In the carefully staged meeting yesterday between Trump and Kim Jong-un, despite the intention to set an equal stage, Trump got the upper hand in the body language game.
It came as no surprise that Trump was the first to draw his hand. The handshake lasted 12 seconds and incorporated several ‘power pats’, issued by Trump.
Before they entered the building, Trump touched Kim Jong-un either on his back arm or his back several times more. This gesture appears caring, as though the older man were guiding, the younger. But what the power patting gesture really says is ‘I’m in control”.
At the end of the meeting, there was some more back patting, this time it was reciprocated by Kim, but Trump had to have the last pat.
Seated side by side
With a neutral setting of sitting side by side, the smaller man looked even more uncomfortable.
Kim appeared to be making an effort to lean in towards Trump, but he looked awkward as he perched towards the edge of the chair, as though he was not sure if he would remain seated.
As they sat in silence posing for photographs, Trump held his hands in his signature ‘steeple’ pose which is a sign of confidence, but his fingers were nervously tapping.
To smile or not to smile
For the most part, Trump remained stony-faced with his usual half smirk uneven smile and narrowed eyes. Kim is usually seen smiling throughout his public appearances (recently, a smile was Photoshopped onto his face on photos aired on Russian TV), but yesterday his nervousness gave him a frozen ‘deer in headlights’ look, and the times when he did smile it looked forced. There was one particular smile with an upturned mouth and teeth showing – it came across as awkward.
It’s all in the eyes.
Trump looked directly into Kim’s eyes whenever he could. There are cultural differences regarding eye contact, and it appeared that Trump used that to his advantage. There were moments when Kim’s eyes were looking to the floor or quickly darting around the room again a sign of lack of confidence.
The light banter between Trump and the media produced a puzzled look on Kim’s face. Strange, that Trump would comment on his appearance and the need to have ‘handsome photos’, I believe that there was an underlying message that Trump was demonstrating that he has control over the media.
Kim looked like a fish out of water, while Trump clearly took and held the position of alpha male throughout the meeting.
*Photo official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead.