Body Language Analysis of Lance Armstrong

As most of you know, Lance Armstrong is all over the news these days, admitting that he doped during the Tour de France bike races.  It is refreshing to hear him admit his guilt, since we are used to him adamantly denying any doping or wrongdoing, and suing those who dare to say otherwise. In an effort to retain a glimmer of positive public relations, he allowed Oprah to interview him, and a lot of us watched that interview on TV last night.

I was contacted by a reporter from Global Toronto News and asked to give some body language analysis (see Body Language workshop) of Lance Armstrong’s confession, so they could add that to a piece they are airing tonight.

I thought it would be interesting to some of you as well, so here are my notes on the subject:

The positives:

I think Lance either has an image coach or has read a book on the subject, because he showed up looking smart (business casual) and had the ever-important open shirt going.  If you want to seem open, it’s a good thing to do.  Along the same line of thought he tended to keep his hands and arms relatively open too, but strangely had his legs crossed.  On one hand this is good because it shows a casual comfort, but on the other hand it creates a physical and emotional barrier to Oprah and to the viewers.  Going forward I would advise my readers to be consistent and keep your legs and arms uncrossed for maximum credibility, skirt-wearers excluded.

Lance made lots of eye contact, and that is also a positive.  We like to look people in the eye when we are gauging the truth, and Lance looked Oprah in the eye when he admitted doping.  That’s good.

The negatives:

Lance gave what I deem a ‘mental’ apology, but not an ‘emotional’ one.  There was no energy, no pleading, no remorse shown.  I was reminded of the Tiger Woods apology video: wooden, stoic and lacking heart.

Lance’s posture was upright and defiant, and his occasional smirks looked like he was not taking it seriously, or looking like the cat that just ate the canary.  He often smiled out of the one side of his face, a gesture noted by face-readers to indicate contempt.  Was he feeling that for himself or for getting caught? 

He often put his hands to his lips while talking, which indicated that he was either unsure of or in disagreement with what he was saying.  Note to others:  keep your hands away from your face, especially your mouth, when you want others to believe what you are saying. 

Finally, Lance often displayed a tightening of the lips that forced the corners of the mouth to draw back and the lower lip to bubble up.  This gesture is often associated with feeling ashamed or guilty.  I suppose that’s a positive for him, but I’m just not sure if he’s sad he doped, or sad he got caught.  I guess time will tell.