I caught a big fish with a request to be interviewed for TIME magazine regarding the Trump/Kim Summit in Singapore. The article came out great. But the reporter asked lots of smart questions that didn’t make it into the final piece. So here’s the rest of the story. Enjoy!
-How did their handshakes compare to President Trump’s handshakes with
other world leaders?
Quite different! Their shake was more of friends. Trump extended his hand first to put himself in the host or welcoming position. What’s more interesting is what we didn’t see: The Trump ‘yank-and-grab’ or an extended length of time their hands were clasped. And when they were done, nobody had marks on their hand from a death grip. We also didn’t see Trumps thumbs up and big smile so he may have listened to his protocol people and cut that out.
-What is the significance of President Trump initiating all three
Trump went out of his way to play host. That’s a nice way of showing control over Kim.
-Do you agree with the argument that the handshake is the most important
thing to happen during this summit?
I don’t think it’s the most important–the talks are the most important. But it’s the most revealing! There’s a lot of information hidden in this handshake. This one was a bit formalized but still revealed lots of information about how they intend to deal with each other. We saw Kim with a boyish grin when he first saw Trump, and Trump with a relaxed look when they met–then when they turned to the cameras for the front page newspaper shot, each only had a stern look. So I think we learned everything we need to know about their relationship. There’s a personal connection and the political look for the public.
-President Trump appears to be touching Kim Jong Un a lot, touches that
were mostly not reciprocated. What is this body language saying?
You’re right! Trump touched Kim 6 times before they went into the meeting room. Kim only touched trump after they were off stage and he felt ok doing it. I don’t think Kim would have touched Trump had Trump not touched him so many times first. Trump’s touches were all about reaching into Kim’s space for unconscious control. And we saw Trump gently guide Kim off the stage and into the meeting room with a hand on his back. We even saw him pat Kim on the back 2 times on stage-that shows Trump putting himself above Kim.
-What did their body language reveal about who was in charge of the
encounter? Did either leader appear to be dominating the encounter?
Trump worked very hard to show he was in charge on stage and it just may have worked by the time they got to the meeting room. This is evidenced by Kim’s body language as they sat. He was casually leaning on his chair–like he owned it but for much of the time his hands were clasped neatly in front of him. Conversely, Trump sat with his hands in a power steeple, legs apart and with a crooked smile on his face. That smile shows contempt or moral superiority.
-How are their age and height differences playing into the image of the
Height always has an advantage in negotiations–it’s easier to intimidate folks that way. So it’s always at play. I didn’t see Trump purposefully stare down at Kim–but it’s still a factor. Most of the time they’re together I assume they’ll be sitting which diminished the intimidation effect. But to answer your question it makes ALL the difference in the image. A big guy from a big, rich country trying to get a little guy from a poor country to do what he wants. Sooner or later the little guy is gonna cave. I think we know that’s what it’s all about and the height difference just gives it that visual.