Dubai: A picture may say a thousand words, but a recent picture of US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign minister Mohanmmad Javad Zarif, says just two: “Let’s talk.”
To an ordinary viewer, the atmosphere in the talks looks positive, comfortable and friendly, especially considering it is not every day that Iranian and American officials have what appear to be friendly meetings.
But, according to Pamela Eyring, President of The Protocol School of Washington and an expert in body language, the picture shows that “there are a few things going on”.
Although it is a side angle picture and it is difficult to see the micro-facial expressions of the two officials, Eyring said in an interview with Gulf News that “both are mirroring each other’s body language” by crossing their legs, maintaining the feeling that they are equal. In negotiations, it is the norm that people imitate each other to some extent, she said.
“To me, looking at the picture, they have just started the conversation, [and] at the beginning of diplomacy and conversation, you make small talk… The heavy talk has not come yet. They are trying to make each other feel comfortable by trying to build trust,” she added.
Kerry's stance stronger?
However, both Kerry and Zarif would have shown more power “if they had have their feet on the ground, and their legs were not crossed. They were still a little bit uncomfortable with each other by crossing their legs instead of having both feet on the ground,” she added.
Yet, Kerry’s posture is stronger that his Iranian counterpart. Kerry’s head is straight, along with his posture unlike Zarif’s tilted head.
“When we have two individuals, [and] a person is tilting the head, it shows submissiveness,” Eyring said.
But the main message is in their hands — literally.
“When you open your hands with your palm up, you are giving permission to have a discussion, [Kerry is telling Zarif] share with me, talk to me, let us talk…That is a positive sign in relations and diplomacy,” Eyring said.
Zarif’s hands touching his fingertips seems to send the message “consider us”, she added.
The way European Union representative Catherine Ashton sat shows that she was not feeling comfortable, although her feet were on the ground and she had a big smile on her face. Her legs and hands were close to each other and to her body. But, sitting in the middle shows that she wanted to see “where the conversation would go”.
Iran and Western powers have been locked in talks over Iran’s controversial nuclear programme.
Tehran has been insisting on its right to have the programme, which it repeatedly says is for civilian purposes. However, Western powers, fearing Iran will develop nuclear weapons, are trying to encourage Iran to limit its programme for some benefits, including the lifting of economic sanctions hitting the oil-rich country.