You think that means what? Debating Body Language
If you are like me, it is getting more and more difficult to watch anything related to the current political affairs in the United States. However, it is a crucial election and a time when all of us want to be well informed of where we are and how we can make an impact. Observing candidates and their body language combined with their tone and choice of words is, of course, an intriguing task in our line of work.
As I click on post-debate articles that show up in my newsfeed and scroll through Twitter reading opinions, I can’t help but notice the countless “body-language experts” that feel the need to analyze and reach conclusions. I support the research into micro-expressions and the interpretation of behavior to attempt to uncover the true emotion. However, I also support the need to establish an individual baseline and am aware that behavior may be different based on the context of the situation and the countless surrounding variables that impact our non-verbal reactions. In understanding the complex nature of behavior interpretation, I was agitated at the conclusive observations made throughout the debate implying that a candidate feels one way or another – simply based off of their stance, smile or facial expression.
Imagine being at your wedding, standing at the altar, showing a micro-expression of fear. Somebody identifies your emotion as fear and spreads the rumor that you are afraid to commit – which clearly will be an obstacle in your attempt to enjoy the night. What could that fear mean? Are you afraid to commit? Afraid of being in front of a lot of people? Afraid of screwing up the vows you wrote? Afraid of your football team losing the next day – and you missing the game? Afraid of the choreographed dance your future spouse talked you into? What we’ve done here is discovered a symptom of being fearful is showing of an expression of fear. What we haven’t done is identified the cause or derivative of that actual emotion. Without the cause, the interpretation has potentially dangerous outcomes.
To parallel that story; here are the top three observations that experts made about the most recent debate that seemed to draw unnecessary conclusions:
“Trump was in a Pre-Assault Stance”
Really? Regardless of your political views, we can all agree that Trump is the more unpredictable and reactionary candidate. However, the notion that his pacing actually signified he was in a “pre-assault stance” seems a bit extreme – but it surely gets you some clicks on an article.
“Hillary nods “yes” when Trump discusses her laughing in regard to defending a rapist”
It is evident that Hillary does show the emblem of nodding “yes” during this segment. Again, this is a symptom of acknowledgement but we don’t know the cause of it. Hillary could be nodding that the incident did, in fact, occur. She could also be nodding, thinking to herself “I knew he would bring this up” or “Ok, my turn to attack you”. The simple emblem cannot speak for itself.
Anything related to Trump and his sniffling
The conclusions I have seen on this topic range from Trump has a cold or needs to release anxiety – all the way to “Trump sniffling may be a sign of cocaine usage”. All of these could be true, or none of them. He sniffles more than an average person, that’s a symptom – what is the cause?
There are several more observations made by experts that could be listed, and probably plenty more will surface in the coming weeks. I agree with the attempt to analyze the truth hidden behind the words and actions of both candidates – because that seems to be the main point we are missing. I respect the experience of the experts and their opinions, but I challenge all of you to have an open and challenging mind when reading any of these articles or watching the segments on TV.
When searching for the truth, we need to remove all biases, which may be a difficult task in such a polarizing environment, but if we can’t get past it – we shouldn’t be writing about it.