THE GLOVES ARE OFF: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listens to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis.
THE GLOVES ARE OFF: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listens to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis. Patrick Semansky

Candidates' body language reveals the truth of election race

HUMANS evolved with a fear of attack from the rear and we developed skin that is four times thicker on the back than on the belly to help in survival from the rear.

Standing close behind an adversary is threatening and intimidating for them but, because of the television angles used, it made Trump look like an aggressive bully and that he was stalking her like prey.

As body language researchers and authors, it's been interesting to watch the performances of Trump and Clinton.

In fact, what we were actually watching was, in fact, a performance with intention by the candidates to make an emotional impact on their watching audience.

And because body language accounts for 60-80% of how we feel about each of the candidates (it reveals how someone feels and impacts on how we receive their messages), it is the most telling part of Trump/Clinton encounters.

That's why few viewers have any idea about the policies of each candidate but we are all clear on the attitudes the candidates hold toward each other and to others.

The candidates have been distinctly different in their body language displays, largely due to their individual past experiences.

Most high-profile politicians employ body language consultants (like us) to give themselves the best chance of coming across convincingly.

Hilary Clinton, however, is a veteran of debating and of being persuasive compared with the less-experienced Trump, who uses a limited range of repetitive, blunt, in-your-face gestures to make his points.

 

Clinton #2: Staying calm.
Clinton #2: Staying calm. PETER FOLEY

This is why Trump is more interesting to watch than Clinton, because he telegraphs to us what he thinks and feels before he says it.

In their debates, Trump has come across as an arrogant bully to Clinton, while she has beautifully played the role of a woman being attacked by a tough guy.

Clinton is so experienced and polished at public appearance that it's hard to know what she really thinks or feels, versus which part is "showbiz".

 

Clinton #1: Getting angry.
Clinton #1: Getting angry. Patrick Semansky

Overall, Clinton was calmer at the lectern during the debates and used her hands expressively when she spoke.

She made good eye contact with both the live and viewing audience and the moderator and was much more forceful than Trump, both in the tone of her voice and her vocal emphasis.

She was more physically reserved in the first two debates but picked up her perceived authority in the last debate where she was quicker to respond, her tone was sharper and she gestured at Trump more than in the previous debates, which conveyed a sense of power.

She talked over Trump at times and continued to talk when the moderator was trying to rein her in, but even this gave her more power than the previous debates where she was seen as too self-contained.

When she used more rehearsed answers, her eyes dropped down and she lost her connection with the audience and the cameras.

She held much more eye contact with the audience than Trump who looked more at the moderators than the audience, making them feel that he was disconnected and that they were remotely watching an argument.

Clinton uses a range of facial expressions including hurt, amazement, disgust, astonishment and disbelief to fend off Trump's attacks.

When Trump attacked her over allegations about her husband Bill Clinton, she used a glazed stare with no emotion.

Clinton displays two of her well-rehearsed expressions: critical judgment to counter her opponent and the glazed stare when listening to her husband's accuser.

Donald Trump has a main repertoire of five gestures to hammer home his points.

* The tight-lipped smile: This expression is used by people who are holding back what they really want to say. He uses it to tell us he thinks Clinton is talking rubbish.

 

Trump #2: The tight-lipped smile.
Trump #2: The tight-lipped smile. Patrick Semansky

* The precision air pinch: This is Trump's most over-used gesture but it's not the "okay" gesture. He uses it to show us the precision with which he will accomplish whatever he's talking about.

 

Trump: The precision air pinch. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third presidential debate with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Trump: The precision air pinch. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third presidential debate with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman) David Goldman

* The double palms: There are more connections between the palms and the brain than any other body part and other primates also use this gesture. It shows that no weapons are being held or concealed and is why we unconsciously associate it with openness and honesty. In Trump's contexts, he uses it against Clinton to state: "This must stop! This will end! The wall will be built! - and I'm being honest about it!"

 

Trump #3: The double palms.
Trump #3: The double palms. David Goldman

* The double chop: Another of Trump's repetitive gestures to show he will cut, chop, finish or stop the point he's making.

* The finger knife: This accusatory gesture is one of the most aggressive human signals and is so powerful, it is socially outlawed in places such as The Philippines and Malaysia. When a person does it toward you, you will recall less of what they said and will remember them in more negative terms.

Trump's lack of body language experience was evident whenever he leaned forward to make comments into his microphone as Clinton spoke. This had the effect of making him look smaller and less commanding.

The golden rule is to always have your microphone positioned so that you can stand tall at all times.

There was a past occasion where we taught a prime minister to use a shorter lectern so that he would look taller on TV than his competitor.

Trump clearly lacks the "showbiz" management for live performances that most world leaders now have, including Hilary Clinton.

Although Trump's body language is limited and intimidating and repetitive, it is also powerful and compelling. His lack of coaching in personal presentation means that he is continually revealing what he really thinks and believes.

Many people have difficulty with this because they don't like reality being constantly shoved in their faces.

Clinton, on the other hand, is a much more convincing, well-seasoned performer who is excellent at telling voters what they like to hear.

We're glad we are not American voters this week.

* Allan and Barbara Pease's new book The Answer will be published on November 10.



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