Body Language & Visual Media

By Guest Blogger Eric Goulard

Goulard is Humintell’s French affiliate who focuses on nonverbal communication and body language.  He offers online education and resources in these fields via his website

In this blog Goulard references the first ever televised presidential debate and offers some commentary on the impact of nonverbal communication.

In 1960, the debate between Nixon and Kennedy revealed the importance of nonverbal communication.  In the short video below, you notice that Kennedy has a neutral expression on his face and is showing his interest and understanding by nodding his head yes.

A question is asked of Kennedy while brief clips of Nixon are shown as he listens to Kennedy’s response.  Nixon’s behavior and face speak for themselves and reflect his stress. When it is his turn to speak, he displays a big smile for a moment, but it does not coincide with his facial expressions and feels wrong.

Would you believe what he says after those facial expressions?

The control of all communication sources (verbal and nonverbal) is essential to making a good impression and to be able to truly convey the message that we want our audience to understand.

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As many of us now know, communication is not just words:

Your behavior, and all the non-verbal messages that you display, often in spite of yourself, are far more powerful than words.
It has become essential in the age of television, cell phone videos, YouTube etc. to understand what your nonverbal behavior is portraying to the people/world around you.

Show that you are comfortable and that “everything is going well for you.” You will be much more convincing than if your stress level is reflected  in your demeanor.  One of the techniques that I often give my students is to forget the importance of the situation.  Easier said than done, right ?

In the next video, it is very clear that Mr. Nixon is out of his comfort zone.  Nixon’s stress was clearly perceived by American viewers who saw that he was sweating profusely.  This is particularly visible at his chin, from the ninth minute.  Sweating is a normal reaction to stress.  He was hot, very hot, and his body responded by sweating, which regulates its core temperature.

Nixon had been hospitalized a few days earlier, but he wanted to appear in top form. Unlike Kennedy, he refused makeup, which earned him a disastrous image in front of cameras.

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Strong emotions, negative and positive push our bodies to react. This is a natural reaction.

Always keep in mind that it is important to make a good impression. This involves all levels of communication.  Of course, words are important, you must know what you will say and how you want to say it.  The speeches and answers to the questions must be carefully prepared.  You must have anticipated the questions to be able to bring the answers. This is obvious.

But before an important yet stressful moment, whether it’s public speaking, a job interview, a meeting, or any difficult situation try to tell yourself that this discomfort or stress is fleeting and this moment will not last forever; it will be over soon and you end the day safe in your bed!  Think of the pleasure you find lying in your bed, quietly and without any threat around you.

Just before this difficult time, and while it runs, step back from the situation.  I often advise to mentally say “I do not care about all this” or “I do not care to what would happen if this crashes

Of course, you must be aware of the importance of being prepared and to be fully capable of responding appropriately to specific questions.   However, if you have carefully prepared your speech, you can take such detachment. You know all the parameters, so it is useless to stress!

 To see more of Mr. Goulard’s videos and commentary visit his website.

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