Brett Kavanaugh's Tears, Decoded by a Body Language Expert
If you, like thousands of Americans, were glued to the TV during yesterday's hearings in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, then we don't have to remind you of the stark contrast between the composure of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the well, less-composed Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
Ford, who testified that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her in the '80s when they were both teens, was lauded not only for her bravery in coming forward on the most public stage of them all, but for her even-keeled yet emotionally charged opening statement. She was the poster child for composure under pressure, powering through as her voice wavered when recounting the most painful details of the assault to the world.
Kavanaugh, on the other hand, came out of the gate like a stray firework, veering from anger to sadness and back again countless times during his own (lengthy) opening statement. Of course, Twitter took notice, pointing to the fact that such erratic behavior would never be tolerated for a woman.
"What took place on Thursday confirms that male indignation will be coddled, and the gospel of male success elevated," wrote Doreen St. Felix for The New Yorker. "It confirms that there is no fair arena for women’s speech."
Both sides seemed to agree that the hearing didn't definitively answer any questions, but that's about it. Liberal pundits called Kavanaugh's performance a distraction, while conservatives — including a fired up Senator Lindsay Graham — parroted empathetic responses.
But what can his body language, his mannerisms, and his linguistic style tell us that his words can't? We consulted Patti Wood, body language expert and author of Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma, to break down the messages implicit in that which was not said.
About those tears.
"His tears seem real and they can certainly call forth empathy," Wood tells InStyle, but the motive behind them isn't clear. "His tears can show that he is absolutely innocent, but I have seen in my work throughout the years that people that are 'caught' cry because they feel like victims of circumstances."
She goes on to add that tears, as well as laughter and anger, are known in deception detection as "cover emotions," which are "emotions that cover up their untruths."
And the seemingly out-of-control rage ...
"This belligerent personality and range of emotions are particularly unsettling," says Wood, who also analyzed Kavanaugh's Fox News interview with Martha MacCallum on Tuesday. "I pointed out in my read of the FOX interview that his flat, robotic, repetitive emotionless interview seemed odd, even more considering the letter he wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee the day of the FOX interview, which was angry."
She added that the intense emotions do seem genuine.
On his habit of rephrasing questions in his answers.
"He said at one point he didn't do anything of a 'sexual nature' to Dr. Ford," notes Wood. "Was he redefining some action he took as 'non-sexual' and was he saying he didn't do anything to the adult Dr. Ford because when she was the 15 she had a different last name? One of the reasons I think this is relevant is that he is known for judging by the 'letter' of the law," she added, referring to the fact that he could argue a technicality should he be accused of perjuring himself. "The other reason is that I have seen this technique used so often by liars."