Political leaders (and some royals) employ several critical power techniques to reinforce their status when they're out and about. One of the most important is the gesticulation pecking order I Powerful hands . It's vital for the top guy to be seen to be the one doing all the gesticulating when he's walking and talking with other people By being the gesticulator it looks as though he's the one in charge and the one asking keen questions and gathering information It's interesting that women, especially royal women, are often given bunches of flowers to carry to prevent them doing this powerful gesture It's almost as though we're still not happy with a woman being visually in charge and even female leaders have to look compliant I Me me me. Although leaders will be happy to use the empty embrace gesture to keep the audience engaged and connected, it's easy to see what the core message is when the chips are down When you want to big yourself up to your boss I bet you still struggle with the word "I," as in "I got that big contract. " For modesty purposes we prefer to say "we" and hope the boss gets the real message . Politicians know exactly how to get that real message across, though When they want to imply personal endeavor or ownership they use "me me me" gestures . Blair's gated hands would rise higher and tend to close up, creating an isolated look as though he was peering over the walls of a small castle This created an aura of separateness and high authority The chest-poke is another common ruse By turning their fingers inward and poking them at around heart level, they signal the word "me" very strongly .
I The circuit breaker. All leaders have to mask their true feelings a lot of (if not most of) the time . This masking can cause massive inner distress and almost unbearable effort, which is why they use the circuit breaker to create a vital pause and rest Usually the trick is to take a sip of water This allows them to drop their faces, along with the mask they're wearing, for a vital few seconds, and it usually implies they're aware they're suffering from mask-slippage . The break allows them to refresh the mask, like a woman refreshing her makeup Tony Blair did a vital refresh when he was getting booed by the Women's Institute, and Bill Clinton employed both a can of drink and a glass of water when he was interviewed about Monica Lewinsky .
I The thumb of power . There are some hand gestures that tend to exist primarily in the political arena, and the thumb of power is one of them There's no reason why you shouldn't copy it, though, if the moment seems right . Politicians were once told not to point, so the rigid digit was rarely used, even in heated debates Instead the knuckle-point became popular, with the fingers bent into the palm and the index finger knuckle used as a pointer to add emphasis to the words As an added power gesture the thumb would then be placed over the top knuckle, emphasizing dominance
I Measuring hands . Another political staple is the measuring hands Both hands are held out with elbows bent at right angles and the hands are quite rigid and placed palm-facing-palm with a gap between them The size of the gap is used to signal the size of the problem that the government or individual faces Once the problem has been explained, the gesture will nearly always be followed up by a precision gesture to show it's all under control I Precision gesture. This is a superb gesture that can be used for both attack and defense . Under attack it will imply the speaker knows exactly what to do and how to deal with a problem, and when used for an attack it implies a very definite and superior strategy The hand is held out and the fingertips pinched together, with the hand being rocked slightly as you speak I The chop. Another political favorite, the chopping hand is a one-hand gesture and implies aggressive decisiveness . If it's j ust a swipe it can imply reasonable levels of decision-making or enforcement, but if the hand is rigid and the chopping done firmly it says the problem's dealt with and the speaker wants to hear no more about it I The finger- or head-baton. Finger jabbing is now a leadership staple, but when the hands aren't used a politician will often employ the head-baton instead . This air butting gives the impression of emphasis and a willingness to fight strongly for the point It looks like the final blows in a fight, as though they've already won the argument British politician Neil Kinnock was a big fan of the baton, although he took it to extremes, even going so far as to use the whole-body baton, almost jumping in the air to make his points . One key thing to remember about emphatic gestures: overuse tends to de-emphasize . Ditto with vocal emphasis . Tony Blair was a big user of the emphatic vocal tone but at times devalued it by overuse . Sometimes I would imagine him sitting at home with his wife Cherie saying: "WOULD— YOU—PASS—THE—SUGAR—PLEASE!"
I The two-handed gesture. Most of us gesture with one hand when we speak Or at least use one more than the other . In their search to be über credible and hugely emphatic, many political leaders will employ the two-handed gesture technique . Blair and Brown are both huge fans, with Brown performing the Matador Stab—that is, a two-fingered downward stab gesture—on a regular basis, or even the measuring hands airborne, when the hands are held apart but chopped around in the air as though you're delivering small parcels .
I The upward point . British politician Michael Howard was a great fan of the single-digit upward point, and his legacy remains . One index finger is held aloft close to the face This is a gesture of authority and warning that has its roots in schooldays
I Rejecting the lectern. This has gone from being a high-impact shocker to being the norm You allow other speakers at a conference to work from behind the comparative safety of a lectern, and then you come out and stand directly in front of your audience The message is that you're connecting with them and speaking directly from the heart
I Spacial use. The bigger the status the more space they use Blair always took full advantage of space when he was prime minister
I The prop that speaks. Political leaders have a clear understanding that a picture speaks a thousand words and will employ props to do their speaking for them . Remember John Major's soapbox or that hankie Margaret Thatcher used to cover the new BA logo? Wilson used his pipe to look safe and trustworthy and Blair was rarely seen without a mug of tea in his hand for the same reason One famous mug even had pictures of his kids on it but then he had the cheek to suggest it wasn't a prop When did you last leave your house via the front door to go off to work with a mug in your hand without realizing it was there?
I Partnership props. Of course the biggest prop a leader can have is the right partner standing by their side when the cameras are about There's a yin and yang thing with partners, and the best ones will be wheeled out to complement the leader or make up for any deficiencies, hence Hillary suddenly posing with Bill standing behind her when she visits a state that's not too Hillary-friendly Modern political wives and partners tend to have taken on a quasi-sexual role to make their men look more physically attractive Key in this movement was Tony Blair's wife Cherie, whose like we'll probably never see again Clinging to her man like an overexcited limpet, her hugs and glances of adoration suggested we should all worship at the altar of Blair, the sexy superhero Babies have become very much part of the act too, with even the crustiest of bachelors being pressured into producing offspring to emphasize their youth and virility
Whether your career path leads you toward the White House or in the general direction of corporate IT or accounts, if you intend leading a country or running a reception, you should never forget the power of your nonverbal signals . Jobs can be varied and complex, but getting the body language right is relatively simple Fix your goal first, then select the attributes that you'll need to achieve it Square pegs and round holes never go well together, which is why I often wonder why so many people who choose front-line careers seem to have a pathological hatred of other people But if you do find yourself in a job that isn't quite a perfect fit, you can always hone your acting techniques and nobody will ever need to know
• Put planning into your appearance for meetings to discuss a pay raise or promotion
• Front-line body language is full of simple but subtle skills—get your status and submission signals right
• Pick the right seat at business meetings and be prepared to use announcement gestures to get your points across
• Business presentations and selling are all about charisma and personal impact Always remember that you are the message and get your signals right
• Skip that office romance if you're worried anyone might find out—they'll read your signals however well you try to mask your feelings!
• Take cues from world leaders to up your status in the workplace.
• Networking is constant—you're on display at all times. Monitor your signals and get them to market you at all the key occasions
Continue reading here: Chapter Fourteen
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