Psychology of Political Body Language
Political speech of the body
The body is not just a support for the words
The body talks. All the time. Before, during and after we talk. It has a constant speech that can strenghen, reduce or even contradict the verbal speech.
The body talks with gestures, looks, postures, colors, shapes, actions. It usually speaks a language that is not conscious. Not to the one giving the speech. And neither to the one receiving it and interpreting it.
But we know that the world of communication is not just about conscious matters. The conscious, the evident, the deliberated, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The body does politics too
It’s obvious but we say it anyway. The candidate’s body, the politician’s body is a body that talks. And it says, exactly, much more than what he wants. And the one that sees that, that reads that, understands it intuitively. He knows what it means even though he can’t put it in words.
It’s as if the politician gave his message in two different languages. As if the voter decoded it in two different languages too. Some examples from Argentinian politics can explain it very well:
Menem and the mirror
A constant about Carlos Saúl Menem (before, during and after being President) was the repeated attract of attention to his body.
“Follow me” was his slogan for some time. But his thick sideburns and his clothes seemed to say “Look at me”. And he wanted to be seen no matter what. He was always looking for places attractive to camera’s flashes and journalists.
Menem driving fast cars, playing football, playing golf, surrounded by women, showing his money, changing his look, showing his young appearence thanks to plastic surgery.
What was the message? “Look at me so when you do, you see yourself in a mirror”.
Menem’s verbal speech was about showing himself as the mirror of the desires of many people in Argentina at the time: forever young, rich, beautiful, athletic, consumer, exhibitionist, a bit eccentric and happy.
Mirror Menem. From both sides, by the way.
De la Rúa and his absence
Fernando De la Rúa’s body language was always absent, distant. “They say I’m boring” was the line used in his campaign. And his body really showed that.
De la Rúa escaping from Casa de Gobierno in a helicopter, De la Rúa lost on a tv set where he can’t find the door while everyone laughs, De la Rúa taking a nap in Casa Rosada, De la Rúa self-controlled and doubtful... But always absent, that was the message from his body.
Cristina and the excess
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s make up, gestures and clothes build a message of excess, of overacting, of an emphasis so strong that looks fake.
That way communication ends up being heavy, even dramatic, and the message loses simplicity and also loses the persuasive effect.
And it also generates strong and intense emotional reactions.
The verbal speech is only part of the political speech. It’s important, but it’s not all there is. It’s just a part. The rest is not literature. The rest is the body. A body that talks.