The G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, wasn't just about global leaders verbally enunciating different views on international issues — it was also about power-play through body language. The most obvious expression of power-play came from the highly anticipated meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Body language experts have studied Trump and Putin's meeting, observing key expressions and moves. It turns out that a lot was said through handshakes, pats on the back, simple sitting, and eye contact.
Body language expert Mary Civiello observed the meeting between Trump and Putin and gleaned three major notes from the interaction. Employed by BBC News to microscopically observe the encounter, Civiello said that the very first expression of dominance came from the American president. Although Civiello called both men "alpha males," she said that the real dominant individual in that particular exchange was Trump from the get-go.
But first, let's talk about the handshake that kicked off the meeting. According to Civiello, both men were equally dominant during this moment. At first, neither was asserting himself above the other with his hand or pull. But then Trump went ahead and displayed a move of dominance on Putin when he patted his elbow firmly. Given that Trump's history with handshakes is a fairly interesting one, this handshake comes as no surprise.
The second note from Civiello focused on the men sitting down. Here, Putin's height compared to Trump became tricky, according to her. Putin is much shorter than Trump, so as he sat in his seat, he put his arms akimbo and seemed to spread himself out to appear bigger. In contrast, Civiello said that Trump took on a "macho" stance of leaning forward in his seat with hands formed in a steeple and displayed self-assurance. "Trump was far more comfortable than Putin," she observed.
The third note focused on both leaders' varying degrees of eye contact. There, Trump maintained eye contact with his audience, as well as Putin. However, Civiello observed, Putin was "glancing" at Trump and mainly averted his gaze from his audience.
So, the dominant winner of the exchange was Trump, according to Civiello. But a Russian expert on body language disagreed, saying that Putin "controlled the situation and decided its tone."
Body language is always deployed during our social and professional lives. Given the subtle messages and power-play embedded in mere human gestures, body language analysts are often asked to carefully observe politicians and moguls convening at high levels in order to extract cues and messages. After all, our bodies say whole lot without ever needing words.