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The Two Political Conventions – It’s Not Just What You Heard, But What You Saw

We’ve said it over and over again to our clients and in this newsletter:  how you say something is almost always more important than the way you say it.

Joe Navarro agrees.  He’s author of the international bestseller What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People and The Dictionary of Body Language: A Field Guide to Human Behavior.  In this article for Politico, he said…

Donald Trump and Joe Biden gave away more than they thought over the past two weeks.

I’ve been a specialist in nonverbal communication for nearly 50 years, 25 of them as an FBI agent. As the Democratic and Republican national conventions unfolded, I watched clips of their speakers on mute—Nancy Pelosi, Melania Trump, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rudy Giuliani and others—to observe what they were communicating outside the words they were speaking. Then I turned the sound on to see if it matched or conflicted.

These unspoken messages matter. As carefully as a speech may be written, what speakers communicate with their body language and physical appearance—from the waving of a hand to the twitch of a lip—often sticks with viewers even more so than any turn of phrase. Here’s what I noticed:

At the beginning of Joe Biden’s speech, we see the tension of the moment when he does what’s called a “hard swallow.” Even for a gifted speaker who is used to public speaking, this is still a tense moment, as he accepts the nomination. And, for a split second, in spite of his broad, friendly smile, it shows in that one small facial distortion. He compresses his lips after saying, “I’ll be proud to carry the banner of our party into the general election.” With the audio on, you can hear his voice crack slightly, again a result of the natural tension one would expect from such an event. It’s obvious that he takes seriously the gravity of what’s happening. He’s been preparing all his life for this moment. It’s not a stutter or age-related thing, just a subconscious behavior that speakers use to deal with a little bit of stress when we say something of emotional magnitude.

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