Without taking sides in the riveting dispute between Supreme Court nominee Judge  Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford who accuses him of sexually assaulting her when they were in high school, I posted some crisis management suggestions last week after watching an interview Kavanaugh and his wife Ashley did on FOX News. 


Thinking back to my days as a graduate student at The Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, I suggested the couple would have made a more positive impression non-verbally if they had held hands instead of just sitting there answering questions with their hands on their respective laps.


At Penn I studied the works of Ray Birdwhistell, who was an American anthropologist who founded kinesics as a field of inquiry and research into the communicative power of facial expression, gestures, posture and gait, and visible arm and body movements.


He estimated that “no more than 30 to 35 percent of the social meaning of a conversation or an interaction is carried by the words.” 


Stated more broadly, he argued that “words are not the only containers of social knowledge.”   Birdwhistell’s and other researcher’s studies of body movements made a lasting impression on me about the power of non-verbal communications.


This is why as a crisis management counselor to this day I often recommend that CEO’s under fire smile at their accusers or angry detractors not just as a sign of self-confidence, but as if to say their critics are almost comical for being so far off base or out of line. 


Yes, non-verbal communications are a key to persuasiveness and appearing in control and blameless for whatever went wrong.


In the area of sexuality, I recall some studies showing women knowingly or unknowingly signaled sexual interest by touching their hair and if they do so with their palms facing outward, it means there’s an even stronger feeling of desire.


The opposite was men touching their socks.  Be careful females if you see this this. But it’s not sexual assault, so don’t report it to authorities.


Touching your nose while you’re speaking is sign you don’t believe what you’re saying.  Makes it hard to argue convincingly when you have a cold.


Want to be more liked and accepted by someone you’re speaking to?  You should try to imitate the same posture of the person you want to like you.  If they’re slouching, you slouch.  If they’re putting more weight on their left foot, you do the same.  It might not look good, but it works! 


And don’t fold your arms while you’re talking.  It’s a signal you’re blocking out what you’re hearing and won’t even consider what someone is telling you.  It’s the opposite of being open and receptive.


Right, Mr. Birdwhistell?  Do I get an A? 

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