This week in news showed us some pretty interesting examples of body language and how it gets people talking. Just goes to show it’s not always what you say, it’s how you say or don’t say it (in the case of Egypt and Tunisia, how you tweet it).
Let’s start with Rep. Michele Bachmann who made history as the first Tea Party representative to give a response to the State of the Union address – and for notoriously NOT looking into the camera and subsequently avoiding the eyes of America. As Keith Olbermann and many others asked on Tuesday – a question millions were wondering in front of their television sets – “what’s she looking at?” Rep. Bachmann paid the price in negative feedback while thousands poked fun. Jokes aside, eye contact is an essential leadership tactic, not to mention a common courtesy. If you are looking to build trust and credibility with the American people – or anyone for that matter (just ask your significant other) – eye contact is pretty much a no-brainer. Especially when you are asking people to believe a SOTU response littered with errors.
Moving on to Davos, Switzerland and the World Economic Forum. The 2011 forum featured a heated debate on regulation between JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and French President Nicholas Sarkozy. Dimon felt that too much criticism of bankers was both an “unproductive and unfair” move, and Sarkozy fired back hard. While his retort was in French (simultaneous translation), President Sarkozy clearly conveyed his distaste for the banking world’s “bad policies” through strong hand movements (notably pointing) and meaningful stares (best example at 5:16 in the video, link above). Even on mute it was easy to see Sarkozy give Dimon a piece of his mind and why there wasn’t much lost in translation.
Rounding out our mannerism round up is the Chicago Bears’ Jay Cutler, who left last Sunday’s NFC Championship Game with a knee injury. I’m not a huge football fan, but I’ve gathered that Cutler has a reputation for being arrogant too confident. The dejected guy who took to the sidelines didn’t give me that impression, and he’s been accused by others for being a bit of a wimp. Several NFL players like Kerry Rhodes decided to tweet about his apparent lack of heart (cue Monty Python’s Black Knight and his flesh wound) and many argued that Cutler simply didn’t look injured enough. Say what you want about how someone is supposed to look after a Grade 2 MCL sprain but the fact remains: his image took more of a beating than any body part.
This week was filled with, to quote Sarah Palin, WTF moments. Winning the future and getting your message across, one body language blunder at a time.