Why Nancy Pelosi's SOTU Body Language Was Actually Genius, According To An Expert

Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has outdone us all when it comes to the art of polite shade. Sitting to the top right of President Trump during the State of the Union address on Tuesday, she walked a fine line between decorum and disapproval all night, making power moves without saying a single word. Her faces said it all. Even her claps made a statement for the way they seemed to say, "My pinkie finger commands more respect than you."
One of her most talked-about body language choices was to read her way through most of Trump's meandering address. She was in all likelihood reading a transcript of his speech to see if he was staying on-script (another power move). Body language expert Patti Wood, author of Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma, called it "an obvious, clear, and sustained nonverbal message of disbelief and disregard for the president."
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Wood added that this was a smart and deliberate move on the part of Pelosi. "Reading notes is a tactic that I actually have coached speakers to do to hold in their nervousness and show their disinterest during debates, because it's one of the only oddly politically correct ways of showing disrespect and disagreement," she told Refinery29.
Without saying a word, Pelosi also asserted herself as the den mother of the freshman class of Democratic women in Congress. She wore a white suit along with them, in solidarity with women's rights. And then, when Trump brought up the fact that there are more women serving in Congress than ever before, she stood up and appreciatively clapped in her colleagues' direction — signaling that despite their opposition to Trump, it was now okay for them to stand up, too, because they were celebrating themselves. "Pelosi standing and palms-up gesturing for the women to rise again and take in the applause" was a gesture Wood said caught her eye. But just as fast, Pelosi was back to displaying disapproving looks as he brought up the "catastrophe known as NAFTA." At this point, "She dramatically brought her head down in disbelief and displeasure," noted Wood.

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