The video interview was conducted by the press for about 4 minutes. The objective of this article is to analyse the nonverbal cues of the Ex-Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Najib Razak (DSN) in the interview.
In order to have a comprehensive nonverbal analysis, the principles of nonverbal communication were applied. First, we would like you to look at the baselining of DSN. His sitting position leaned to the left. Baselining refers to his nature of reference before analysis. His eyes blinking rate, his hand gestures, head movement, facial expression are analysed to understand the baselining of his body language.
Analysis 1: Baselining – Datuk Seri Najib Razak (DSN) tends to lean on to the left. He has a normal eye blinking rate with a consistent movement of his head.
Analysis 2: Hand under the thigh and hand hiding
Hands are the first sign to show openness. When the interview started, DSN started to feel the stress and he tried his very best to hide information that might be disclosed during the interview session. He held a rolled newspaper on his left hand, the side which he bended to – this could be a sign that he needed a material aid/support to hide his stress/insecurity/truth (otherwise hands would be free, showing openness). He hid his right palm under his thigh – this is a pacifier gesture to hide his discomfort. When the conversation started, his display of his free hand started to gesticulate: consciously (to gain sympathy) or unconsciously (as he tried to hide the truth and felt discomfort to answer the interview questions). At the same time, we could observe that he rubbed his hands which represent stress, unease and concern about the affair.
Analysis 3: Hand is put at the side of his thigh (left). The hand was hidden and was put under his thigh. This is a secretive gesture in body language.
Analysis 4: Right after the interview had started, his whole palm was hidden and put on his thigh.
When the interview started, we continue to analyse the baselining in term of sitting position of DSN. His head continues to tilt down with looking to the left. He could not keep his verticality; he felt his inner discomfort. In addition, with leaning to one side, he tried to look for public’s agreement, understanding and sympathy. At the same time, he tried to position himself as the victim.
In the principles of nonverbal communication, we need to analyse the change of body language when a new stimulus (questions/statement) is given. The analysis needs to be conducted in 0.125 seconds to capture the microexpression. Microexpression is the voluntary and the involuntary emotional response that conflicts with one another.
Analysis 5: Baselining of DSN – Head tilted down and leaned on to the left.
Analysis 6: The analysis was done within 0.125 seconds to capture the microexpression of a respondent. The real answer of a respondent would only be captured during microexpression when amygdala (part of the brain) responses to the stimuli (statement).
From the video 09.54 – 09.62 minutes (0.08second), when DSN mentioned, “I didn’t benefit from the 1MDB”, he nodded his head and directly shook his head immediately when the word “didn’t” was mentioned. This initial statement is not consistent with his nonverbal cues. Hence, further investigation is needed to verify the validity and reliability of this statement.
However, from his facial expression and consistency of the verbal communication, DSN created the 1MDB for the benefit of the country is genuine. From his facial expression, he was saddened where we could observe that his forehead and eyebrows frowned down, and his cheek fell.
Analysis 7: Consistency of the statement and angry facial expression.
DSN felt angry and discomfort when he mentioned that the police would like to tarnish his image in the court. We could observe in his facial expression that his eyebrows were being pulled down and together with the inner corners, going towards the nose, causing the forehead to frown. However, due to his age, his forehead muscle could not be as flexible as the others. Hence, this observation needs intensive analysis.
Analysis 8: Leaning forward and backwards to show discomfort and concern.
From his facial expression, DSN was depressed and he was pretending to be strong to face the media. In addition, he showed the body language to capture and to beg for sympathy and empathy form the public.
Analysis 9: The gesture to put the hands on the chest could show relief and at the same time, this gesture indirectly delivers the message of being sympathetic to others.
Analysis 10: Foot Tapping: Indication of a good sign after completing a task.
Between the 57.57 57.90 (0.03 seconds), DSN tapped one time, this indicated his tension, discomfort and impatience. However, on 59.00 seconds, he tapped his foot 2 times. This showed that he was waiting for something good or a positive outcome after the statement was mentioned.
Analysis 11: Hands rubbing
Throughout the whole video, DSN was feeling stressed. He rubbed his fingers as a method to reduce his stress level when answering the questions. He was afraid that he would speak unnecessarily. As a result, in some parts of the video, you can observe that he froze his upper body to reduce the movement of his hands.
When analysing video from 1:15 to 1:23, he totally understood the perception of the public was negative. His nonverbal cues showed that he was concerned about the perception of the public.
Analysis 12: A sneer
After answering about evidence of gift, DSJ gives a sneer. The buccinator muscles contracts to draw the lips corner sideward towards the ears. This gesture shows sarcasm.
Analysis 13: Lips licking
At the same time, DSN felt stressed and experienced extreme discomfort in giving the statement about the gifts that belonged to his daughter. At the same time, we could observe that he sat straight right, showed his neck, lifted his head when he talked about the money and the gifts. This indicated that he was ready to confront the reporters to defend himself. At the same time, during this topic, he had demonstrated a chin up which showed condescendence, not an equal consideration for the reporters and public.
Analysis 14: Look away
DSN answered the questions with the sign “ah…” this is the method to buy more time and to think on how to manage the response that should be given. At the same time, DSN tried to look away when answering this question, giving the analysis that he was trying to conceal the answer towards this statement.
On 1:55:50 to 1:59:47. His tone of voice slowed down when he answered, “I would not have condoned and allowed it if I knew” was a sign of deception. In addition, his body language movement to nod his head was not consistent with the previous baselining. This statement needs further investigation on the reliability and the validity.
Datuk Seri Najib showed an anger facial expression when he was asked about his personal account. The statement was true and genuine when he mentioned that Nik Faisal (Ariff Kamil) was the one who managed the account. He showed further anger when he stressed that, “I do not manage the account”. However, there is a cue of deception when he applied distancing himself when he was asked about this question on who managed his account.
Analysis 15: Lean Forward
When DSN was asked about the person, his response was immediate, and he showed his concern and was feeling totally discomfort to disclose the name of the person. He covered up with a smile. However, the objective of the smile is obvious to cover up his rejection to answer further questions on this issue.
Analysis 16: Lips chewing/ Lips biting
At 2:59 seconds, DSN was asked on communication with him (Jho Low), he shook his head, it showed consistency with the statement that he didn’t know where he is currently. He felt stressed and did not want to be asked further. Lips chewing, and biting are signs of stress and when he leaned front and back showed the discomfort. In addition, he mentioned, “Sorry?” to ask for the repeat of the question indicated that he was trying to distract the interviewer to not to stay in the current question on the issue of communication with him (Jho Low).
In only 4 minutes, his body posture had changed from bending to the left side (elbow on the armchair), to slightly straight, leaning backward and forward which showed discomfort, unease in his answers.
When we observed DSN’s forehead, we could observe that for the majority part of the interview (versus few moments when he unfrowned and revealed that he didn’t have too many wrinkles on his forehead = normal state) this showed concern, anxiety and stress.
Nonverbal cues are always a reference for further investigation. The most important nonverbal cues and body language are the first line indicator to read a person. Learn the skills on how to read body language and you will be able to protect yourselves from being hurt or deceived.
Datuk Dr Leow Chee Seng
Body Language Specialist of Humanology, Malaysia
Book Writer of Body Language Exposed, Trapping the Cunning Fox,
Selling with Heart and Soul and other body language books
Dr. Mihaela Stroe
Body Language Specialist of Humanology, Romania
Behavioural Analyst and Creator off Method “The ABC of Nonverbal Intelligence”
International Trainer and Author