I stumbled across an interesting interview with a Fox News Anchor and author, Reza Aslan. In this interview, which gets quite heated, Reza Aslan takes offense to the anchor’s questions and begins to list his accomplishments and accolades. This video is the perfect example of condescending body language in action! 

I think this video is interesting because it shows what we do nonverbally when we feel attacked and go into defensive mode. Aslan shows the classic signs of “I’m better than you” body language or body language that demonstrates superiority.

I am not writing this post to pick on Aslan, I write it so we can see how “superiority” body language works so when you see it, you know exactly what is happening. I also think this is important for our lie detection students. Liars often feel morally superior. In fact they build up their feelings of superiority to cover up their own feelings of guilt. So you often see liars with this kind of indignant, better than nonverbal behavior.

Watch the video and see if you see some of these moves.

Condescending Body Language Cues:

1. Chin Up Forehead Back

In my body language course we talk about people who put their chin in the air and look down their nose typically are feeling superior. It is literally looking down your nose at someone. When they first pan to Aslan, you will notice he is in this position before he tilts down and begins his answer. Already, we know his mindset.

2. FOUR Degrees

The volume emphasis is a nonverbal cue to superiority. We increase our volume on one word to call attention to the word and to imply that the listener is “slow” or needs help understanding. Aslan says, “To be clear I am a scholar of religions with FOUR degrees including one in the new testament.” This is a nonverbal way of saying, four more than you. Or, did you hear me? Four is a lot, if you didn’t know.

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3. Third Person

He then begins talking about himself in third person. Another sign of superiority. He refers to himself as “Who” as in”Who has been studying for two decades…”

4. Slowed Words

She continues to press her point, annoying him even further. And he answers and slows down his words for her, “I. am. a. professor. of. religion.” And then, “Thats. what. I. do. for. a. living. actually.” He does this to nonverbally make the anchor feel inferior. It is the way a adults speak to children.

5. Chin Thrusts

In addition to the fact that he keeps popping his forehead up, looking down his nose at the camera, he also pops his chin up in an anger thrust. We have learned that this is part of the anger body language. This shows his anger and when combined with him looking down his nose makes the deadly mix of condescending and angry feelings.

6. MY

When he does mention his book, he often emphasis his first person pronouns. He says MY book, MY opinions, I made the conclusion. Again this volume change hints at the subtle thoughts behind the words–his opinion is superior.

About Vanessa Van Edwards

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and behavioral investigator.

I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.

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