By October 2, 2015

Modi Obama Hug – How a hug can tell a story

modi with zuckerberg

If you want to catch an extraordinarily awkward hug widely published, try this With more than 50k likes on Facebook, this pose makes for all that a hug is not supposed to be! Zuckerberg is caught in a properly awkward pose, his jutting out hips, stiff legs and the outwards head tilt trying to compensate for the intrusion of his personal space by our very own hug lover leader. I am sure you can also see the forced smile on his face!

One tip for our Prime Minister – As powerful and effective as a hug can be in gaining favor and acceptance in interpersonal effectiveness with others, however, it can also be seen by some as an unwanted intrusion of their personal space. – Joe Navarro, What every Body is saying

A warm and proper hug is normally reserved for those dear and near to us, because we allow them to enter our personal space and touch us when we have let down all our defenses and exposed our ventral side. While this is a normal practice in informal situations, especially the U.S., Mr. Modi has been caught on screen in a lot of instances sharing this hug with policians, both on our home ground and internationally. More often than not, you will see the other party trying to awkwardly fit into the hug for the perfect picture pose.

So what about the wildly ridiculed hugs that Obama and Modi have shared in public? When Obama visited India 8 months ago, Modi had broken protocol by having gone out of his way to receive Obama right as he stepped out of his airbus. The video footage of that moment shows how Obama tried to reciprocate the warmth shown by Modi by hugging him in a style Modi knows only too well.

modi with obama

The very instant they hugged, they started patting each other’s back, which is normally a sign of wanting to release the counterpart. You can also catch a slightly tensed look on Obama’s face indicated by the furrowing of his brows.

modi with obama3

Modi is trying to end the “hug” moment by touching Obama on his elbow, normally done as a sign of reassurance. In the picture below, which is clicked during the same Obama visit but on a later day, you can see the leaders slightly more comfortable in the hug.

modi with obama5

Obama’s posture still appears a bit stiff, with the distance between their feet trying to compensate for the closeness shared by their torsos. Below are pictures clicked when the two leaders met a few days back at the U.N.

modi with obama6

Obama’s closed eyes in the pic speak of resignation to the pose, or acceptance, whichever it may be. Closed eyes are generally a sign of someone trying to be “in the moment”. Shutting off the vision allows him to concentrate more on his other senses. At the next level of rapport, you would probably see Obama’s face leaned in slightly more, showing more involvement.

modi with obama2

Here, from this angle you can see that Obama’s stance is definitely more relaxed than before, as is the frown on his furrowed forehead, which is less visible than in his visit to India. We would ideally like the slight pursing of his lips, which again suggest slight apprehension, to disappear, for the embrace to look natural.

modi with obama4

This pose, which is not that of hugging, is still crucial in understanding the chemistry shared by Modi and Obama. When individuals, especially leaders, share increased frequency of physical contact, it signals a rapport in the building. Does this signal good times ahead for India and US? Only time will tell. But it sure does tell us that the leaders have started feeling relaxed in each others’ company. It is easy to guess how good a chemistry individuals share and whether they are total strangers, good acquaintances or fast friends, depending on the tension on their faces, the ease of postures and distance between their bodies. The next step to good rapport is mirroring. (To see how effective real world mirroring is, read Amazing Mirroring Display by Nargis Fakhri and Frieda Pinto) We hope to catch that among these two some day!

modi with obama7

Written by,

Khyati Bhatt

Posted in: Personalities

About the Author:

Khyati Bhatt has trained for mastery in Nonverbal Communication with retired FBI special agent Joe Navarro. She founded Simply Body Talk in 2013 to help individuals and corporates fine tune their nonverbal behavior and nonverbal communication. Khyati believes in taking a scientific approach to body language. Her experience as a wealth manager, currency trader, and family entrepreneur has helped sharpen her nonverbal instincts. She is a fervent reader and has explored the work of many psychologists and anthropologists in her field of work.

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