Set a Positive Tone and Build Lasting Relationships

relationship-building-content-marketing-372x230Your success as a professional comes from building solid relationships. When you are working with someone for the first time, you set a certain tone to help the other person understand who you are, your values, principles, work style, and your worldview.

In my career work with leaders and spokespeople for more than 30 years, I emphasize the importance of making a positive first impression. Whether it’s a new Board of Directors, new boss, or new client, you want to set a positive tone from day one. That tone says “I respect you.” “I will take your thoughts into consideration.” “I am here to help you.” Whether in business or politics, academia or non-profit life, there are certain professional standards, ethics, and behaviors to uphold.

As I enter my fifth year of providing blog posts on topics related to professional presence, professionalism, strategic communication, brand ambassadorship and leadership, I often turn to the current news for examples.

The buzz since Inauguration Day has been around one topic: What is the tone being set by the incoming administration? Herein I provide three lessons on the importance of setting a positive tone.

Make your message powerful, positive, and uniting. Words matter. Tone matters. Embracing the importance of the moment matters. Donald Trump’s inaugural address contained some strong negative rhetoric, sounding more like a campaign speech rather than the inaugural address that so many were hoping for. Part of that negative rhetoric degraded the political leaders sitting behind Mr. Trump on the platform, including elected officials, past presidents and Supreme Court Justices by referring to them as a small group of elites. The inaugural address was the time to focus on the future by including messages of unity, not division; lifting up, not putting down. Lesson: If you want to win friends and influence people, begin by starting out on a positive rather than a negative note, and never insult people publicly, especially those who have come before you. Why? Because you need those people.

Remain open, not defensive. Being a former spokesperson myself, I tuned into the live television coverage of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s first press conference. The key word here is first. What I saw and heard shocked and concerned me. His defensive body language spoke volumes. He came at the media with both guns blasting, yelling, as he chastised them for the ‘miscalculations’ of the size of the audience on Inauguration Day. He claimed that the audience size was bigger. His language was bombastic, aggressive, and unprofessional. When he was finished, he abruptly left the room, not allowing the media to ask any questions. You see, the White House staff was miffed at the comparison in audience size, since television stations and major newspapers ran a side-by-side photo of President Obama’s 2009 Inauguration Day audience with President Trump’s 2017 Inauguration Day. Clearly, Obama’s audience was much bigger. And rightfully so. It was an historic event. He was elected as the first African-American President of the United States. On that day in 2009, Washington, D.C. Metro stations were jammed. Busses were full to capacity. Hotels were over-booked. It’s historically noted. You can’t change those facts, though this is what Spicer was trying to do, to de-legitimize the media’s reports of the size of the crowd on Inauguration Day. Lesson: There are several lessons here. The first, and most important, is on your first day, your first press conference, you set the tone. Make it positive, not negative. Second, have something important to say. Don’t waste the media’s time with a single trivial message. There was no reason to hold a press conference. Third, control your emotions. Don’t shout at the media. They have power. And they will use that power to call you out. A spokesperson’s role is to communicate factual information in a clear, concise fashion. Uncontrolled emotion does not belong in the room.

Admit your mistakes and move on. In a televised interview with Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd, White House Counsel Kellyanne Conway tried to downplay Sean Spicer’s remarks by using a new phrase, “alternative facts,” which immediately went viral. When Chuck Todd pushed Conway on the phrase, claiming that a more correct phrase to use would be “falsehoods,” Conway flippantly accused Todd of being “overly dramatic.” In all the years that I served as a media spokesperson, I never talked to a member of the media like that. It’s disrespectful. Lesson: Words matter. The moment Conway said “alternative facts,” she was in trouble because there is no such thing as alternative facts. There are just facts. Admit that a mistake was made, and move on. Now, the alternative facts conversation will continue to be covered in the national media and social media for far too many days to come. News flash: There are far more important issues to be discussed.

Instead of setting a tone of inclusion and unity, the Trump administration in its first few days in office has unfortunately continued its exclusive, divisive, arrogant tone from its campaign days. So sad!!!!

