The British Fashion Awards: Reading the Beckham’s Body Language
“Posh & Becks, The Signs it’s Over"
Last week I analysed five images of David and Victoria Beckham at The British Fashion Awards, for an Australian celebrity gossip magazine, NW Magazine.
I’m far from interested in celebrity gossip, in fact, these days I’ve lost touch with who’s who in the celebrity world, but from somewhere, or someone, I’d heard the rumour that the Beckhams relationship was on the rocks. When I was asked to analyse their body language, I wondered whether the magazine editor was looking for my thoughts to confirm or negate the rumours of their rocky relationship.
I agreed to do the work and received the images. As I saw them, I immediately thought, ‘the rumour is true’. There’s no doubt that at the moment those images were taken, the emotional connection between the couple was missing, but, is that a reflection on their life and relationship?
Reading Body Language from Images
The thing about body language, expressions and vocal quality, is that they all happen within the moment–they are reactive responses. We can’t read body language from an image and definitively state a conclusion about someone’s life. But what we can do is read the emotion of the moment captured. That may, or may not be a reflection of the ongoing emotions in the person’s life at that time. We can make assumptions, but we can never conclude they are the absolute truth. In the same way, we can never definitively state that someone is lying, or being honest.
In this post, like with other posts, I intend to help you learn about, and understand nonverbal communication through my analysis. So that you can become a better communicator with a good understanding of the emotions of those you interact with.
Reading The Beckham’s Body Language
Overall, I couldn’t see any evidence of a healthy relationship in any of the photos, and I saw no signs of positive emotional expression from Victoria. There was a common theme in both David and Victoria’s body language in all of the photographs I looked at–distancing behaviours. When you create physical distance between yourself and another person, an object or a topic, it equates to one thing–emotional distance.
Imagine if you were to carry a dirty nappy, would you hold it close to your body, or out away from your body? With both hands or one hand? With fingertips or palms?
What about something you considered precious, like a piece of sentimental jewellery. Would you hold it close to your body, or out away from your body? With one hand or both? With fingertips or palms?
We can gauge how somebody feels about something or someone, by the way they touch or hold it and their physical distance within space.
There was no emotional closeness in any of the five images of the Beckhams. Instead, there were distancing behaviours like leaning away or being apart, and limited touch between them. When present, contact was with the fingertips only. In a couple who felt together and in love, we would expect to see their bodies close enough to be touching, arms around each other, as well as touch with the palm of the hand–not the fingertips.
In some ways this made me feel sad, thinking back to how they used to be. You only need to look at images when you Google ‘posh and becks early relationship’, to see physical and emotional togetherness. All the physical signs of a healthy and loving relationship. I probably also felt sad because my mirror neurons were firing–my expressions mimicking theirs, and as a result, feeling sadness as I empathised with Victoria’s emotion.
Hands in Pockets
What’s interesting is that Victoria’s left hand was in her pocket, in all images. This is negative, and it’s unusual for a woman. Usually, unless we’ve formed a hand in the pocket habit–which a lot of men have–our hands disappear when we have something to hide, or when we aren’t feeling confident about something.
A quick Google image search of The British Fashion Awards revealed that hands in pockets are, in fact, the norm for Victoria. Either she’s picked this up as a habit, or it’s her favourite pose. What’s odd about the fashion world is that it’s brimming full of negative body language, like negative expressions and hands in pockets, yet it still sells. Don’t let these poses rub off on you, these are negative nonverbal signals and won’t help you to create a good impression–unless, perhaps, you’re famous.
One common theme in the fashion world and modelling is confident poses. Go right ahead and mimic these, they are positive nonverbal signals and can do wonders for the impression you create on others.
Hands Behind Back
Also interesting, from both Victoria and David, was their hand placement when photographed standing side by side. Either one or the other, or both, had their arm and hand placed slightly backwards or right behind their back. In usual circumstances of this nature, at least one of the couple would, instead, have their arm wrapped around the other’s waist. This looks like a deliberate signal from both of them, to each other, and perhaps to the public and media–hands behind the back say ‘leave me alone’.
