Emmanuel Macron's televised address to the French people on Monday night is likely to go down as one of the key moments in his presidency. The stakes were high given the level of anger and violence witnessed in the streets of French cities over the last few weeks, as well as the public support for the Yellow Vests' motives, if not their methods.
Macron would have been all too aware of the need to appear calm and authoritative. In front of the cameras he appeared rigid, perhaps betraying a sense of pressure.
Euronews spoke to Javier Torregrosa, an expert in non-verbal communication at NoVerbal.es for some insight into Macron's body language. He breaks the scientific study of non-verbal communication down into four disciplines: Neuroscience (the study of the brain and how thoughts and emotions intervene in our behaviour), Face Psychology (the reading of the Psyche through the Human face), Synergology (the discipline and method of analysis of unconscious gestures) and Microexpressions (the discipline of Interpretation of Facial Expressions).
Torregrosa told Euronews that Macron's body language, in its globality, suggests someone whose instincts turn to the rational rather than the emotional. The French president is a "person with a clear orientation towards processes and methods and not towards people."
Yet, Monday's TV appearance "shows some emotion, especially negative and profound displeasure."
Torregrosa lists some of the points of interest in regards to his analysis of Macron's non-verbal communication:
- Anger Microexpression. His eyebrows go down in the shape of a 'V' and his teeth appear, like an animal before it attacks.
- "Sanpaku eyes": It is observed that on several occasions his lower right eyelid collapses allowing us to see the white part of the eye called 'sclera'. This gesture indicates "displeasure".
- The mouth closes, pressing the lips tight, while at the same time the tongue tries to come out. This gesture tells us that "he bites the words", his thought is silenced, that is to say that he hides his thought because he is not interested in saying what he is thinking at this moment. This gesture appears on many, many occasions.
4. Sometimes he also repositions himself in his chair, which reveals a great discomfort in his thinking.
- Macron puts his tongue out through the middle. This unconscious gesture gives us faith in his thought. At the same time it indicates an uncomfortable and unpleasant situation for him.
6. Neuromotor flashes (very fast and repeated) also reveal discomfort, these type of flashes are performed involuntarily when we want to distance ourselves from a situation.
- From time to time we can see how his head moves away from the camera, that is, "his head is directed backwards", "in flight", once again we can observe gestures of discomfort.
8. And sometimes we notice up to three uncomfortable gestures at the same time:
- Sticking out the tongue (discomfort)
- Swallowing saliva (discomfort and/or nervousness)
- Moving the head away from the camera (flight)
9. The combination of the following movements is also too common during his speech for it to be coincidental:
- He moves the head away (running away, fleeing the situation)
- He closes his lips tightly (he doesn't say what she really thinks, he keeps information to himself).
So, displeasure, discomfort, desire to escape, anger. These are all emotional reactions in someone who is otherwise more prone to be rational. Could such anger and discomfort be feelings he "shares" with the French people, as his words indicate? Or is it the situation itself, in front of the cameras and under the lights at a key moment in his presidency, the trigger for his discomfort?
Whatever the real source, what emerges from studying Macron's body language is that he is a leader who is not at all at ease.
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