I don’t know if Mitt Romney would be a bad president but he definitely would not be a great president, and here is why. He is not trustworthy. I don’t actually know whether he is or not, but my brain tells me he is not trustworthy because his movements (body language) are incongruent with what he says.
Since language evolved quite recently in human evolution, our main method to communicate with one another is through our movements. When it was vital to survival how did we know whether a person coming toward us was friend or foe, and whether to run or fight? We learned it by observing expressions, postures, movements and so on. This is still true today. The charismatic person is the one whose movements are congruent with what they say. That is the person we can trust, believe in, follow and is our friend. When movements are incongruent with what we say it is disturbing, threatening and we viscerally feel fear and distrust.
What is wrong with Mitt Romney’s movements that I find so incongruent? He has learned to present a masking expression, regardless of what is being said to him or what he is saying.
In this exchange Newt Gingrich is eviscerating Romney for being the CEO of Bain Capital when it oversaw outsourcing of thousands of jobs, yet by his expression you would think they were having a love fest. There are a few indicators that let you know Romney’s expression does not add up:
- His shoulders are rigid
- His mouth and jaw are rigidly fixed
- His eyes are not soft
Movements are highly nuanced because we have learned that we can mask them somewhat to ‘fool’ others less astute at reading ‘real’ intentions. The astute and observant person is the one that sees through the mask to the real intention and the less astute likely did not survive. As language evolved we have become disconnected with what it feels like to move within ourselves and consequently less able to determine the real intention of others through their movements. Yet when the incongruence between movements and language are so great the feeling of distrust can emerge in spite of our disconnect.
If Romney’s expression had been more like this during his exchange with Newt Gingrich at least I would be more prepared to listen to what he had to say. By masking his movements he becomes uncharismatic, untrustworthy and suspicious all in the space of a few milliseconds because that is how fast our brain determines whether someone is a friend or foe or whether we should run or fight.
The master at creating congruence with what he says and his movements is Bill Clinton. Olivia Fox Cabane , author of ‘ The Charisma Myth ‘ tells a great story of Republican’s who hated Bill Clinton before and after they met him, but during their meeting with him they loved him!
I will leave you with this video of Mitt having a heated exchange with Rick Perry and see what you notice about the movements of both men, and in which would you put more trust?