Whether Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg really is evil or not is frequently debated online. In fact, his humanity is often questioned altogether. Is he an alien? A robot? A lizard creature who needs to wear copious amounts of sunscreen to protect his thin, reptilian skin? Unfortunately, this article has the answer to none of these. However, there do seem to be some simple communications strategies that Zuckerberg doesn’t quite seem to have a good grasp on, and this may be a contributing factor in the whole world reading him as a villain out for universal domination. But is Mark Zuckerberg evil, or is he just a poor communicator?
This video by Charisma on Command discusses a few of the ways that Zuckerberg sends out “evil reptilian” signals to us, without him nor any of us, actually registering that he’s doing it.
According to the video, one of Zuckerberg’s greatest communication failings lies in the fact that he doesn’t show us his palms much when he speaks. By nature, humans find it easier to trust people who show that they have nothing to hide – that involves showing open and empty palms. Zuckerberg tends to hide his palms, making him look a little shifty, whether he actually is hiding something or not.
Compounding this is the fact that Zuckerberg tends to end his smiles just a little too quickly. He goes from smiling to a deadpan expression in the blink of an eye, which naturally leaves anyone watching with the sense that he faked the smile all along.
His rapidly disappearing smiles are only one of the factors that contribute to Zuckerberg’s chronic incongruence. According to the video, congruency is when what you’re saying and how you’re saying it match. As an example, if you (or most other humans) are telling someone you’re happy, you’ll probably be smiling. Zuckerberg, on the other hand delivers statements that should sound passionate, excited, or happy with a face that – you guessed it – is awkwardly deadpan.
When verbal signals and non-verbal signals contradict one another, we subconsciously trust the non-verbal signals more. How someone says something, to our primitive brains, is more important than what it is they’re saying. In fact, our brains are great at recognising micro-expressions that people may not even know they’re making. Zuckerberg, though, rarely changes any part of his facial expressions to indicate what he’s thinking or feeling, and it can leave us feeling uncomfortable on a very primal level.
When we feel uncomfortable in this way, it’s impossible to establish trust. This inability to trust Zuckerberg based on his outward behaviour may be a large part of the reason people online are asking each other “is Mark Zuckerberg Evil?”
Really, he could be a true super villain. But so could any of the other tech billionaires, like Elon Musk and Bill Gates – They’re just better communicators and thus appear more likeable and trustworthy. They’ve all donated considerable amounts to charity, and yet, to paraphrase Balzac, behind every great fortune lies a great crime.
Zuckerberg, it seems, realises that he’s a little robotic, but apparently he’s working on it.
“Look, historically I’ve had a very hard time expressing myself. I just come across as robotic. This is one of the things that in growing up I need to get, I need to get better at in running this company,” he told NBC.
Of course, these communication difficulties Zuckerberg has are not entirely foreign to us. We’re never taught these skills in schools and some are just naturally better at them than others. That doesn’t necessarily make someone evil. Many of us are probably guilty of making exactly the same mistakes, we just don’t all have billion-dollar empires to our names. Clearly it’s easier to be evil, and perceived as such, when you also have a whole lot of money to spend.
Zuckerberg has said and done his share of shady things and he may very well be an alien reptile in a human suit, but if you ask me, the ones we should really worry about being evil are the moguls who hoard wealth while also being excellent communicators. The ones who show off their palms with ready smiles, acting as if they have nothing to hide, while raking in the billions at the expense of millions of people around the world. Those are the villains we probably need to fear.
If you think you share some of Zuckerberg’s communication struggles, and want to learn more, check out this excellent book by Vanessa Van Edwards which goes into more detail about some of the things discussed in the video above.