What the Obamas Taught Me About Leadership

Credit: The White House

Credit: The White House

There are many lessons that President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have taught me during the past eight years. The greatest lesson is that of leadership. Since President and Mrs. Obama will be returning to private life soon, I want to share the impact that their leadership as President and First Lady has had on me and on millions of Americans, young and old alike.

Charting New Territory. As the first African-American President and First Lady, the Obamas handled the challenge with style and grace. They set the tone on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009, by walking the limousine route, embracing the American people every step of the way. Leaders are risk takers and confident, even when they are entering uncharted territory. 

Fresh Perspective. While it is customary for presidential couples to bring children and/or pets with them to The White House, for the first time, a mother-in-law joined The First Family. This act represented the importance of family to the Obamas. Inclusive leaders bring along others with them.

Positive Role Models. On national and global platforms, the President and First Lady represented our country with diplomacy and respect, whether a happy or sad occasion, or a tense moment. Effective leaders walk the talk and hold their behavior to the highest standard.

A Sense of Humor. Whether the President sipped a beer in the Rose Garden or the First Lady danced with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, the Obamas proved that they have a sense of humor, and that they are real people. Authentic leaders capture my attention and hold my heart.

Credit: The White House

Credit: The White House

Passion. Both the President and Mrs. Obama share a passion for America. More importantly, they opened up dialogue and initiated change, addressing tough issues like race, education, poverty, healthcare, nutrition, and American values, to name a few. Passionate leaders inspire, motivate, and empower others to initiate change.

Persistence and Grace. Throughout two presidential terms, the President and First Lady were met with obstacles and challenges. Sometimes it came from House or Senate leadership. Sometimes it came from political pundits. Sometimes it came from citizens. Through it all, the Obamas took the high road. They never buckled under pressure and remained calm and level-headed. They handled adversity with perseverance and grace. Leaders never give up, even when they know it might be a tough road ahead.

Partnership. Seeing them in the public eye for the past eight years, it is clear that the Obamas have more than a good marriage going for them…their commitment to a lifelong partnership, anchored in common values of trust, respect, and equality, is evident. You can see it and feel it when they are together or when they speak of each other. Exceptional leaders treat you like a valued partner, regardless of your position or status.

Eloquence. Both the President and the First Lady are eloquent speakers. Their words are spoken from the heart, and thoughtfully executed. President Obama’s speech on race and his farewell speech on democracy were two of his finest. You could hear a pin drop during First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2016 Democratic National Convention speech. Leaders who share a powerful message command attention.

Intelligence. Intelligence is more than just a high IQ. It’s being sensitive to the needs of others around you. The Obamas showed us intelligence and thoughtfulness through every new program or initiative that was introduced. Intelligent leaders are critical thinkers and encourage others to carefully think things through.

Class act. Singularly and collectively, the Obamas are a class act. They embody the very essence of professionalism in every aspect of their life. With the Obamas, though, it is no act. Genuine goodness and decency resides at the core of who they are. Leaders with class are admired for their fairness and decorum.

Thank you, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, for your exceptional public service. Your legacy of hope, collaboration, and leadership lives on. You will continue to inspire and motivate me and millions of Americans to initiate positive change in our lives, our communities, our country, and the world.

Out With the Old Goals, In With the New

2017-1It’s that time of year again…time to review the year that is ending and plan for the new year that is about to begin. The last week of December is an excellent time to take stock of professional goals and achievements. The review begins with a few simple questions:

For 2016: Goals/Achievements

What were your top professional goals this year?

What were your greatest achievements? (list as many achievements as you like)

Which achievement are you most proud of? Why?

What was the greatest lesson you learned? In what way are you applying that learning to your career?

For 2016: Unachieved Goals

What goals did not get completed? Why?

Will any of these unachieved goals move into 2017? Where do they fit in your priorities?

For 2017: Goals

What are you most looking forward to in the new year?

What are your top goals?

What skill(s) do you want to improve or add? In what way will that skill help to advance your career?

How will you reward yourself when you achieve your goals?

