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Published 26 October 2012 11:19, Updated 29 October 2012 10:20
In an increasingly tight United States presidential election, could it all come down to body language? Supporters of the current president might hope so, based on analysis of the third presidential debate.
Griffith University PhD candidate Jeff Thompson, who is also a detective with the New York Police Department, specialises in non-verbal communication and he believes the incumbent, Barack Obama, had the edge in the final debate.
He analysed the body language displayed by candidates, based on a model that focused on charisma, professionalism and rapport. He found that Obama took control with “congruent and forceful gestures”, while Governor Mitt Romney was let down by lack of gestures and a tendency to lick his lips.
“Charisma is having the ability to motivate, attract, and influence others,” Thompson says.
“Professionalism includes being prepared, having confidence, and possessing an expertise in the topic being discussed. Rapport includes mutual attentiveness, co-ordination, and positivity.”
However, Thompson found that the Republicans did better with non-verbal communication in the vice-presidential debate. Republican contender Paul Ryan had maintained control and kept his emotions in check, despite an enduring facial smirk, while current vice-president Joe Biden “laughed and lost”.
“With his frequent laughter, smiling and fidgeting ... it was clear he was displeased with Ryan’s comments,” Thompson says. “His reaction displayed a lack of control and professionalism.”
Thompson says his aim was to inform people by making them aware of how they might be sub-consciously affected by the candidates’ non-verbal communication.
He adds that the same lessons in mastering non-verbal communication apply to our professional and social lives.
Whether you are running for US president or just trying to close a business deal, it pays to remember that it is not just what you say but how you say it.