position, facial expression, eye contact, palms andhand gestures has important visual aids that any person preparing toenter the political field should embrace by nature and standards.


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Brecht,A. (2015).&nbspPoliticaltheory: the foundations of twentieth-century political thought.Princeton University Press.

Johnson,D. G. (2013). MilitaryDisabilityMadeEasy.com. Retrieved fromhttp://www.militarydisabilitymadeeasy.com/index.html

StewartPA, B. E. (2015). Strengthening bonds and connecting with followers.Politics Life Science, 34(1):73-92.