When words belie the message

“Don’t interfere in our election.” That sentence could be expressed in a variety of ways, as a serious insistence, a cautionary warning, or a mild plea. The tone/volume of voice, and intonation are likely to be telling, as well as the facial expression and body language. President Trump today at the G20 Conference used that sentence in a unique way, in addressing President Putin of Russia and his staff. It was clearly expressed as a joke, as Trump waggled his finger at Putin while smiling, as Putin smiled as well. The meaning was clear: The words spoken were not to be taken seriously, as Trump does not believe Russia interfered in the 2016 US election, or at least he does not want to admit that may have happened, as it calls into question the legitimacy of his presidency (as Jimmy Carter claimed today). The lack of concern on the part of the US President clashes with the consensus of his own intelligence agencies, which have clearly stated that Russia did in fact interfere.

Trump’s demeanor and behavior offered a dramatic contrast to that of Prime Minister May of the UK, who was stone-faced in her obligatory handshake with Putin, after describing Russia’s behavior in poisoning a Russian dissident in England as “despicable”.

2 thoughts on “When words belie the message

  1. Nice example of how we can use more than one form of communication at the same time. I wonder what age we start to pick up on social cues like these? I think it’s important that we are aware of the different ways to communicate and that we look for these cues when interacting with people. I can see how learning to fully communicate in a new culture would be difficult after growing up in one place and learning one set of social/cultural cues etc..

    I’ve noticed that sometimes people can also send mixed messages with their facial expressions. One example would be a person might smile and appear like they are happy while you’re talking to them, but inside they could be angry about something you said.

    It seems that even with all of the different ways to communicate, we still can’t be sure that someone is actually representing their true feelings. Trump gives the appearance that he is joking and not concerned, but who knows what he’s really thinking.

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