Paying It Forward

In what way will you help others achieve their goals? (Will you serve as a mentor or coach? Will you help to develop an initiative for young leaders within your company?)

How will you recognize or reward others for exceptional work?

In what way will you help to create an open, supportive environment at work?

Taking the time to answer these simple questions is time well invested. By reflecting on your achievements for 2016 and focusing on goals for 2017, you will enter the new year with a fresh perspective on the work that lies ahead. If you like the process, ask these questions at the end of each quarter as you prepare for the next. By the end of 2017, you will be so used to the process, you will be ready for another new year. Who knows? In a year, you may be even further ahead in your career than you anticipated!

Celebrating the Gentleman, John Glenn

johnglennlifemagcoverThe word “gentleman” evokes a bygone era, yet, treasured American hero John Glenn reminded us through his actions exactly what the word meant. He was a gentleman and a gentle man.

As a native Ohioan, I was saddened to hear the news of John Glenn’s passing. He has been part of my collective memory since I was a child. He was – and always will be – one of Ohio’s greatest leaders, a dedicated public servant, and positive role model.

In his 95 years, he excelled in several careers: World War II and Korean War Marine pilot and decorated war hero, astronaut and space pioneer, NASA advisor, businessman, and U.S. Senator.

In 1962, he became the first American to orbit the earth. Thirty-six years later, in 1998, he returned to space aboard the space shuttle Discovery at the “youthful” age of 77 and became the oldest man to travel in space, another first. After retiring from the Senate the following year, he and his wife, Annie, founded the John Glenn School for Public Service at The Ohio State University. Glenn inspired us with a can-do attitude, built on traditional values of hard work, discipline, trust, honesty, and family.

“We are more fulfilled when we are involved in something bigger than ourselves.” John Glenn

And so it was with John Glenn’s life and career. He became a pathfinder and risk taker who explored the ultimate unknown frontier, space. The lessons he learned from space exploration served him well in his long career as a public servant.

There are certain qualities that come with the moniker of gentleman: Mannered. Polite. Diplomatic. Honorable. Courteous. The world could use a few more gentlemen (and gentlewomen too!) who possess the right stuff.

Glenn’s death came during this holiday season, a time of year when we are closing out one year (a time for reflection) and beginning a new year (a time for planning). Take a moment to remember those individuals, like John Glenn, who were gentlemen and gentle men, who inspire and motivate us to reach for the stars and see what is possible.

Godspeed, John Glenn.

Workplace Leaders Must “Be the Change”

seedling-growthFollowing the most unprecedented, unpredictable Presidential election in U.S. history, the online community has been saturated with posts, tweets, and articles ranging from how people need to handle the emotional aftermath of division and grief to acceptance and “moving on.” There is no doubt that political analysts, news organizations, and universities will be using this election as a case study for a multitude of topics in the years to come: Communication, political strategy, public relations, cross-cultural relations, and change, to name a few. In the workplace, however, political commentary and division can show up in side comments and retorts among co-workers. As a leader, be prepared to handle opposing viewpoints of team members when they are manifested as non-productive behavior.

How will you bring together co-workers who are still divided? How will you encourage moving forward when some people’s minds are still stuck on past events? Let the words of Gandhi guide and inspire you: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

In order to be the change, you must be empowered and responsible for your own actions. Serve as a positive role model for your team. The messages and the energy that you convey will set an example. The same is true for your team members. Arguing, shouting, screaming, demanding, bullying, and blaming others with negative rhetoric will accomplish nothing. Conversely, using a civil tone, listening, collaborating, accepting responsibility, and treating others with dignity and respect will lead to more positive results. Which outcome is preferred? Choose open conversation over open hostility. Choose to rise above rather than fall victim to. Choose to stop the negative rhetoric and instead search for positive outcomes. Choose to find common ground and common purpose.

Lead by example. When you hear opposing viewpoints of a co-worker, don’t belittle that person. Listen. Use positive language that keeps the conversation open rather than shutting it down. Invite greater understanding through listening and using neutral language.

Whether you are engaged in a one-on-one conversation or a group discussion, here are some examples of comments or questions that lead to open dialogue:

Beginning a conversation, use language like this: “Help me to understand your viewpoint.” “Thank you for sharing your perspective.” “I appreciate hearing your point of view.” “I now have a better understanding of why you feel this way.”

As you share your perspective, consider using comments like these: “I would like to share my perspective with you as well. All I ask is that you listen to me.” “There may be times when our viewpoints are opposite. That’s okay. The important thing is that we share, without any judgment or preconceived notions. Let’s really listen to each other.”

As you go deeper into the conversation, to try to find a comfortable half-way meeting point, you may use language like this: “Now that we have shared our thoughts, opinions, and perspectives, let’s look at common threads that we share.” “What would it take for us to come together so we each felt like we got something we wanted?” “How can we ‘agree to disagree’ and still be productive in our work?” “How can we move ahead together?”

You may not be able to resolve every issue. What you will be able to do is begin an open dialogue.

The workplace would be different if one common goal was shared: Open communication. How would your workplace change if employees at all levels of the company shared their voices in an open forum? How are you creating a safe environment for open, honest conversation? What opportunities are you providing to your team to engage in sharing their feelings in a respectful, nonjudgmental way?

“Being the change” is not easy. It’s difficult. Shifting from potentially destructive behavior to productive behavior is a giant leap. It begins with one step. Initiate a positive conversation that matters. You are worth it. Your team is worth it. Your workplace is worth it.

The Grace and Integrity of Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill,

Gwen Ifill,

America lost a media trailblazer this week with the passing of Gwen Ifill, co-anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour. She was a woman of unparalleled integrity, unstoppable spirit and character. There will never be another.

This past summer when the Republican National Convention visited Cleveland, where I live, my husband and I decided to drive downtown and enjoy the excitement of a major political convention in our city. We walked along the trendy East Fourth Street area, which served as home to all of the national media posts. Well-known reporters, news anchors, and commentators were everywhere, mixing and mingling with visitors and conducting interviews in the street. My eye scanned the crowd, and there she was – Gwen Ifill – eating a light lunch at a sidewalk cafe. She smiled that stunning smile and was gracious as people approached her.

When you read about her journey as an award-winning journalist, and hear her personal story of humble beginnings, you are reminded that any person who has a dream can pursue and achieve it.

“Journalists are accused of being lapdogs when they don’t ask the hard questions, but then accused of being rude when they do. Good thing we have tough hides.” Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill knew how to ask the tough questions, and she never backed down. Her professionalism and level of intelligence were at their finest in her role as a political debate moderator. The questions she asked were thought provoking, and she brought a certain level of authority, responsibility, and respect to the role.

She encountered discrimination, racism and bigotry in her life, yet she remained undaunted and focused on her dream, her future. The integrity of her work demonstrated that she was not only capable; she was the best in the business. She led by example, was a trusted friend and advisor to many, and served as a mentor to many young women coming up through the ranks. That example continues to provide hope to young women, especially women of color.

I can only imagine the conversation she is enjoying now – on that other plane – with longtime friend and fellow journalist Tim Russert, who also left this earth too early. Oh, what a great reunion.

Reflecting on all that Gwen Ifill accomplished in her lifetime encourages me to be a better person. May we all as professionals look to her example for inspiration as we strive to succeed in our careers and in life.

Do Some American Women Have a “Girl Crush” on Hillary Clinton?

hillarybuttonWithin the national media coverage of the 2016 Presidential election, there is one perspective that the media hasn’t really touched upon: Why some women dislike Hillary Clinton. I have a theory: It’s called a “girl crush.”

When I accepted the position as president of a women’s organization back in the late 1980s, my husband cautioned me that there might be some women who wanted to see me fail. My reaction? First, I rolled my eyes in disbelief, then I said, “Oh, come on. You’re a man. What do you know about women? Women help and support each other.” Yes, I was young and naïve back then. I learned the hard way, through my own experience, exactly what my husband warned me about. He was absolutely right. There were women within my “sisterhood” of colleagues who did not want me to succeed*.

“How could that be?” I asked myself. “It’s (almost) 1990! Women have progressed so much. We’ve come so far.” I really believed that back then. What I know now more than ever is that women can be – and often are – their own worst enemies when it comes to helping each other move forward.

Case in point: Hillary Clinton. As a woman, I get genuinely excited about the prospect and possibility of the first female president of the United States. What a tremendous boost for women in our country, to know that we – as women – can hold the most prestigious office in America.

Then I think about the lyrics of the Grammy Award nominated song, Girl Crush by Little Big Town, and I wonder if some American women have a girl crush on Hillary Clinton.

The song is sung in a sarcastic, spiteful way and tells the story of a jilted woman who jealously wants to be just like the woman who is now with her ex. “I want what she has…Yeah, ‘cause maybe then you’d want me just as much…” In reality, the woman despises the other woman and everything about her.  She doesn’t really want to be like her; she just wants what she has.

Some American women may be viewing Hillary Clinton from that “girl crush” perspective. “If I can’t have what she has, I’m not going to vote for her!” How pathetic.

In her book, Daring My Passages, author Gail Sheehy shares a story from earlier years when magazine editor Tina Brown shared her dislike of Hillary Clinton. When Sheehy pushed for clarification, Brown finally admitted that Clinton was too “perfect.”

Negative comments that female colleagues, family members, friends, and women featured in media interviews have said about Hillary Clinton have surprised me. “She’s already been in The White House; we don’t need anymore of her.” Or “I don’t trust her.” Or “I hate her!” One longtime female friend of mine said, “I’m not voting for her just because she’s a woman.” To that friend and to American women who share those thoughts, I simply say, “Why not? Why wouldn’t you? How many years have we, as women, said to each other, ‘If you want to see change, real change, put a woman in charge!’?” How many women could deny that truth?

Of 196 countries around the world, only 28 (14%) have female leaders.

I do believe that some American women don’t see the value of putting a woman in The White House as president. But…are they the same women who don’t care if women get equal pay as men? Who don’t care if they have to work longer hours and get fewer perks than their male counterparts? Who don’t care if women are sexually violated by men? Who don’t care if women are objectified in the media? I do see the value, and I wish more women cared about each other.

Earlier this year, I reviewed Hillary Clinton’s biography and was impressed with the positive work that she has consistently accomplished throughout her life for women, girls, and families, equal rights and human rights, and healthcare. She is, hands down, the best qualified person to serve as Commander in Chief.

Recent studies show that women simultaneously use the right and left hemispheres of their brain, giving them a greater capacity to process data more quickly than men, who predominantly use the brain’s left hemisphere. By nature, women are more collaborative, nurturing, and inclusive in their actions. Women do, in fact, make better politicians. They can also multi-task better than anyone else (scan the headlines, apply lipstick, and finish writing a report all at the same time).

If there are any doubts in your mind, ponder one important question: In what ways would the world be different if women were in charge? You may be see things in an entirely different light.

(*I didn’t fail, by the way; I actually saved the women’s organization from going under, with the help of an exceptionally gifted female staff leader and a small group of like-minded women who stayed with me through some very turbulent times).

Photo: CZust

Open Dialogue Gets to the Heart of What’s Important

dialoguecartoonIn these last two weeks before Election Day, some American voters are not connecting with the big issues being covered by the political candidates, like immigration, international trade, or global warming, because they can’t relate to them. Instead, voters are more interested in issues that impact their everyday lives, like finding a good-paying job, affordable housing, gas prices and taxes.

How do we get to the heart of the matter to find what’s most important to people? We engage in open dialogue.

Open conversation begins at home. What is most important to you as a single person? As a couple? As a family? As a single parent? As an extended family? Name your top three priorities. Talk to the people in your household about these issues. I grew up in a middle class household. My dad worked in a steel mill, and my mother was an elementary school teacher. They wanted a better life for each of us kids. Since they both lived through the Great Depression, they knew they needed to save for the future. Together, they created a financial savings plan for our family. They didn’t know what the future held for us. Their number one goal was financial security. My mom and dad took me to the bank and opened a passbook savings account for me when I was in elementary school. They taught me to value money (and savings) at an early age. That lesson began at home.

Initiate dialogue in your workplace. If you want to know what’s on the minds of your employees, involve them in one-on-one conversations, open forums, focus groups, or surveys, asking what is most important to them. Go beyond traditional employee satisfaction surveys. Dig deeper. Their wants, needs and desires may reveal different ways to look at the workplace, the structure of your organization, or introduce innovative ideas for creating a better work environment. If you don’t ask, you will never know. In a job interview for the position of Director of Marketing for an urban development firm early on in my career, the interviewer, who was the owner of the company, asked me a question, “What do you know about real estate?” I could have answered “Nothing.” Instead, I countered with another question: “What can you teach me about real estate?” You see, I knew about marketing and public relations, which was my field of study, and I could easily apply that knowledge to the real estate industry, which is exactly what I told him. I admit, my creative response to his question was a bit risky yet necessary. I got the job. I got the job because I asked an important question.

Host a community forum. Cities and counties can do more to understand the needs of the people living in their local communities. If citizens’ voices are not heard, decisions are made in a vacuum. All too often, we hear about companies moving or closing when it’s too late. A different narrative is possible when people in communities are involved, truly involved, in conversations that lead to making important decisions.

Open a dialogue with elected officials. Within our American political system, we elect officials to represent us. However, if those elected officials don’t know what’s on our minds, they can’t really represent us. Write a letter, send an email, call your representative’s office, or show up when town hall meetings are held in your area. Make your voice heard.

Whether you are in a leadership position or not, find a way in your home,  workplace, community, and country to open a dialogue that leads to greater understanding of what is important. When change is needed, that change will be made from an informed position because you let your voice be heard.

It’s Time to End the Spin Cycle

scampi_2051714cWith less than three weeks before Election Day, the spin of this year’s U.S. Presidential political campaign is spinning out of control.

I spent the first half of my professional career in public relations and marketing, so I know what spin looks like, sounds like, and feels like. Just so you know, spin is the action taken by public relations professionals to meet the objectives of their PR campaign. Spinning or fluffing can often be defined as the art of presenting something negative in a more positive light. The person creating the spin is called a spin doctor.

One of the most frequently used words by the media regarding this year’s Presidential campaign is “unprecedented.” We have never seen anything like this, and hopefully we will never see it again.

For the educated professional like me, I can tell a spin when it’s in action. It has a certain look, sound, and feel to it. No matter what the negative charge or accusation, the spin that follows is either appalling or amusing to me. I can see right through it. But average Americans who don’t have a public relations background have no clue what’s happening. They don’t see the strategic spin for what it is. They take the words that were spoken by the candidate or their surrogates verbatim and begin repeating them as if they were the truth.

What has happened in this election is that those spins don’t just get summed up in one or two sound bytes, get featured for a day, and then are dropped. Instead, that spin remains spinning for days or weeks until we, the American voters, feel like we are trapped in this perpetual spin cycle.

We have witnessed a series of spins in recent weeks.

Recently, the national media aired an audio recorded conversation between Donald Trump and Billy Bush while they were killing time preparing for an interview with Access Hollywood back in 2005. The language used by the media and the public presented a deeper issue, which was potentially harmful to Donald Trump’s campaign: his sexual misconduct, which was then referred to as sexual assault. Trump’s spin, which included the phrase “locker room talk” tried to minimize, even dismiss, his behavior.

What happened next? Women were outraged. Multiple allegations of sexual assault came pouring in from women stating that Donald Trump had fondled, kissed, or groped them in the past. The “locker room talk” spin has dominated the news cycle for nearly two weeks and doesn’t show any signs of stopping. Building on the locker room talk spin, Donald Trump said all of these allegations were fabricated, which is another spin. Even Melania Trump came to her husband’s defense in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, referring to the incident as “boy talk” and suggesting that Billy Bush initiated the conversation. Let me add one note worth mentioning. Melanie Trump’s comments came more than ten days after the Bush-Trump tapes were leaked. Timing for this defense did not work in Trump’s favor. Even Stephen Colbert’s Melania Trump surrogate, Tony Award winning actress Laura Benanti, joined the Donald’s defense.

