Monday, August 20, 2012

Body Language In International Diplomacy.

The Picture above shows Hussein Tantawi, Head of the Egyptian Military Higher Council, welcoming Hilary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States of America, in Cairo Egypt.

Hilary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States of America had made a diplomatic visit to Cairo, Egypt, just recently. She met first with Muhammad Mursy, the newly-elected President of Egypt and later on she met with Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Head of the Egyptian Military Higher Council.

The Jordanian newspaper daily, Alarab Alyawm, has published the picture shown above, as Tantawi and Clinton were shaking hands. It is so obvious that the hand of Mrs. Clinton was holding the hand of Tantawi so strongly, while her eyes wide-opened and looking straight at Tantawi 's face, while Tantawi's face had a shy smile and his eyes were looking, somehow, down,not straight into the eyes of  Clinton. Please see the picture shown above.

It seems to me that Clinton was trying to tell Tantawi that by the strong hand-shake and looking straight into his eyes, the following unspoken diplomatic gestures: you might be the highest commander of the whole Egyptian military, but I, Hilary Clinton, represent the government of the United States of America that was / is showering your military with annual military aid. The body language in this case had said it all, and no words were necessary to be said by Clinton to Tantawi to get the meaning of her body language. By the same token, Tantawi's shy smile and gesture of obvious humility was telling Clinton that I got the hint and you are most welcome, Mrs. Secretary.

The whole Clinton-Tantawi 's encounter in body language has reminded me of the superb body language of the late King Hussein of Jordan. He was a master when it came to body language in international diplomacy. During my stay in Amman, Jordan, managing a technical business operations in the whole Middle East and part of North Africa, for an American multi-national corporation, in the 1970's and 1980's, I saw countless times the late King Hussein on the Jordanian television receiving visitors at his Raghadan palace in Amman. He always sat at the very edge of a big comfortable chair with his both hands in his lap. That was to show utmost respect to his visitors whoever they might have been: Heads of State, Prime Ministers, military Generals etc...I had never seen him moving his hands, while talking with his visitors. I had never seen him sitting on his comfortable royal chair crossed legged, or in any other manner except sitting always at the very edge of it and his both hands in his lap.

While mentioning the late King Hussein's body language, it may be of interest to describe his body language, as he received King and Queen of Spain at Amman Airport: He received them at the bottom of their airplane's stair. He had shaken the hand of the King of Spain as normally as could be, but as the Queen of Spain stepped forward, King Hussein bend his head down as he held her hand for the usual hand shake and kissed the Queen's hand. It was a touching sight in a profound way. I thought it was beautiful to see on Television the late King Hussein of Jordan kissing the hand of  a visiting Queen. I had made a point, that day, of  watching the news at 8:00 p.m. on the Jordanian Television, in order to see again King Hussein kissing the hand of Queen of Spain. I was so disappointed as the Jordanian Television omitted that part of the royal reception at Amman's Airport, due to protestations raised by certain groups of Jordanian citizens who did not like to see their king kissing the hand of a visiting queen. Most unfortunate !!

One might have some disagreements with the policies of the late King Hussein of Jordan, but one could not refrain from admiring the body language he mustered in receiving his visitors and guests-most outstanding in human conduct,characterized with splendid royal humility, rarely matched, indeed

Another well known world figure who knew how to win the profound admiration of people, and probably their votes as well, was President Dwight Eisenhower who was the President of the United States of America for two terms in the 1950's. His genuine and admirable smile could disarm voters, Heads of State alike.

In short, the body language in international diplomacy can have a profound effect, if used appropriately in the right time and place and circumstances.     




  1. I am 82 year old American and have been a member of the Democratic Party all my life. The only Republican President I voted for was President Dwight Eisenhower for several reasons,among them were his honesty and "disarming smile",as Sodium elequently described.

    Good post,Sodium. I enjoyed reading it. Thank you.

  2. Richard The Lion HeartAugust 21, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    I am also an old American who voted for President Eisenhower. I concur with the content of Rick's post about Eisenhower. I must add that he won the elections of his two terms by landslide.

    As to the late King Hussein, I recall that I watched him on TV once,responding to some American Journalists or reporters. He always addressed the reporter or journalist who asked him a question by the word "SIR". Impressive!

  3. Interesting observations concerning the hand-shakes and the wide-opened eyes. I do not know much about the King Hussein's policies,but I had always liked him,especially the way he dealt with American reporters/journalists.

    As to President Eisenhower,he probably was one of the most honest Presidents who occupied the White House in our entire history.

  4. Sodium,

    Although I respect what you have written,so far,on different topics,I disagree with the content of this particular essay on Body Language,because the body language of diplomats can be deceptive.

    In fact,no one can tell what another person really thinks from observing his or her body movements. It is well known that the majority of professional diplomats carry on their conversations in polite and unoffensive manners,unless they ready for war,or at least confrontation.

  5. Rick,

    Thank you for your visit to this website. Come again.

    I am pleased that you and I agree on some of the virtues of President Dwight Eisenhower. If time permits,I may even write an essay about him in the future.

  6. Richard The Lion Heart,

    It is good to see you visiting again. It seems to me that your last visit,to this website, was related to the topic of Islamophobia which I had covered a few months ago.

    Glad to see you agreeing with Rick about President Eisenhower.

    Thank you for your comment.


  7. Warren,

    In case you are interested to know more about the late King Hussein of Jordan,just google the following words:

    the late king hussein of jordan.

    Delighted to see that you,Rick and Richard The Lion Heart agree in your brief comments about President Eisenhower. Splendid,indeed.

    Thank you for your second visit and your comments,as well.


  8. Anonymous,

    You are partly correct when you said that "no one can tell what another person really thinks"

    Please notice that I have skipped the other part of your comment concerning body language,since all kind of people use their body parts like hands,feet,eyes and even mouths to express themselves. Examples:

    ~ As beloved ones depart,we wave our hands in the air as they move on with their cars and they move their hands in return to us. That is body language expressing good gestures without saying words.

    ~ Two lovers look each other in the eyes and move their heads slowly toward each other for their mouths to reach and finally kiss each other passionately and their hands and arms embrace each other tenderly and lovingly (like in the movies). Such a process takes place without the two lovers saying one single word.

    I can go on and on giving examples,but I think the two examples,given above,should suffice for the point I am trying to make.

    Since common people use body language to express themselves,why should not diplomats do likewise?

    Thank you,Anonymous,for your comments. Keep them coming when you can.

  9. Sodium,

    Good response !

    I cannot win,can I?

  10. Anonymous,

    Yes,you can. Just keep trying.

    Disagreement is healthy as long as it is constructive.

  11. I enjoyed reading the article and the comments. Thank you all.

  12. Sodium,

    You have goofed. The policies of the Late King Hussein were bad in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He was too close to both America and Israel and I did not like his policies at all. Garbage.

  13. Mo,

    Please notice that the following paragraph about the King Hussein's policies has been embodied in the essay:

    "One might have disagreements with policies of the late King Hussein,but one could not refrain from admiring the body language he mustered in receiving his visitors and guests-most outstanding in human conduct with splendid royal humility,rarely matched indeed."

    The above paragraph should neutralize your "Garbage" and whole negative comment.

    More important is the fact that you have chosen to overlook the essence of the essay which has mainly dealt with "BODY LANGUAGE",not policies.

    Any way,thank you for your comments.

  14. Nancy,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I do hope that you will have time to visit us again.