By February 12, 2014

Dr. Raghuram Rajan – Body Language Analysis as Governor of Reserve Bank of India


Let us come to the interview conducted on Devil’s Advocate in Jan 2014 by the same host Karan Thapar and the guest Raghuram Rajan, now in the capacity of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. (You can first go through a similar previous interview where Dr. Rajan was acting in capacity of Chief Economic Advisor).

Here is the original interview as aired on IBN Live

Like at any other time, on a talk show as well, an audience will start forming an impression about a guest right from the minute they see him or her for the first time on the show. This would then also include his personal presentation and you can see an improvement in Rajan’s dressing style. The formal suit helps to add weight to his persona, a requirement to depict the authority that his position holds. Coming to comparing his gestures and cues, you see the same baseline face at 00:31, with slightly downward pointing lips.


The previous interview shows the two participants in close up shots where as this interview you will see mid shots views. The camera angle in this interview allows for a better look at the profile of the two participants, and hence we can study the arm movements with more clarity. One observation you would not miss out on is Rajan using only one hand to illustrate, rather than two hands, as he used previously.


Once he moved into the position of the Governor, he would be aware of how important his non verbal cues would be, just as well as his words. This is perhaps why you see him on guard on the topic of inflation and growth. And since he is watching his words, he finds it difficult to open up both hands and talk. This stiff left arm is further highlighted at 4:47 where you see Rajan using his right hand so vigorously that he is leaning towards the right and his hand is moving out of the camera frame and yet the left hand is holding onto the sofa.


At 00:35 and at 3:58 you see Rajan give his characteristic head wobble (shaking head from side to side to agree, rather than up and down) to agree with the points being made by Thapar, which validates our giving him the benefit of the doubt in our analysis of previous interview.

Rajan is also noted to have learnt to effectively use vocal stresses to emphasize points. You can see one of the examples at 1:12 when he talks about how big projects are slowly picking up. We also see a lot more palms down gestures, which are generally used by people with positions of authority. Here is one example at 2:07


Once more at 15:35


At 3:40, the governor uses a pointed finger gesture when asked what signal they are sending by having hiked interest rates. He also answers Thapar’s question directly, which is usually a sign of honesty and taking up accountability.


The pointed finger is seen again at 4:15, where once again topic is inflation. I think the gov is highly confident of his view on the topic of inflation and that is why he is using authoritative body language.


When topic of LPG cylinders subsidy extension intended by the Congress comes up, we see some interesting things – instead of talking about the government as ‘they’ as he did previously, he says ‘we’ trying to be careful not to blame the government. Also, when asked whether he believes it is misdirected, doesn’t give a direct answer in yes or no. Instead he takes a circuitous route to answering the question, which again highlights that he would rather not comment. He finally does agree that the LPG subsidy is misdirected but before he confirms it in words, his body language has already told us about his view on the topic.

At 10:34 Rajan says things are back on track because of actions taken by government and RBI. He uses the all ok sign to emphasize his point. This is a new gesture since in the previous interview he used the curved finger gesture when he wanted to emphasize his point. Either it is a newly acquired gesture, or in his heart he believes he has worked hard to bring things back on track.


He looks reasonably confident on topic of fiscal consolidation and debt of the country as becomes less guarded when these topics are brought up. Both arms open up when he speaks and there is heightened animation in his speech. At 13:04 you see the head tilt which proves he is a good listener. He used this in the previous interview as well and his newly acquired position has not made him less receptive to other people. He hears out the question before hurrying to answer. When Thapar brings up a topic of contention like the government might miss the target, Rajan smiles but does not hurry to answer till the host finishes his question.


Then Thapar brings up topic on which Rajan has been working, one of bringing a growth of 10% into the Indian economy. Suddenly you see Rajan drop his guard and open up more at 13:51. There are a lot more complimenting hand gestures and the use of both hands to illustrate.


Rajan also starts using his less dominant left hand more frequently to highlight his viewpoints, which shows the topic is not one where he believes he needs to guard his words carefully. You also get to see his two finger gesture 16:24 which he had used in the previous interview.


At 17:37 Rajan taps the sofa with non dominant left hand when talking about building financial inclusion into the system. Implementing the steps for financial inclusion might probably be causing him some frustration. To end the show, Rajan uses a visibly dominant handshake. In the previous interview he just returned the handshake offered by Thapar but in this one he leans forwards to give a full force handshake. It goes to show how much he has improved in his command over body language and his confidence.



Other observations

As a host, Thapar has also matured. He is using less impatient gestures. He interrupts less, probably out of more respect for Rajan as the governor than the CEA.  He is also seen to be studying Rajan’s body language. “..your smile underlines it for me” at 9:39. Also, “the telling thing was the stress you put on the word can” at 14:40. In the latter case, you immediately see the governor become slightly defensive with this finger on mouth gesture.


Thapar uses less of two hand gestures in this interview, maybe an effect of the limited use of hands by Rajan. Mirroring is seen at one instance in this interview, when the governor talks about subsidies being carried forward to the next year. Here he uses Thapar’s timeline reference to the right to refer to the future, as well has his two arm gesture (both described in the topic of mirroring in the previous interview).



The logo of the tv channel prohibits one from seeing Rajan’s hand gripping the sofa. If we could, we could probably know which points make him tense since he is anyways using guarded gestures when using one hand.


In his new role, you see Rajan in a much more controlled body language display as compared to his previous position six months back. He is careful not to give too many leaks about the topics that can influence the markets and his one arm gesture gives us a hint towards this. We need to keep in mind the fact that during the June 2013 India was going through a difficult time and Rajan could be a little tense because of that. In Jan 2014, outlook for India is much better, and this could be a reason to add to the more confident body language of Rajan in the latter interview.

All said, Rajan appears to be a good and patient listener, and his genuine smile when broaching difficult topics would make any host warm up to him. I was personally very impressed with his calm persona and his willingness to accept the tough questions with sincerity.

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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