Instagram post from the official account of German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Research suggests that 55% of communication is how we do it, rather than the words we use. Some would suggest that percentage is even higher. You probably saw this photo, taken at the G7 summit last week. It appeared in an Instagram post from the official account of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and promptly went viral. People took to social media to interpret the body language of President Trump and Angela Merkel as well as the others in the picture. This spawned numerous caption contests. Some of my favourite tweets include: -
“Trump looks like he’s about to tell someone to get stuffed”
“It’s reminiscent of a schoolteacher telling off a naughty student’
However I’m not convinced this last tweet captures what was really said…..
"For the last time Donald, what happened to that last meat and potato pie"?
Joking aside, what was really going on? The picture does indeed tell a thousand words of what’s really happening in this moment in time. Trump’s defiant looks with his arms crossed is an interesting comparison with Merkel’s confident and demanding positioning. Interestingly there were many other photos taken before and after this one that paint a very different picture of that meeting. Oh, and our Prime Minister Theresa May is there if you look carefully in the top left hand of the picture. What that says about her, could the subject of another more political article!
We can all learn a lot from this picture because we are always communicating with our bodies; the question is whether it’s want we intend it to be. Politicians spend years developing their communication skills and will usually be more than aware of what they are conveying. I believe body language comes down to six key elements.
Compare the forward leaning Merkel with the leaning back posture of Trump. How we stand is a clear indication of our confidence and personality. You may have seen Amy Cuddy with her research on "power posing". It quickly became famous after her 2012 TED talk and has now had over 47 million views so perhaps there’s something in it!
I’m not sure he’s actually looking at her gaze; he seems to be showing defiance to her more demanding looks. Making a connection with our audience through eye contact is a crucial part of trust and relationship building.
As often happens, our expression will reflect the core message we are conveying. But an expression can often indicate something very different to what someone’s actually saying. There are some great studies of how to spot liars, and the expression is often the key. Have a look another great TED Talk; this time with Pamela Mayer
Hand Gestures– The open and confident usage of hands versus the closed, arms crossed and defensive position says it all. As a TV presenter and speaker, I know how important it is to use our hands in a positive open manner.
How we move around the stage while we’re speaking says a lot. Is it purposeful and does it help convey our message, or is too static or even worse distracting (because of awkward moves or fidgeting)?
It’s important that how you look, is the impression you want to create. If we think about dressing appropriately for an interview, a presentation is the same because we need to think about our audience and what works for the occasion.
Although our lives often feel largely digital, face-to-face interactions are still essential for business and building trust. Whether it’s a presentation, speech, interview or meeting, great communication begins with a positive, in-person impression. No amount of technology can replace charisma, warm physical presence and strong body language.
Whatever you think of the body language shown at the G7 meeting, just think what your body language may be saying about you; hopefully it will speak clearly in the way that you want it to.
Get in contact with us to see how you can improve your communication skills through body language.