Body Language Expert | Motivational Speaker | Keynote Speaker | Communication Expert | Presentation & Speaking Skills Trainer | One-On-One Coach

Body Language Read of Obama, Putin, Castro, Nazarbayev, Sergei Lavrov and Kerry

I read the body language at the UN talks.  I analyzed Putin and Obama and several other key leaders.  One of the news stations sent a reporter from Miami last week to tape at the house. I can’t resist sharing this link, because they lead with me walking the Bo dog. Bo was in one of my first media pieces years ago for Creative Loafing, and of course he was the number one Dog Star when I was the National Spokesperson for Pup-peroni, but I was really touched that the reporter fell in love with Bo. Though, everyone fell in love with him. Now, I have a video of my baby dog in his last week. By the way, I was carrying him up and down the stairs and he had stopped taking walks, but when he saw that video camera he perked right up. My baby dog will always be special.

Here is a link -

Obama Handshake - Obama gives a cover smile as he enters the room. He pulls down the corners of his mouth. Men think they are smiling covering up their true emotional state but he is not covering. The fact that it lasts more than three seconds shows he is deliberately trying to control. You see how the lower lip is pushed up which shows anger and resignation to the task, little asymmetrical shows some contempt. Both visibly tighten their lips showing hidden opposition.

Obama and Castro sit down meeting. Obama sadly has an up and vocal delivery up and down melody, but his voice was flat. Castro acted like he was at a birthday party. His body language was up, animated, friendly and energetic. Castro made broad sweeping gestures and Obama made matching friendship cues. Obama leaned toward Castro and faced him directly. We move close to and give our heart towards what we like. 

Obama and Nazarbayev - The president of Kazakhstan presses his lips tightly together. For the photo Obama has a forced teeth bared grin that’s more aggressive but he goes into a tight flat lipped suppressed emotion facial expression.

"He's letting the world know he is not very happy with Putin" explained Body Language Expert Patti Wood.

While most politicians have their "game face" that shows that nothing bothers them, Wood said Obama made the choice to use his body language to express his feelings toward Putin on Monday.

Overall, Wood described, Obama used "a cluster of cues" to tell Putin "I don't respect and honor you enough to give you my time, to enjoy this process or enjoy this moment. I'm being forced to do this"

While Wood explained that Obama has been more likely to show his displeasure in certain situations than other Presidents she has observed "this was really obvious."

"It is highly unusual to show that much emotion," Wood noted.

Wood described Obama's body language "was more disgust than displeasure it was more profound he made the choice to say I'm displeased, I'm disgusted, I don't want to have a relationship with you."

"Obama feels strongly enough to show his feelings to the entire world," Wood said, and everyone is paying attention.

"The whole world is noticing this," Wood commented.

Obama appeared pained to even be in the same room as Putin for a photo opportunity. Wood noticed that he didn't' walk all the way into the room where members of the press were eagerly snapping photos.

"Usually a handshake approach in those kinds of setting everything is slowed down for the camera Obama did a couple of things to make it short and brief."

Making the moment as short as possible, Wood said, Obama "showed his dislike and disrespect."

Keeping the photo opportunity brief was just one of the actions Obama took to show his disrespect for Putin, Wood noticed. Describing the handshake itself, Wood noticed Obama "swung out his fingers like he wanted to smack Putin up the side of his face."

Wood described the way Obama "flung out his fingers" as a "weapon gesture" which she said is not often seen in a stylized handshake.

Wood saw no indication that Putin was phased by Obama's cold demeanor. She noted that during the handshake "Putin went on top, to show his power and control and his dominance, that's just the way he is, that isn't purely situational."

Analyzing the smirk Putin was caught making while toasting with Obama during lunch, Wood explained that a smirk is an indication that a person is feeling one thing, but having to act in a different way. Putin's smirk, Wood analyzed was him thinking "I'm so much better than this, I'm so much smarter than them this is just ridiculous that I have to be here."

The notion of having to be present against their will may have been the only mutual feeling Obama and Putin shared Monday. Asked to sum up the interactions between the two world leaders Wood described them as "forced."

Video of their photo opportunity is in the first few seconds of this:

Nonverbally in the presidents’ performances yesterday, Obama was self-confident and appealed to his audience with engaging directness. Putin gazed downwards at his notes as he spoke, kept his hands folded or resting on the podium. He was not showing us he felt what he was saying. On the other hand, seemed inauthentic, insincere and because of the way he used the reading to keep his head down shamed or in hiding. Obama made a much more confident speech using direct eye contact with listeners and using his usual melodious speech patterns and expensive palm-up gestures. He was passionate. Obama’s body language and voice was more personal and open. Putin was more secretive. He did not have the gravitas of his actual spoken words. The script was powerful, but he didn’t deliver it with confidence and power.   Shoulder shrugs and trapezius muscle contracts when we are afraid or uncertain or feel a need to protect the head.

Watch the video from the meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Foreign Minister, He kept his head away from Kerry. I would assume he had the normal double Teleprompters, but he only looked to his right in a way that was away from Kerry as he read. There was not energy in his voice. Lavrov’s shoulders were down, slouch is norm, but he is not blustering or proud. He is reading, “Secretary of State John Kerry first, after Russia started bombing Syria”… big shoulder shrugging off the tension of the moment. It’s very odd, because it’s very big and quick. That’s fear when he does it a second time with a self-comfort body swing like a boxer about to go into a big fight. See how Kerry’s face has that downward, tight cover smile. Kerry does a tongue thrust of slight aggression.

Interesting that they used each other’s first names.

Kerry also does this odd scratching with his notes under his arm anxiety cues.

When Kerry spoke he checked in with Sergei looking back over his shoulder at him. That was in stark contrast to Sergeis’ delivery.