Posted on

Merkel and May: Showing the pressure – the Human Dimension

Merkel and May 1



Perhaps understandably we tend to see politicians as different from us. They frequently speak in jargon, frustrate by their unwillingness to answer questions, and can be ‘economical with the truth’! They can appear to form clubs for self-congratulation. Even in smaller communities many politicians will be at pains to set themselves apart.

Yet, despite all of that they are human. It is my own view that in their quest for power and in separating themselves they pay a heavy price. Reducing or hiding the human dimension, whatever the reason comes at a cost. Even a brief look at the faces of Theresa May and Angela Merkel shows clear signs of the physical, mental and emotional strains they experience. How clearly they recognise or acknowledge those strains only they can answer.

Both show a surfeit of lines and dark circles under the eyes. Some may view these as a natural part of the ageing process. My own observation is that although they may have become normal in today’s world they are neither inevitable nor natural. Such deep lines combined with darkness reflect deep fatigue throughout our being. When they are present it becomes harder and harder to maintain anything like optimal performance levels. We then need to dig ever deeper into our energy reserves – which we are not replenishing – and use willpower to push us onwards. As research shows that willpower is in limited supply we are dealing with the law of ever diminishing returns!

These lines also tend to reflect deep sadness. In Merkel’s case we can also see clear lines from the corners of the mouth to the chin. These indicate a series of disappointments which have impacted deeply on her. Her prominent and well-developed chin reveals her stubborn and determined nature, meaning she is likely to push on regardless. Her hairline – seldom fully visible – shows a powerful work ethic and helps ensure that she always intends to finish what she starts. Unlike Theresa May her eyes display warmth. For all the ruthlessness she demonstrated in earlier years she cares deeply. The key question is how long her batteries can sustain!

One particularly noticeable difference between Merkel and May is in their respective face shapes. Merkel’s face is more rounded and fuller. This is associated with both an inner resilience – ‘bouncebackability’ after setbacks – and a capacity to disarm opposition by not being perceived as a threat. May, on the other hand has a narrower face.  We associate her face shape more with a focus on detail rather than people. As her face narrows somewhat from the upper cheekbones down we can deduce that her energy levels will not be constant. Peak performance for her is not sustainable. Regular timeouts will be required to recharge, and these may not be available given the nature of her job. Learning to take power naps would be highly advisable.

As mentioned, Theresa May’s eyes lack warmth – and not just in the above photo! Hers reflect a colder and more calculating nature – note that she was a ‘Remainer’ on the Brexit question – whose ambition will win her few true friends. The lack of upper eyelid fold is further confirmation that people skills don’t come naturally to her. The corners of her mouth are invariably turned down, reflecting a quality of pessimism. When she smiles her gums are visible. We may take from that that she will expect acts of generosity on her part to be clearly acknowledged. If this doesn’t happen she will certainly remember those who failed to show appreciation. Her nose is also thinner than Merkel’s, meaning she will be much more sensitive to criticism – hardly advisable for a prominent politician!

The purpose of this article is not ultimately to focus on politicians or even particular individuals. They merely serve as reminders that every choice costs, and the reminders of those costs leave visible traces. The lines etc referred to are examples of what is reflected and where. The deeper the lines the deeper the impact of the experiences. There is a tradition in Japan of referring to such lines as ‘character building experiences’. Our own internal processing and the actions resulting show how well we have interpreted and integrated the lessons.

If you liked this article please share it.

Joseph McGuire is the owner of Clearsight Communications who provide personal evaluation services and training in the areas of senior level recruitment/promotion, negotiations, sales and HR. Individual consultation sessions are available both in person and via Skype. He is also in demand for group presentations, private functions and conferences. For further information email: