Newspapers around the world today ran photos of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy pointing fingers as they attempted to break through the Franco-German deadlock in deciding how to deal with the Euro financial crisis. Who had the upper hand in consummating the deal reached later? Let’s examine the body language.
Body language is much more powerful than words. Studies show it conveys more than half of the meaning or impression people transmit. In the pre-accord photo, Sarkozy’s hand is literally higher than Merkel’s and Sarkozy appears taller (in reality Merkel is 3 inches (5 cm) taller than Sarkozy). Yet Sarkozy’s face looks less confident and his stance is neutral. So I conclude his argument, whatever it is, is weaker. Merkel is stooping slightly to give weight and emphasis to the point she is making, her head is tilted and her eyes are looking stern, like a headmistress. She appears to be warning Sarkozy. Both are pointing fingers. Sarkozy is pointing just his left forefinger. His right hand is poised at the waist level, in a neutral and relaxed way. Merkel is pointing with both forefingers.
Pointing your forefinger is a potent gesture. Symbolically, you are shooting someone or something. In this photo, fortunately, the fingers of the leaders of Europe’s two largest countries are pointing skywards and not at each other. Pointing a forefinger towards the sky is common among debaters, who use it to signal their desire to speak. During debates, they use it as a baton that emphasizes their points and signals conviction of thought. In this photo, Merkel’s left forefinger is pointing sideways, as if she is ready to shoot from the hip in defence of the western front. At a simple body language level, Merkel appears the most influential.
Who really carried most weight in the debate we may never know. Perhaps it’s not even important. For a few hours later the two reached agreement and gave us a picture of radiant harmony, like two lovers making up after a tiff. – Emma Robson.