A body language mistake – Lesson from Tony Abbott

 In Body language, What not to do

Last week Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott said he had made a mistake in winking during an Australian Broadcasting Corporation, radio talk-back interview. That he shouldn’t have winked.

In effect, Abbott’s defence was that the wink was a trivial error. An alternative view is that the wink was a window into an aspect of Abbott’s character.

Regarding trivial errors and being caught off guard, C.S. Lewis on page 166 of his book Mere Christianity wrote the following:

“ …surely what a man does when he is taken off guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly.

But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am.”

My reading of Abbott’s wink which I shared with Angela Catterns of Radio 2UE is as follows:

Overall, it’s another example of Abbott’s lack of awareness of the power of perception of a person who is in the position of leader of state. It was ignoble and unstatesmanlike. It was of inclusion (with the radio host) and exclusion of the caller and her ilk.

Abbott in effect was signalling to the host, ‘It’s alright mate . . .she’s a bit of a sort – a different class than you and me – I’ll handle the situation’. It conveyed disdain, lack of empathy and latent moral superiority.

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