Body language expert breaks down famous G7 summit photo

‘Amused Trump, and tired and doubfounded Merkel: Body language expert breaks down THAT famous photo from the G7 summit – and reveals how it shows what the world thinks of the U.S.

  • Patti Smith talked to about the notorious and tense group photo 
  • Says Trump’s crossed arms show he has ‘shut down from any other viewpoint’
  • And Merkel’s defiant stance means she’s likewise ‘not going to change her mind’
  • Trump looks ‘amused’ by situation, while Merkel is ‘fatigued and dumbfounded’

It was the picture seen around the world, one that perfectly captured the simmering tensions of the G7 summit that would come to a head on Saturday.

From Angela Merkel’s defiant stance to Donald Trump’s withering glare, much has been made of the photograph that has come to define this year’s troubled summit. 

But one picture can tell 1,000 words, and body language expert Patti Smith said much can deciphered just from Merkel’s fingers or Trump’s arms. 

Smith spoke to about G7’s most famous photo, revealing that it shows not only how Trump sees the world – but how the world sees America. 

Body language expert Patti Smith has analyzed the most famous photo of the G7 summit for She revealed that Donald Trump’s crossed arms means he has ‘shut down from any other viewpoint’, while Angela Merkel’s stance shows she’s ‘not going to change her mind’

Smith, the author of ‘Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language & Charisma’, revealed that when she first saw the photo, she almost couldn’t believe it was real.

‘It was just so startling and comical at the same time,’ she said. ‘It’s hard to believe that it could happen at that kind of world event.

‘But I think a part of it is, we’re seeing in a captured moment how powerful world leaders respond to Trump’s behavior.’ 

‘We often wonder what people think about Trump, and about us, but here – we’re seeing it. I think that’s why it’s so startling.’ 

Smith pointed out that although Trump is sitting in the photo, which was taken by German government photographer Jesco Denzel, he remains the ‘center of attention’. 

Smith found it noteworthy that Trump has a look of ‘slight amusement’ on his face, while Merke looked both ‘incredibly fatigued and slightly dumbfounded’

‘Most of the time, if you’re seated, you have less power,’ she explained. ‘But since he’s the one commanding the viewpoint, it’s his viewpoint that’s impacting everyone else.’ 

‘He has a king position in that seated position, therefore he holds the power and everyone has to stand – just like everyone has to stand in the presence of a king.’

By crossing his arms and hiding his hands, Smith said Trump is indicating that he has ‘shut down from any other viewpoint’. 

‘He’s hiding any way he feels about the other leaders’ response to his opinion or statement,’ she said.  

By looking at his leg position, Smith also believes that Trump is sitting in the ‘alpha male position’ – wide apart.

‘This is typical of him, but unusual to do in the presence of other world leaders,’ she said. ‘But he’s done that in the past.’ 

‘He actually has this look of a slight amusement on his face,’ she added. ‘If you consider the seriousness of this situation, it’s interesting that he’s amused by this.’ 

Smith believes Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is crossing his arms because he ‘feels the need to protect himself’, while Emmanuel Macron’s arms show he’s ‘in line with Merkel’

Someone who is definitely not amused in this situation is Merkel, who Smith said is leaning in quite dramatically in the photograph. 

‘It’s an assertive position all the way,’ she said. 

‘If you look at her arms they’re locked, so she’s not only aggressive – she feels strongly about this and she’s not going to change her mind.’ 

‘Her fingers are a little bit relaxed,’ Smith added. ‘If they were more tense I’d be a little bit afraid, because it would signal that she wants to be more aggressive.’ 

When it comes Merkel’s face, Smith said the German Chancellor looked both ‘incredibly fatigued and slightly dumbfounded’. 

‘She also looks slightly sad,’ Smith added. ‘She’s got a mix of facial expressions and emotions on her face and all of them make sense in the context.’ 

The photo was taken just hours before it was revealed that Trump would reject the traditional joint statement that follows the summit.

Trump slammed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as ‘dishonest and weak’ on Saturday following what the White House called a ‘great meeting’ between the two leaders on Friday

After leaving the summit, Trump revealed he would reject the traditional joint statement that follows the G7

Trump said in a Twitter tirade on Saturday night that he ‘instructed our US Reps not to endorse the Communique’, just hours after all the members came to a consensus in Quebec and signed the summit’s ‘joint communique’.

The joint communique is a statement of broad goals and principles endorsed by the G7 leaders, and Trump’s refusal means that this will be the first year that the annual summit fails to issue one.

Instead, Canada will likely issue a chair’s summary of the meeting that lists the major topics of discussion.

Trump also slammed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for ‘making false statements’ and accused him of being ‘meek and mild’ in their one-on-one meeting on Friday before Trudeau came out swinging against the US in a press conference on Saturday.

Smith said it is also important to note how Larry Kudlow, Trump’s National Economic Council director, and John Bolton, the US National Security Adviser, appear in the photo.

Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the IMF, talks with Trump after he showed up late to the Gender Equality Advisory Council breakfast during the G7 summit

‘If you look at Kudlow, his eyes are squinted shut,’ Smith points out. ‘That says “I don’t like what I’m seeing”‘. 

‘The whole downward position of the head and the shoulders hunched over show sadness and heaviness.’ 

As for Bolton, Smith said it is noteworthy that he is holding paperwork over his lower torso area. 

‘He’s making a statement, but he’s protecting himself at the same time,’ she said. 

‘There’s a bit of rancor in his eyes, but he’s not saying it unprotected – he’s not saying it with his arms free.’ 

‘He’s saying it, and thinking “Oh god, I’ve got to protect myself”‘.    

Smith also found Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s body language to be interesting. 

‘He’s halfway between Merkel and Trump and he’s also crossing his arms,’ she said. 

In happier times, the leaders of the G7 summit smiled big for photos. (Pictured L-R: The President of the European Council Donald Tusk, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Merkel, Trump, Trudeau, Macron,Abe, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker) 

‘He’s not mirroring the arm cross of Trump exactly, but he’s feeling the need to protect himself as well.’ 

‘And [French President] Emmanuel Macron, he’s got that upper raised eyebrow – and to me that looks a little bit like surprise.’ 

‘But if you look at his hand and arm position, he’s also got the straight locked arms and his knuckles are firmly on the table – he’s also strongly aligned with Merkel.’ 


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Of all the reactions in the photo, it is still Trump’s that Smith believes is the most telling. 

‘We’re seeing how other world leaders are feeling, and we’re seeing that Trump is amused by it,’ she said. 

‘To me, the fact that he’s amused by it – and the rest of the world might be the opposite of amused – that is the biggest takeaway from the photo.’ 

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