Presidential Debates

As a body language expert for the last 25 years I was asked by Fox and Friends to analyze the republican candidates last night during the debates. I discussed their nonverbal cues live as a guest on Fox and Friends this morning at 7:15.

There was so much more to say, but specifically I wanted to say that viewers should be aware that “Charisma” factors and other nonverbal elements sometimes override our ability to really hear a candidate’s verbal message.

We tend to look for cues of Credibility, Likeability, Attractiveness and Level of Dominance (Power). I misspoke this morning and said Romney was high on Attractiveness and Credibility, rather than Attractiveness and Likeability. Most critics said that Romney won the debates last night. Well he was the tallest candidate, giving him nonverbal power. (The taller of the last two candidates in the presidential race typically wins.) And he was by far the most attractive candidate. Even his deep resonant voice is pleasing. And he smiles a lot and last night successfully used his smile to not look irritated when Chris Mathews gave him a hard time. Yet he has a habitual nonverbal cue that makes him look like a liar or a least a waffeler on the issues. When I taught interviews and interrogation techniques to law enforcement officers one the key signs that someone is lying is making an affirmative statement while shaking your head no. Again this is a reliable cue of deceit. When the verbal and the nonverbal message disagree we read the nonverbal cue as the honest cue as it is under less conscious control and not as easily manipulated.

Romney does it all the time. I have watched hours and hours of his speeches before last night and couldn’t believe it. Last night Romney said, “The American People are the greatest people in the world.” while he shook his head no. Then followed he followed this statement with something like, “The hearts of the American people are the greatest…”, while shaking his head no. And then said, “American is the greatest nation on earth.” while shaking his head no. Typically, someone who does this habitually lies or often waffles on his statements. It will be interesting to see this and other candidate’s nonverbal cues as they continue to speak.