No stranger to extremes, U.S. President Donald Trump is known to exploit gestures affirming his power and influence. And he’s not worried about making a fool of himself either.
New video footage has internet users greatly amused. The video shows Trump at the recent NATO summit grabbing the right shoulder of Montenegro Prime Minister Duško Marković. Trump appears to push Marković, shoving him aside to make his way to the front of the photo.
Is Marković a victim of Trump’s politics, frequently summarized by the slogan “America First?" Yes and no. The U.S. president appears to display a very specific psychological profile – the alpha male.
An Excess of Extremes and Self-Advantage
For zoologists, this term refers to a dominant individual who manifests boundless superiority and self-confidence. Unaccustomed to doubt, the alpha male is a natural born leader. Tenacious and well-respected by his peers, he considers himself successful in all he does … even when he fails!
This summary shines light on Trump’s presidency and several episodes of his outrageous behavior. From the beginning of the electoral campaign, Trump has established himself as inflexible – someone who refuses to bow to compromise under any circumstance.
Due to his simple vocabulary and physical appearance, he embodies – whether intentionally or not – a sort of abuse of power rather than real power. “The great political figures of the past, formerly considered ‘alpha males,’ appear in great contrast to Trump’s behavior: an excess of extremes and self-advantage,” explains Jennifer Lawless, professor at the University of Washington.* At 71 years old, Trump’s blond hair and fake tan immediately set him apart from his predecessors. His red tie – the color of blood and fire – reinforces his aggressive temperament.
Distorted Aggression and Body Language
And that’s without mentioning his body language! One of Trump’s more regular habits consists of pointing his finger, even during one-on-one conversations. Often badly perceived, most people avoid this gesture because it can be considered accusatory. Yet, Trump willingly chooses to point his finger at his wife Melania, at Russian President Vladimir Putin or even at his predecessor, Barack Obama.
For Trump, the finger-point most often accompanies an aggressive accusation. However, it can also reflect a form of complicity. “Foreign politicians who meet Trump observe his specific body language and use this to deduce certain aspects of his personality,” explains Marcus Holmes, political commentator and author of a recent study on the importance of emotions in international diplomacy.*
Well-known for his vigorous handshakes, Trump is also a big fan of the powerful back slap – considered a condescending greeting designed to place the recipient in a position of inferiority. During a meeting with Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, Trump used this technique more than 11 times in 30 seconds.
Whether used consciously or not, Trump’s body language is repetitive and loses all effect – to the point of becoming distorted. The U.S. president would do well to brush up on the rules of the game.
*Editor's Note: The original quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.
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L'Express, France's first weekly news magazine, was modelled on the American magazine Time. Its first editor was Francoise Giroud, who had earlier edited Elle and went on to become France's first Minister of Women's Affairs in 1974 and Minister of Culture in 1976. The magazine has a right-of-centre orientation.