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When body talk reveals much more than words

Body language is believed to account for 70pc of communication - Larissa Nolan asks an expert to analyse what body language reveals about some of Ireland's top personalities and politicians

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Judi James in one of the world’s leading authorities on body language.

Judi James in one of the world’s leading authorities on body language.

Judi James in one of the world’s leading authorities on body language.

Broadcaster Ryan Tubridy has the slick communication skills of a top politician, singer Imelda May is intensely private, champion jockey Rachael Blackmore is self-disciplined, Ryanair's Michael O'Leary is authoritative and actor Colin Farrell is empathetic.

That's what the body language of the stars reveals about their personalities, according to expert Judi James.

Body language is the conscious and unconscious movements and postures that communicate attitudes, feelings and intentions.

Experts in kinesics - non-verbal communication - can read its meaning by looking at facial expressions, posture and gestures, eye contact and tone of voice. It's estimated that body language accounts for 70pc of human communication.

So we asked Judi to analyse some of Ireland's best-known people to tell us what their body language reveals.

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Ryan Turbidy

Ryan Turbidy

Ryan Turbidy

 

1. RYAN TUBRIDY

In September 2020, Ryan Tubridy used his opening monologue on the Late Late Show to ask the nation to stop the Covid spread.

Judi says: "This guy is clearly a talented communicator who has the skill of directness, empathy and connection that politicians often lack.

"By stepping forward into the camera and holding his arms out in our direction, he 'breaks through' the screen like a 3D movie and almost enters our homes to address us directly.

"Keeping his chin down and his eye expression direct and grave, he signals the mood of his message. His praying, steepled hand gesture is an obvious plea to be listened to and believed.

"He changes gear at one point, moving

in slightly closer and placing one hand in his pocket as he adopts a more confiding pose and vocal tone."

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2. Colin Farrell

Colin Farrell cried on the Jimmy Kimmel Show last month when talking about the homeless crisis in Los Angeles.

Judi says: "You could imagine actors would use displays of emotion on screen to get headlines and interest, but Colin's body language does look congruent here as he makes his point about homelessness. He arrives wearing a sweet smile and uses several self-effacing rituals like widened eyes and a nose rub.

"He rests his face in one hand in a cut-off ritual suggesting a desire to hide emotions, but we can see his eyes fill with tears as he shakes his head. As the audience applauds, he drums his finger on the arm of the chair and puffs loudly to suggest a release of tension."

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Imelda May

Imelda May

Imelda May

 

3. Imelda May

Imelda May spoke on the Late Late Show in 2017 about her change of image from rockabilly to rock chick following the break-up of her marriage to Darrel Higham.

Judi says: "Imelda's body language states a strong discomfort at discussing personal things.

"She starts with signals of shyness and discomfort, looking away from side to side like an awkward teen. She even tosses her head quickly downward to use her fringe as a mask to hide behind.

"When she says: 'Life changed' she looks emotional - another dipping of the head, a nose touch, which is another cut-off ritual. The signal seems to be a hint to the interviewer to move on from the subject. Like a well-behaved child, though, she is still polite, returning with a sweet smile when he continues to discuss her hair and flatter her."

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Michael O'Leary

Michael O'Leary

Michael O'Leary

 

4. Michael O'Leary

Michael O'Leary spoke on Bloomberg News last June about lifting Covid travel restrictions for the vaccinated.

Judi says: "O'Leary presents his strong views on travel restrictions in a very powerful way - speaking with the confidence and authority of an expert. One elbow is bent in a semi-splay gesture that signals confidence and challenge.

"He forms an oxbow mouth shape to signal disapproval. He bites his words and drums a finger on the desk, using an authoritative vocal tone and pace to sell his views and opinions.

"His head baton ritual adds emphasis and his sweeping hand gesture appears to sweep away any disagreement of his views.

"He mimes an invisible brick to build his argument and when he says there is "no evidence" and his hands form into fists that bump inwardly, knuckle to knuckle, and also a baton ritual to punch his points home."

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Rachel Blackmore

Rachel Blackmore

Rachel Blackmore

 

5. Rachael Blackmore

Rachael Blackmore was interviewed right after her Grand National win on Minella Times last April.

Judi says: "She works to suppress the inevitable burst of winner's adrenalin that could have her punching the air.

"The eye-crinkling and the licking of the lower teeth show sheer delight and as her eyes turn to the left in a direction of gaze normally associated with recalled memory, she appears to be reliving the moment in her mind.

"Her self-control kicks in, suggesting an ability for powerful self-discipline and focus. She puffs to release pent-up energy and tension and bites her lower lip in a self-control ritual. As she speaks, her head shakes to suggest modesty and to almost diminish the victory."

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Micheál Martin

Micheál Martin

Micheál Martin

 

6&7. Micheál Martin & Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Lou McDonald and Micheál Martin clashed in a Dáil debate on housing.

Judi says: "There is no sign of professional fondness between these two. McDonald begins with raised palm and furrowed brows that suggest disbelief and a plea for general agreement with her views.

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Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Lou McDonald

 

"Her left hand does all the gesticulating and it converts into a precision pinch gesture that she also uses as a baton gesture, signifying: 'I am confident of the detail and keen to emphasise the facts'.

The floppy chopping gestures lack conviction but as she refers again to "the facts" that precision pinch returns, followed by a raised index finger to signal authority and: 'I am right'.

"When he stands, his mouth forms a snarl shape to suggest he is launching an attack - its direct nature shown when he throws a pointed finger at her to mimic a duel. Again there is not a hint of any professional fondness between these two."

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