What are Notre Dame’s quarterbacks saying with their bodies that they aren’t saying with their words?
I posed this question to Patti Wood, a body language expert and professional speaker. Wood, once dubbed “the Babe Ruth of body language experts,” is the author of “Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma.” She’s been asked to speak on non-verbal communication during hundreds of national news and entertainment programs. When she’s not speaking in front of Fortune 500 companies and government agencies, she maintains a blog about body language.
Wood watched three separate interviews, conducted March 18, of redshirt junior Malik Zaire, redshirt sophomore DeShone Kizer and sophomore Brandon Wimbush.
ZAIRE IS FRUSTRATED & UNCOMFORTABLE
Wood said her overall impression of Zaire, based solely off this interview, was: “This is a young man that has been through a lot.”
The body language expert was initially struck by Zaire’s movement of his neck – a quick jerk from side to side, combined with a pull back movement – which she called “such a strong tick.”
“It seems so out of his control that it may be neurological,” she said. “Less pronounced movements in individuals show a lack of centeredness and confidence.”
Wood said to watch for Zaire pressing his lips together tightly or turning his head away from the interviewer, which show a lack of confidence.
“His hesitant speech and low volume level show his discomfort and disquiet,” she added.
It may be no surprise that Wood said Zaire may be obscuring his true feelings when asked about the quarterback competition.
“His eyes are almost closed as he listens to the question,” she said. “That is typically an attempt to block the truth of how you’re feeling from the main interviewer and to give yourself time to think of a better answer than what you might be truly feeling.”
Wood says to watch for additional movements that may demonstrate frustration (sticking out his tongue or filling his mouth with air) and feeling uncomfortable (rubbing his nose several times) and during what moments they come in.
“As he goes on in the interview, notice his chin and how it juts out. He’s trying to give himself more confidence; that chin is jutting out in defiance,” she said. “The only thing he seems truly happy about is his love of Tex-Mex.”
KIZER TENSE, BUT MORE COMFORTABLE THAN ZAIRE
Wood said her impressions of Kizer, based solely off this interview, is that he’s tense, a bit frustrated, but overall more comfortable than Zaire.
“His volume level is also low, but his voice seems even and steady,” she said. “Both of them [Zaire and Kizer] are chin jutting, he [Kizer] does it less so. He also has a slight pursing of the lips and a little tiny bit of that blowing out air and frustration – holding it in – but it’s much less.”
While Wood believes Zaire’s tongue motions were a sometimes a sign of passive aggressiveness toward the questions being asked, she believed Kizer’s tongue betrayed something different.
“He is getting more moisture into his mouth, showing tension,” she said. “Overall, his body language cues are much less anxious and he, overall, is much more comfortable [than Zaire].”
WIMBUSH IS OK WITH REDSHIRTING
Wood was impressed with the way Wimbush handled himself, at least initially.
“Brandon starts his interview so much differently than the other two players,” she said. “Notice his smile. Notice how his head is more forward. He gives, in just that first moment or two, such a profoundly different first impression – much more ease as to what’s going on.”
Wood said Wimbush holds his mouth open and moves his jaw to the side, which indicates he’s unsure about the answer he’s going to give to the question being asked.
“His gaze goes unfocused and glazed over like he is saying in his mind, ‘Get me out of here,'” she said. Wimbush also bites his lip, which betrays his nervousness.
Wood was also struck by a portion of Wimbush’s answer regarding Coach Brian Kelly’s initial decision to redshirt him.
“He has this interesting statement where he says, ‘I can control only what I can control.’ And then notice how he laps with his tongue out,” she said. “To me, that’s states nonverbally that he’d like to control more.”
Wood’s final impression of Wimbush is that he is “sincere” in his answer about redshirting this year.
“There’s a great truth,” she said. “He does feel it wouldn’t be so bad and you can hear a respect in his voice for his teammates.”