That WAS a loaded piece of toast! Did anyone else catch Oprah CBS's interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Or shall we just call them Meghan and Harry? It reminded us of how much we love and worship Oprah Winfrey for her incredible interview skills and power to make others feel at ease in her presence. We posted a few initial observations on Sunday night and wanted to share a bit more detail from what we observed through a body language and nonverbal behavior lens.
If you follow The Narrative Body, you know that we deeply support the Black and POC community, and as a woman-owned business, we are advocates for women's rights in all capacities. We feel deeply saddened to hear about Meghan and Harry's struggles during their time living and working with the Royal Family and wish the couple well as they embark on their new life in California. Additionally, this post is not about applying meaning to movement or uncovering hidden meaning; rather, it discusses what narrative the body tells and how subconsciously our bodies tell their own story. The story of the body can complement the verbal narrative other times; it can contradict the narrative.
Cool as a cucumber...Almost
Our first observation was that Meghan appeared to very calm, cool, and collected during the interview. She and Oprah both displayed relaxed open postures sitting back in their chairs. It appeared Meghan was sitting in a posture that provided her comfort and ease for her pregnancy. Oprah and Meghan mirrored each other's postures, gestures, and even facial expressions when displaying surprise, dismay, and joy. Their physical proximity met the six-foot COVID protocol, yet their orientation was slightly angled toward one another, which lent itself to the conversation's ease and comfort. However, as Meghan recalled her mental health struggles, you could observe the change in her body language. Her physical posture and eye contact shifted downwards, and you could visibly see her trying to hold back tears. Additionally, this line of questions made her pause, talk slower, and think more strategically about her word choices. The body remembers, and you could see Meghan's body reliving the pain she went through as she recalled events of the time.
We all have nonverbal habits, sometimes they show up in our physical body; other times, they show up in the WAY we say things. Meghan had a specific filler word that we found rather interesting. After almost every statement, she finished with the word "right?" (We stopped counting after hearing it fifteen times) Filler words like this are sometimes referred to as "Speech Disfluency." Words such as "Umm," "Hmm," "Like," "You know" can be inserted to fill a conversation gap, fill time for a thoughtful pause, and be inserted as a vocal habit. Additionally, there are other theories on why someone might be inserting this filler word at the end of a sentence.
Using the statement "Right" at the end of a sentence increases the statement's Rhetorical Effectiveness. Meaning it is a part of effective persuasion, communication, and storytelling. Those applying this word at the end of a sentence might be looking for confirmation, validation, and reassurance. Meghan was looking to Oprah to confirm and validate her feelings, beliefs and, choices. Meghan was actively asking the listener, in this case, Oprah, to agree with her; however, she didn't give the appropriate pause or time for the listener (Oprah) to agree or disagree, thus assuming the speaker's (Meghan's) statement evoked an implicit response or predetermined agreement. And in this case, yes, Meghan, we agree with you that everyone should have access to the mental health services they need! Ordering an Uber to Kensington Palace.
Screen off issues
Filler words such as "right?" "does that make sense?" "I think?" have gotten perpetually worse during virtual communication. Without seeing the physical nonverbal reassurance through eye contact, head nods, facial expressions, and open postures, the speaker will often land on filler words to evoke a verbal confirmation or reaction. Those living in the same household can pick up similar nonverbal habits. (Harry was a repeat offender too!)
Haz joins in with hesitation.
Harry's nonverbal behavior was displaying discomfort during the interview. As soon as Harry joined the interview, we could see the stark difference in his jittery/shifty body language Vs. Meghan's calm energy. We've observed Harry's body language in past interviews; he can tend to be a bit fidgety; however, his nervous energy was obviously heightened during this interview. Harry nervously played with his wedding ring during the entire interview unless he was holding hands with Meghan. His hand movements could be an involuntary response dealing with anxiety, stress, or worry. The movement could also serve as a distraction from the present moment.
Respect for the Queen
When asked point-blank by Oprah, "Did you blindside the Queen" Harry's face immediately became red and blotchy. Extreme emotions can trigger this response in the body and lead to an increase in blood pressure. We've all experienced turning bright red when you get embarrassed, angry, or stressed. The shift in the color of his face and neck showed an outward display of inner thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Harry's verbal response was clear and quick, yet his face indicated that this question could have been emotionally upsetting and clearly evoked a stress response. His face reminded red and became worse when asked about the relationship with his father. In addition to his fidgety gestures, Harry also struggled to hold eye contact throughout the interview, often quickly making eye contact to acknowledge a question and then quickly shifting his eyes and head to either look-down or over at Meghan. Averting the eyes such as this can be an indicator of nervousness, discomfort, and worry.
You can see the love
Harry and Meghan clearly have their own nonverbal love language. At the Narrative body, we often talk about the "Performative Self," which is the expectation and perception of who we are. This is the mode one can switch on when we need to go to work, yet we're feeling depressed, the smile you put on when you've been crying all day, and the energy you muster when you feel exhausted. The performative self is a mixture of acting, physical performance, and sometimes pure adrenaline. Those in the public eye learn to slip into "performative mode" at a moment's notice. Through Harry and Meghan's difficult times, they created a nonverbal code to support each other during public events. Due to Harry's history in the public eye and Meghan's acting experience, they both could slip into their performative mode easily. However, the couple uses eye contact, loving smiles, hand squeezes, and sometimes the side-eye to connect and guide each other through difficult public situations. Meghan pointed out that she could see how tightly Harry was gripping her hand at an event during the time she was struggling with mental health. A tight squeeze of the hand seems to be their go-to gesture to support each other. You could see how they encouraged each other through glances and hand-holding several times throughout the interview. It seems to be a method to support what the other is saying without verbally doing so.
What else did you notice about their body language and nonverbal interaction?
We would love to hear what you think!