By September 30, 2014

Sushma Swaraj’s body language decoded


Sushma Swaraj, currently India’s external affairs minister, is the second woman to have acquired this post, the first being Indira Gandhi. Hailing from North India, she is a time honed politician who has plunged into the field of politics ever since she was 25 years old. She acquired this current post barely three months back and she has already visited 8 odd countries. Swaraj is currently in the U.S., along with Prime Minister Modi, recreating history for India.

Does she make a good representation of our nation and a fitting aide to our Prime Minister? Here are a few pointers to how she uses her body language to non verbally establish her presence amongst her peers

Open body postures – Swaraj does not hesitate to use open body potures, with arms resting comfortably by her side, even when seated among all males (like during her recent visit with Sukhbir Badal or to Afghanistan). No blocking postures or gestures, makes her appear remarkably confident.

Good smile – It is easy to praise Swaraj’s unrestrained genuine smile which she manages to flash with ease

Formal attire – Swaraj has built a noticeable image for herself in the new post, which she is seen in at any time. This is a crisp Indian formal saree with a matching jacket, a complimentary distinguishable bindi on her forehead. The formal jacket projects her serious side, with the saree emphasing her Indian roots.

Good dialogue delivery – The external minister uses effective word spacing to emphasize her point. She normally leans in while talking, showing the typical head tilt and nod, which helps to engage the counterpart with greater interest. She has a good hold over both English and Hindi and surprisingly, also over Urdu.

Height play – Despite her short height as compared to her colleagues and foreign counterparts, Swaraj does not let it undermine her confidence.

Handshakes and namastes – She is very forthcoming in offering handshakes, all very firm and quick. The Indian Namaste is also delivered with the typical head bowing, a sign of respect for the counterpart.

Listening -When Swaraj is hearing someone speak, she leans slightly to the side, be it standing or sitting. This shows active listening.

Uses one hand liberally when speaking during discussions, mainly because she is busy holding her reading specs in the other hand. Speakers who use suitable hand gestures while speaking enable more absorption of content by the listeners. Use of just one hand could play to her disadvantage, but to compensate, you would normally see her using her eyes and brows to place extra emphasis on parts of her dialogue.

Gives a lot of detailing in her answers (recalls recent and historical examples) which shows her level of involvement and commitment to her post and her field

The following non verbal behaviour traits work against her and Swaraj could use a bit polishing up on them

Gets a bit breathless Sometimes while speaking, especially when countering her points during debates, Swaraj forgets to pause for a breath. It makes her look a little hurried to deliver her content. Not pausing also makes the tone die down towards the end of the sentence, which makes that part of her sentence ineffective. A little more practice on better pausing can make her appear more poised.

Uses pointed finger a lot – Use of a pointed index finger while speaking can seem accusatory and arrogant. A better way to emphasize a point is to use the curved finger gesture.

Does not use sweeping eye contact – This is generally when she is addressing someone during the parliament session or a question answer session. You generally she her connect only with the speaker or the person who she is answering. This can make her lose the rest of the audience’s attention.

Takes back position evidently – Once she finishes making her point, Swaraj has a tendency to shift back in her chair, non verbally signalling that she is done with her answering and she will be unreceptive to any further questioning on the point. I believe she should be more in control of this action to avoid leaking out her thoughts that she doesn’t put in words

Tackling unpleasant questions If she does not like a question posed before her, she tends to close up, though subtly. This shows up as less smiles and briefer answers.

All in all, Sushma Swaraj is a lady with remarkable achievements, who pays a lot of attention to her non verbal communication. She is a fitting representation of what all aspiring Indian politicians can look up to – grace, confidence and good leadership qualities.

Read Also

Kerry Visit to India – Different types of handshakes

Modi in Action – A Perfect Handshake

Raghuram Rajan’s body language as Governor of India


Written by,

Khyati Bhatt

Body Language Consultant

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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