Jack Layton just tickled to be here

FAITH WOOD/Guest Columnist

When it comes to the subject of influence and public perception, it would do some of the candidates well to invest in some coaching, especially in the arena of body gestures.

As we continue to delve into the pros and cons of the presentation from our top leading candidates, Jack Layton is next on the list.

At his campaign launch ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdGZEItk-gc), Layton seemed happy just to be in a federal election. He smiled, kept his eyebrows and chin up (not in an arrogant manner, but showing great length of neck), used upward arm and hand movements, all as if to say, “I’m just so thrilled to be here … and I may even have the teesniest chance of becoming prime minister. Wow, isn’t that exciting?”

A finger-wagger

He attempted to convince voters by leaning forward, making eye contact, nodding (“You agree with me, right?”), not by pointing his finger. He did occasionally succumb to the parental finger-wag, but with thumbs up and out: “I’m making a point here, not chastising you.” His upwardly mobile gestures (shoulders, thumbs-up) were positive and he came across as relaxed. In interviews with reporters, however, he has had to read his notes.

For the most part, Layton appears, open and sincere. However, during the April 12 debate, that sincerity seemed contrived. He kept his eyes open with interest, but when addressing the public, he adopted a superficially sincere facial expression which was obvious and patronizing. At times, he seemed arrogant, with his head in the air (does he, perhaps, wear bifocals?).

He tended to wave away all discussion from other debaters and used that finger-wagging gesture Harper seems to like. Interestingly enough, though, when he talked about the NDP during the debate, he actually pushed the discussion away from himself with his hands and used stop-sign gestures, as well.

Good eye contact

Conversely, he does inclusivity gestures well, with cupped hands and open palms – a good demonstration of sincerity, openness, honesty and positive attitude. He also maintains good eye contact.

Overall, Layton seems to be a happy, contented guy – at least that’s what his body says.

A quick note on Harper: Someone must have mentioned to him his overuse of the parental finger-wag, as he doesn’t seem to be using it nearly as much now. However, his fellow candidates appear to have picked it up (“Are you listening out there, you voters? I have something important to say and you’d better listen to me.”) And they are using the gesture to their hearts’ content.

During the rest of the campaign, here are some body language tells to watch for:

• eye contact (essential to keeping the listener involved); and eye blocks, including lower eyelid tension or touching of the eye or brow (indications of discomfort, even if fleeting);

• hand movement (gestures may be open, upward-moving, or closed, aggressive);

• shoulders (hunched shoulders or slouching can indicate that the person is trying to hide something; dropped shoulder can indicate the direction of the exit);

• tucked chin (lack of confidence); furrowed brow (worry, stress); lip-biting (anxiety); lip compression (negative emotions); lip pursing (disagreement); lip licking or tongue movements (self-pacifying); blowing out air (tension release);

• clothing adjustments, such as ventilating behaviors (adjusting collar or tie); covering or touching the neck or playing with watch, necklace or earrings (self-pacifying); pulling jacket closed (blocking); and

• sudden onset of foot movement (jiggling or kicking away unwelcome discussions).

We have one more candidate – Gilles Duceppe – to review, so stay tuned.