Body Language in American Politics


Body language plays a big part in all communication. We can hardly say anything without expressing more through the movements of our faces and bodies. It is no wonder, then, that body language has been displayed in American politics.

When George Washington crossed the Delaware, according to famous painting, he was showing a body language of confidence. He did this by standing erect with hands on hips. There is evidence of the same stance by Woodrow Wilson during a time when he was lecturing at a university and by Walter Mondale during his presidential campaign.

Many presidents and presidential hopefuls have shown body language signs of confidence and dominance. In the 1992 presidential debates, much of this was going on. Former President Bill Clinton, Rose Perot, and former President George bush were all showing a palm down gesture that symbolized belief in superiority.

Another nonverbal cue of body language is a way you tilt your head back and hold it there. This has shown up in the speeches by Mussolini, Roosevelt, George Wallace, and even Al Gore. It symbolizes a feeling of being disdainful, arrogant, and superior.

Sometimes, body language shows how uncomfortable a politician is. In 1988, former Vice President Dan Quayle was speaking in a television debate. His opponent came out with a rather cutting remark, and Quayles response was an immediate, Adams apple jump. This is a classic sign of nervousness.

The angle that you put yourself in relationship to others is part of body language. Former President Richard Nixon was known for being uncomfortable around people. This was shown in the way he set himself at a ninety degree angle to others he was dealing with.

Much has been made of a 1998 Time magazine cover photo. It shows Jessie Jackson, who was making a run for president at the time. He is standing with his arms crossed in front of his chest. Some say this is a classic defensive pose. This may or may not be a correct interpretation of his body language.

A tense, pouting mouth can show uncertainty, frustration, and sadness. Photos were taken of former President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky ordeal. In them he is often displaying such a form of body language.

Former President Ronald Reagan and the Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev had important matters to discuss at summit. There were times when they didnt agree. However, when they did agree, their body language showed it. At such times, they face each other. They would also sit in similar positions.

A Republican pollster, R.Teeter, did an experiment about body language in politics. He showed people visual footage of political campaigning. They were doing their usual speech-making, hand shaking, and the rest. There is no sound, only video.

As it turned out, those who had only the body language of the candidates to read rated them the same way as those who knew their politics and views. It was shown that a lot is determined about choice of candidate by body language alone. Body language has played a part in American politics and will continue to do so. As long as Americans can see who they are voting for, they will watch as much as they will listen. Thanks to body language, leaders are easier to judge.


Task 8:


Answer the questions based on the text


1. What is the role of body language in communication?

2. How was George Washington shown when crossing the Delaware?

3. Who was showing the palm down gesture and what did it symbolize?

4. What does tilting your head back and holding it there symbolize?

5. Which politicians were known for this gesture?

6 What does Adams apple jump mean and what does it signify?

7. How do you interpret standing with your arms crossed in front of your chest?

8. What does pouting mouth show?

9. What did body language reveal about Ronal Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachevs relationships?

10. Are leaders easier to judge thanks to body language? Prove it.


Task 9:


President Ronald Reagan was known to be a successful body language master. Do you think this was due to the fact that he was a former Hollywood actor? If so, then to what extend did this fact contribute to his success?


Task 10:


In history there is a famous Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchevs shoe banging incident in the United Nations. This was received by public as a note of cold war between the USSR and the USA. What do you think of this? Give your comments.


Task 11:


Think of a modern politician Russian or foreign. Choose the one most to your liking. How successful do you think he is or she is with using their body language?


Task 12:


Give a 3-5 minutes presentation on the topic Public Speaking and Body Language.


Task 13:


Match the following verbs to part of the body.


a) clap 1)your head

b) clench 2)your fingers

c) crook 3)your thumbs

d) cup 4)your fist

e) bow 5)your hand

f) shrug 6)your finger

g) cross 7)your face

h) screw up 8)your hands

i) twiddle 9)your shoulders


Try to do the exercise independently. If you have problems, see the answers:

A8, b4, c6, d5, e1, f9, g2, h7, i3.


Task 14:


The following nouns can be used metaphorically as part of certain compound adjectives. Complete the sentences below with suitable word from the list. The first one has been done for you.

Heart finger head face first skin


1. Although he is quite famous now, he has not become big-headed at all.

2. You would have to be very thick - to ignore so much criticism.

3. Take care of your belongings. There are some light-.people around.

4. I dont think my father would be hard-.enough to punish me.

5. Dont bother asking him for any money. He is extremely tight-

6. I trusted you! How could you have been so two-.with me?


Task 15:


Here is a list of vocabulary showing what your body does. Learn the words and translate the sentences into Russian.


Sigh: She sighed with relief when she heard her plane had landed safely.

Blink: She blinked several times to try and get the dust out of her eye.

Wink: He winked at me across the room to try and make me laugh.

Frown: Why are you frowning? What is the problem?

Grin: She was so delightful with the present that she grinned from ear to ear.

Blush: He blushed with embarrassment when she smiled at him.

Perspire/Sweat: When it is hot you swear/perspire.

Tremble: My hands tremble when Ive been drinking too much coffee.

Shiver: Look at him. He is so cold that he is shivering.

Shake: She laughed so much that her whole body shook.


Task 16:

Find the words from those given above to match the dictionary definitions given below.


1. to draw the eyebrows together to express displeasure or puzzlement

2. to go pink from embarrassment

3. to tremble, especially from cold or fear

4. to shut and open both eyes quickly

5. to deliberately shut and open one eye.


Task 17:


Learn some idioms describing and showing feelings and mood:


1. He had a face as long as a fiddle. (looked very depressed, sad)

2. She certainly looked down in the dumps. (looked depressed, sad)

3. Gerry is in a black mood.(a bad mood, temper)

4. Mark was like a bear with a sore head. (extremely irritated)

5. Jos as happy as the day is long. (extremely content)

6. Mary seems to be on cloud nine these days. (extremely pleased/happy)

7. Everyone seemed to be in high spirits. (lively, enjoying things)

8. She seems to be keeping her chin up. (happy despite bad things)

9. We were all shaking in our shoes. (trembling with fear)


Task 18:


Read the text Some Common Body Language Signals. And ask ten comprehension questions on the text. Ask your peer to give answers.



  2. A Pidgin Language
  3. A. What countries is English the first language? Match English-speaking countries with their national flags and capitals.
  4. American classical music
  5. American Customs and Traditions
  6. American Descriptive Linguistics
  7. American Holidays
  8. American Mass Media
  9. An American Renaissance.

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Unit XI. | Some Common Body Language Signals

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