The Silent Signals Of Michael Jackson
By Craig James Baxter
Author of ‘ Behind The Mask: What Michael Jackson’s Body Language Told The World ‘
Michael Jackson was considered by many to be the greatest performer the world has ever seen; his music and performances made him one of the most famous and iconic individuals to ever grace the stage. However, great success often comes with great anguish. When people think back to Michael Jackson, most will remember his music and legendary dance routines, but his well-documented private life and the sordid and often damning allegations against him casted a dark shadow, which I addressed in great detail in my book. However, as I now reflect on my research, it’s evident there were many other examples of Michael’s habitual non-verbal behaviour that I didn’t cover. So within this article, I will showcase more of Michael’s frequently seen behaviours, specifically around his greeting displays and discuss their significance.
So what are the advantages of observing the non-verbal behaviour in other people? Well, body language is such an integral part of our daily lives, but more often than not we are completely oblivious to the silent messages that we are both sending out and receiving from others. Right now for instance, as you read this article, you will have adopted a stance or posture which is comfortable depending on the circumstances of your location – for example, you may be displaying a closed posture if you are uncomfortable with the proximity of a person near you, especially given the current social distancing circumstances. Eminent body language expert and zoologist Desmond Morris states that ‘…we all carry with us, everywhere we go, a portable territory called a personal space. If people move inside this space, we feel threatened’ (Morris, 2002: 192). This stance or posture which you have arrived at will have probably been moulded for years, and you will almost certainly have no inclination as to where it originated from, or why you decided on such an action. Granted that this is just a trivial example of how we get into repeated behavioural patterns, but these actions make our daily routines detectable, and we can also apply the same logic to other aspects of everyday behavioural actions.
In relation to these repeated behaviours, one of Michael’s habitual actions was to lower himself down when greeting sick or disadvantaged children. This was especially observable during his many visits to hospitals and orphanages. Upon first glance, many might feel this is a purely innocuous action; however this form of body lowering helps to engage with young children, specifically when you’re interacting with them at their eye level. When this body lowering happens & within this context, it removes a child’s need to physically ‘look up’ to you (which is a position often seen when a child is being reprimanded for bad behaviour) and thus helps to make them feel both comfortable and important. What makes this behavioural signal even more revealing is the frequency in which Michael would perform this. As Michael was a tireless activist for many children’s charities, his empathy and sincerity became second nature. As a result, the body lowering greeting you see here would have been a product of his subconscious mind, performed without conscious thought or prompt. Looking at the silent message this sends to the receiver, it’s clear Michael is showing a deep and honest sincerity and as such, this actions helps to transmit the message of ‘ there’s no hierarchy here, we’re equals. ‘
Following on from Michael’s habitual body lowering, another frequently seen greeting action was the comforting head cradle. During the research for ‘Behind The Mask’ I noted how often which Michael would employ this, especially when greeting an emotional fan needing additional comfort whilst in his arms. This action is a powerful comforting gesture and is often utilised by loving parents whenever their children are upset. This again further demonstrates the compassion Michael had towards his fans, not only recognising their need for comfort in a way their parents would have done so, but also able to utilise such a powerful gesture which allows a fan to express their emotion behind safe hands. As seen with the body lowering greeting, I have no doubt this behaviour would have also been a product of Michael’s subconscious mind, performed without conscious thought and delivered at the precise moment a fan became overwhelmed. Looking at the silent message here, this action transmits a very clear message of ‘you’re safe here with me‘.
As seen with these greeting displays, one of Michael’s abilities was to make those he met feel special and important to him. As I’ve mentioned, I have no doubt that these greeting actions formed part of Michael’s habitual behaviours, moulded not only by the volume of people he greeted, but also via the distinctive sincerity he showed within in his greetings.
Moving away from greeting displays, not only is it vastly important to showcase Michael’s non-verbals in this format, but it’s also imperative to educate the next generation about Michael. I was incredibly humbled and elated to learn that Professor Corby Phillips (Twitter @CorbyPhillips) utilises my research in to Michael’s body language during his lectures on non-verbal communication at Miami Dade College. Not only will this help promote & preserve the legacy of Michael, but it’ll also encourage students to pursue the truth about him. With an abundance of salacious rumours & miss-information regarding Michael’s private life still being circulated by mass media, there has never been a more important time to document and promote the non-verbals Michael showed and to showcase his enduring and tireless humanitarian work.
As I’ve documented within this article, these greeting behaviours are tremendously significant. Not only do they reveal as side to Michael that you may never have considered, but they also show how natural these were for him. There’s no hint of them being forced or duplicitous, he simply wanted to show how much he appreciated his fans. Michael’s compassion, both in his sense of non-verbal behaviour & his tireless charity work are so readily observable and provides yet further evidence of his incredibly selfless behaviour towards other people.
I will close the article with words from Michael himself;
“ To give someone a piece of your heart, is worth more than all the wealth in the world. ”