If this is simply their chosen pose of the moment, it indicates that they are both wrapped up in their own worlds, without consideration of the presence of the other. To me, this still raises a red flag.
Self Soothing and Blocking Behaviours
In a couple of the images, David clasped the join of his jacket, across his torso. There could have been an issue with the jacket, such as a loose button, or a psychological-based issue like, ‘is it gaping’, drawing his attention and hand towards it. Or, it could be a self soothing behaviour or a blocking behaviour. It’s very possible it was a combination of some of these.
When we feel discomfort our arms tend to navigate across our torso. This is the most vulnerable part of our body as it contains our vital organs–it’s our physical response to protect. We do this when we feel even the slightest discomfort–a real or perceived threat, physical or psychological.
We ‘self soothe’ when we feel discomfort too. This is usually seen when we feel stress. Self-touch is generally a self soothing pacifier–an attempt to bring feelings of comfort to ourselves, via our body’s release of the hormone, oxytocin.
Runner’s Stance and Foot Direction
In one photo, David’s legs were in the ‘runner’s stance–he was ready to take off. His right leg slightly bent with his foot pointing in the direction in which he intended to travel. If he had been present in the moment, and feeling an emotional connection to Victoria, his feet would point slightly towards her. At the very least, they would point towards the camera. He doesn’t want to be there–his attention is elsewhere. Where?
Our feet are fantastic indicators of our intention. Typically, they point in the direction of our thoughts, the place we’d rather be, or the place we need to be, whether that’s the bathroom, the bar, our love interest–or anywhere away from here.
One silly, but fun thing I do is sit in a bar, watch people’s feet, guess their intentions then sit and wait for it to happen. Sure enough, it does, the person always travels in the direction of their feet, but sometimes we (my husband and I) have guessed the wrong intention–it wasn’t the cute girl in the corner, it was a trip to the bathroom!
Reading The Beckham’s Emotional Expression
These days, it’s incredibly hard to read emotion via facial expression in celebrities, due to the use of muscle movement inhibitors such as Botox. It’s not just celebrities, a large number of people have the same treatments.
If you’re planning botox treatment yourself, be aware that as well as altering the movement and appearance of your outward facial expression, there can be negative, or positive, consequences to your inner emotions–depending on where you have the Botox injected. I don’t want to go into details about that in this post, but if you do want more information about this, ask me about it in the comments section, or see my explanation in this video interview.
Botox aside, I saw elements of emotional concealment from Victoria, in a compression of the lips on one photo, which also shows discomfort. I also saw elements of sadness (and possibly shame), in her eye gaze which pointed down towards the floor, and in the shape of her mouth. In the same photo, Victoria’s head hung downwards. In the expression of shame the head tilts slightly downwards, but here, it was more than that, it seemed more like defeat.
When we feel defeated our body caves in on itself–our shoulders curve inwards and our head drops downwards. This is the opposite movement direction to that seen in gravity-behaviours, when parts of our body move upwards and outwards, reflecting our positive and uplifting emotion. For example, when we feel pride, our arms gravitate upwards and outwards, while our head points up towards the sky.
In one photo, Victoria gazed distantly, a possible reflection of her thoughts and psychological distancing from the present–and David. In another, Victoria seemed to attempt a smile, however, it wasn’t a genuine smile of happiness–it was fake, otherwise known as a polite smile. It’s hard for most people to fake a genuine smile of happiness if they don’t genuinely feel happy, only one in ten people can fake it. In this case, it must have been difficult for Victoria to even muster a polite smile, given the negative emotions she was experiencing.
David’s facial expressions were less negative than Victoria’s, on most photos he attempted a smile. Like Victoria’s attempt at a smile, it wasn’t coming from a place of genuine happiness. In one photo his ‘smile’ was asymmetrical–it looked more like a smirk. I suspect this was either a deliberate attempt to conceal an expression, possibly amusement, or an expression of contempt.