Body language advice helps Putin in Syrian crisis

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin has used the lessons he learned from a world-renowned Sunshine Coast body language expert in his successful bid to avert military strikes against Syria.

But Allan Pease says the ex-KGB hard man can do more to improve his image in the West - and he is the person to school him again.

As the then deputy mayor of St Petersburg, Putin was among a crowd of about 300 top Russian politicians whom Pease addressed in 1991 when the Iron Curtain fell.

It was a brief meeting that proved a seminal moment in Putin's life, as it made him a more effective communicator - especially with a Western audience.

Pease described Putin as a "sponge" in embracing his ideas.

"Everything I talked about that day, you still see him do it," said the author of the 1981 best-selling book Body Language.

While Pease said Putin had a limited body language repertoire, he was "bloody good at it". "It's part of who he is," he said.

"The thing about body language (is that) once you've done it for a month or so, it changes something. It becomes part of who you are."

Putin's repertoire includes tipping the head to the side when asking questions so people think you are listening ("he exaggerates it"); making a "steeple" with the hands by placing the fingers together ("it promotes confidence"); and nodding ("he always stops at three, because more than three tells the other person you've heard enough").

Pease was in Moscow last week giving a talk to more than 3000 lawyers and saw Putin on TV numerous times due to the Syria crisis.

"There he is. He's steepling, he's nodding his head, he's got it to the side," Pease said. "He's got a very smart strategy of sidestepping (US President Barack) Obama and trying to talk directly to the American people and appeal to them.

"(But) his appeal was done as he would appeal to a Russian, but the Russians like the unhappy face because they all look like that."

To soften his image further when addressing Americans and the broader West, Pease said Putin should occasionally speak with his palms up to convey "an appealing, submissive position".

He should also smile more.

"He still comes across as a pretty daunting sort of character," Pease said.

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