The latest spin of the Trump campaign is that the entire 2016 U.S. Presidential election process is rigged. Many Republican and Democratic leaders are speaking up, defending the American electoral process. And yet the spin is out there and continues to grow.

Listen to the key words or phrases from these recent spin cycle examples: Locker room talk, fabricated, boy talk, rigged. When does it end? I would like to say it will all end on November 8, 2016, Election Day, but I know better. These multiple spins have some American voters’ emotions running high. Let’s not get swept away with talk. Instead, let’s focus on the issues. America has more important work to do, and we need to do it together.

Body Language Speaks Volumes in Second Presidential Debate

The second U.S. Presidential Debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, which aired on October 10, 2016, was less about verbal exchanges or barbs and more about nonverbal (or silent) language. Trump and Clinton both revealed their attitudes through nonverbal language. Here’s what stood out to me:

No opening handshake. The media repeatedly described this behavior as “unprecedented.” I agree. Even when you dislike or disagree with an opponent, you still extend the courtesy of a handshake. Knowing what had transpired in the media leading up to the second debate, we can certainly understand why there was no handshake. I am surprised that no one in the media mentioned how honest this gesture was. It revealed deeper emotions.

Trump’s dominant, invasive physical stance. Throughout the debate, Trump physically stood close to Clinton while she answered audience questions, sometimes standing right behind her, invading her personal space on the platform. The media (and women, I might add) picked up on this right away. Words like “stalking” have been used in media reports. In a professional arena, such as a debate platform, candidates follow certain protocols or extend courtesies to one another. Candidates have their own designated seated areas. While they are allowed to walk to any part of the platform, they remain mindful of their opponent’s physical position. Trump continued to break protocol. He also wandered and paced the platform while Clinton responded to audience questions, which could be interpreted as a lack of respect or a lack of engagement.

Clinton’s appropriate use of the platform. Clinton came closer to audience members when answering questions, creating an intimate space for dialogue. She followed platform protocol and did not invade Trump’s physical space at any time.

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-12-11-59-pmTrump’s lack of control over facial expressions. Trump’s visible facial expressions included pursed lips, pouting, furrowed brows, rolling of the eyes, and finger pointing. His nonverbal behavior can be summed up in one phrase: arrogant bullying.

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-12-14-22-pmClinton’s smiling during Trump’s negative attacks. Hillary Clinton demonstrated significant restraint during Trump’s repeated verbal assaults. I would have loved to have asked Clinton, “Penny for your thoughts” during those moments. Never before has a politician’s nonverbal language been scrutinized as much as Hillary Clinton’s. When she doesn’t smile, media advisors say she needs to smile more. When she does smile, advisors say she needs to tone down the smiling. It seems that no matter what she does, it’s just not right. I thought she handled Trump’s assaults with grace and professionalism. Some people may have perceived her smiles as artificial, however, I felt she used smiling as a way to remain positive in her remarks.

Closing handshake. Well, despite the unprecedented lack of a handshake at the beginning of the debate, the Presidential candidates enjoyed a closing handshake at the end of the debate. Was it because they felt all warm and fuzzy from the closing question, which asked each candidate to say something positive about the other? Hmmm…..Change of heart or following protocol?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the capability of reviewing Trump’s or Clinton’s micro expressions using slow-motion replay technology. Psychologist Dr. Paul Ekman co-discovered the phrase micro expressions. These brief facial expressions (lasting just 1/15 to 1/25 of a second), can reveal a deeper or masked truth about a person’s attitude or behavior. Examples include quick raising of the corner of the lips, expanding or contracting of the iris, narrowing or opening of the eyes, etc. Ekman’s work became the basis for a FOX television program, Lie to Me, which ran three seasons, 2009-2011. A short Guide to Reading Micro Expressions may prove helpful in deciphering the facial expressions during this second debate.

The lesson: Become aware of your nonverbal language because it speaks volumes about who you are as a person and who you are as a professional. Are you presenting yourself well through your nonverbal language?