– Look for behaviours in others that are well liked and use them – says Joe Navarro, a body language expert in interview conducted by Pawel Rogalinski.
Pawel Rogalinski: – How do politicians use body language in order to seem more trustworthy?
Joe Navarro: – What we often see with politicians is more tactile behaviours, such as kissing babies, shaking hands, hugging others. Things that in normal life are limited to just a few people, here they extend themselves, because when they do this, they are perceived as not just more honest, but more approachable.
– What about their appearance?
– Well, they will take their jackets off if they are men, so they can be seen with just a shirt on, as that is perceived as more trustworthy. They will also use makeup if they go on television and will often roll up their sleeves to portray themselves as more of the working class. What is interesting to note is how these behaviours change for the most part, once you’re selected.
– Any mimicry that is worth mentioning?
– We must not forget they smile a lot and I have talked to a few who say how tiring it is at first because they are not used to smiling so much. Go to a family gathering where someone takes a lot of pictures – you will see what I mean.
– I know what you mean [laughing]. And what gestures do politicians use most often when delivering a political campaign speech?
– The favorite gesture of course is to use very wide expansive arms and hand gestures to indicate that they are thinking and talking about very broad important things. Interestingly, the higher the rank, the broader and smoother our gestures should be. The really great speakers will avoid using a podium, that hides their bodies, the less able will hide behind podiums. Keep in mind that speakers on TED talks are so well liked because we can see all of their body and their hand gestures.
– Can you think of a well-known politican that can be perceived as an expert in terms of using body language and mimicry?
– I have to say that President Obama, Tony Blair and Angela Merkel all use their body language very effectively to communicate confidence.
– And… are there any well-known politicians that definitely need to learn more non-verbal communication?
– President Trump needs to work on broadening his repertoire of behaviours. He tends to repeat the same behaviours over and over and so when a politician does that, they become easily seen as caricature behaviours like a cartoon. Trumps use of the index finger to the thumb making it look like an “O” is seen so often it loses its meaning, which is to signify, “I am making a fine point”.
– So better not to repeat the same gestures?
– No behaviour should be repeated too often. For example it was noticed that Angela Merkel repetedly positioned her hands in the “steeple” position, with the fingertips touching each other.
– What piece of advice would you give to politicians that want to gain – and maintain – their popularity?
– Look for behaviours in others that are well liked and use them. You want to come across as respectful but also strong and confident. Humans gravitate towards those who provide us with confidence but also with warmth.
– Thank you very much for the conversation.
Interview by Pawel Rogalinski
Joe Navarro – an American body language expert, an author and public speaker, a former FBI agent and FBI supervisor. His books include the international bestseller “What Every Body is Saying”.