Photo: AFP / Sean Gallup
Greetings between heads of state are usually over in a flash, but often reveal clues about the participants and what they’re trying to achieve.When Hollande arrived, Merkel greeted him with a formal handshake – none of those awkward kisses that she and Sarkozy lavished on each other. That, no doubt, is a treat that awaits Hollande next time.
We were told that the two leaders were keen to engage each other at the first opportunity. This was evident from Hollande’s body language, especially the engaging way he tilted his head towards her and grasped her elbow during the handshake. The elbow-grasp looks like an innocent gesture of affection, but its real purpose is to control the other person, physically as well as psychologically. It can be seen as an expression of Hollande’s long-term desire to steer Merkel in his direction – towards growth rather than austerity.
The facial expressions of the two leaders were also telling. Unlike Sarkozy, who could always be relied upon to produce a pantomime of enthusiastic emotions whenever he met Merkel, Hollande was a model of constraint. His smiles were restrained, with hardly any exposure of the teeth, making him look almost English.
Merkel’s demeanour was also cautious and her smiles were equally guarded. The body language of both leaders was thoroughly business-like.
Peter Collett is a body language expert and author of The Book of Tells
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