PHOTO: Body Language Expert Says Romney-Obama Lunch Meeting "Awkward"

The former Republican nominee shares an uncomfortable handshake with the president in an official White House photo.

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President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talk in the Oval Office following their lunch, Nov. 29, 2012.
President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talk in the Oval Office following their lunch, Nov. 29, 2012.

The White House is saying little about what happened at the closed lunch between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney Thursday, but an official photo released gives a few clues.

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Body language expert Erik Bucy, a professor at Texas Tech University's college of media and communication, says Obama looks "relaxed" shaking Romney's hand, while the former Republican nominee appears "somewhat stiffened."

"[Romney] is engaging the president with a forced smile but awkward posture," Bucy says. "The nonverbal takeaway from this is that the president, as the incumbent occupant of the White House, appears comfortable and relaxed, and Romney, as the visiting election loser, does not."

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Bucy also notes that the president appears to be "more animated and engaged," though of course it was the White House photo department that chose the photo.  

And Jeff Thompson, a nonverbal communication researcher at Griffith University, says Obama may have felt uncomfortable with the handshake too. The hand in the pocket, he says, is an indicator of discomfort.

A short statement from the White House says the two "pledged to stay in touch."

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or reach her at eflock@usnews.com.