Uday Kotak held a press conference on the 29th March 2017, and there was a lot of excitement in the market on whether this was going to be the revelation of the much speculated Axis Bank merger with Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. Uday Kotak needs to dilute his stake in the latter, given RBI mandate. So what did his body language reveal during the press conference? Read on to know..
This is the very first stress signal we see in Uday, seconds into the meeting, when he is barely seated and someone asks him about the merger anticipation. Tie adjusting behaviour is a refined behaviour of reaching out to the supra sternal notch, commonly referred to as the neck dimple. This is done when a person feels anxiety or stress. The fleeting few milliseconds of this behaviour tells us Uday was stressed. Whether it was because of this particular question, or the fact that he was going to reveal something important, we cannot really know this soon.
Once more the question arises, and here we see him defending his territory by spreading out his hands slightly on his sides. We adapt a larger than usual size when our limbic brain senses the need to fight back to a threatening situation. Lata questions Uday’s bank’s rationale for growth, and Uday is seen giving a minor fight back by spreading his arms out. Notice that the smile on the face has downturned lips rather than pointing up. This is a social smile, given so as not to appear impolite.
Facial blushing is noticed here as Uday broaches the merger topic himself, head on. He is noticed to be blushing at other times as well, during the interview, when a question makes him feel emotionally charged. We blush for various reasons under different circumstances. Blood rushes to the face when we blush, since the autonomic nervous system kicks into action after a moment of stress is experienced. Lovers blush, someone caught pulling wool over others’ eyes blushes, one embarrassed with a social faux pas blushes, and so on. In this particular instance, it could either be because Uday was feeling slightly embarrassed with the question, or was feeling happy to be keeping everyone guessing. Also, the fact that he is himself bringing up the topic at times during the interview tells us that he knows he has the media hanging onto his very word, and the broaching of the topic itself does not stress him, although whether he is going to be answering the question or not is a different story.
While Uday might be seen here adjusting his specs, and this might seem like a normal thing to do, it is significant if the individual is not seen doing the same action frequently. During the press conference we see him performing his particular action only 2-3 times and when the question of merger comes up, yet again, this is what we see. Why is this significant? Notice that when the hand comes over to touch the specs, it is effectively blocking the torso of the individual. When we feel social anxiety or psychological stress, our limbic brain tries to find a way to respond to this. Torso shield, or blocking the frontal part of the body with the hand, is one such action. It helps one to calm down. At the very moment when he is adjusting his specs, Uday has also closed his eyes. Eyes closing behaviour is noticed when we want to block out something unpleasant or stress inducing, or when we are processing information. Uday is definitely feeling stressed with the question.
This is a very fleeting expression, or micro expression as we commonly call those facial expressions which last on the face less than an eighth of a second. Right after Uday is adjusting his specs above, we see him give a micro expression of a smile, probably a contempt smile, since it is one sided, to the media. Notice also that the head bent downwards in the previous picture is now showing a head straight pose. The specs adjusting behaviour has prepared him to face the question. The smile we see now could be because he knows the truth about the merger speculation, and is keeping the media holding its breath for so long into the press con.
We see a single sided shoulder shrug accompanied by a neck jut in this particular instance. Here Uday is proclaiming that he will be addressing all questions related to inorganic growth soon, once he answers queries about 811 strategy, which he revealed in the press con. The neck jut was a modified behaviour to relieve the stress felt in the neck due to the question. And the single sided shoulder shrug generally signifies that the person is not really committed to what he is saying. Meaning? Uday had no intention to reveal anything about inorganic growth in this particular meeting.
The press con was followed by an exclusive interview by CNBCTV18’s Lata Venkatesh.
When Uday answers to Lata’s question on whether he is interested in Axis by saying that various parties have thrown at him various speculations, he shows signs of what we call limbic hijack. He is sworn to secrecy. And his brain is struggling hard so that he does not reveal anything more than is appropriate. At such times, our three tiered brain momentarily gives up its cognitive functioning and we tend to fumble. Why is there a limbic hijack at this point would be a very interesting point of discussion.
One of the ways to decipher that a person is not cent percent committed to what he is saying, and is being watchful, is when the pace of his voice changes. Right after the previous picture behaviour, Uday is saying how various names have been referred to him by different players as to the target of merger. He is definitely weighing his words.
The key takeaway from the body language behaviours observed? Uday is mildly stressed with the questions on the possible merger and being very very watchful. The very fact that he is making great efforts to keep the issue at bay could be significant. Something definitely is brewing, but whether it is Axis cannot really be confirmed from the above observations. To get to the exact thoughts of a person takes hours of observation and as I have highlighted time and again, detecting leakages and stress is possible, but whether someone is definitely hiding something cannot be concluded just by observing his body language. Observations need to be backed by facts, which we do not have at present.