Body Language Analysis of the First Presidential Debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump by Patti Wood

I'm fascinated by Trump's use of anger. He yelled through the first 20 minutes of the debate. Anger has the strongest pulling effect.  It pulls audiences strongly and it's highly persuasive. Being the angriest in the debate can make you look the most powerful. Check my blog for my articles on anger. For example, research shows that employees who are evaluated to be angrier actually get more promotions and higher salary.  Anger makes you look like the alpha dog.

There is a gender difference in how anger is perceived. Yes, anger can make a woman look more powerful but there is a cost.  For example, research shows that angry women are seen as less attractive. Hillary Clinton kept her anger in check. Typically her baseline voice is high and can seem strident. It was not strident or high tonight. Also look at my research on my blog about women's voices. Men hear women’s voices (higher range) in the loosely defined as the auditory brain or emotional brain.  Research shows that they therefore perceive women's voices as being more emotional. Also research says that voices are not seen as authoritative. 

Trump has something that's called, in body language research, a broad emotional range. He typically gets very happy and smiles a lot and then he goes all the way to extreme anger. This emotional range actually creates likability in candidates. Hillary does not have emotional range and that works against her.  It's one of the reasons she is seen by some as unlikable.

I do research on the DISC personality inventory and body language and  Hillary is a high C corrector with D. Trump is a high D driver with I influencer. That is how less emotional, nonverbal delivery can be perceived as cold and or rational. I think Hillary did a very good job, having said that, in controlling her emotions. Trump was yelling and interrupting her turn in a way that made him powerful but she continued on. Even if people don't like her you have to be impressed by that.  

I thought their head placement in the debates was really interesting. Her baseline tendency is to bring up her chin and look superior or hold contempt.  She didn't do that tonight.  Her head was evenly placed, she didn't look down, she didn't hold her chin up and it was evenly placed. She looked balanced and in control. Also typically Trump brings his chin up.  He did that occasionally tonight but what I found interesting was his listening face when she was talking. Baseline in debates he smirks, he smiles and he seems to enjoy listening to the other person. Waiting or not waiting for his turn to pounce. Tonight he had closed mouth down at the corners, look of displeasure and sometimes the sour post mouth but he had a head tilt and he kept his eyes on her. He was not showing his typical face playful "I am having fun" glee. He wasn't having fun he was fighting. 

Also interesting, the split screen I was watching on didn't show the broad gestures of either candidate. Trump typically has broad, high gestures and lots of weapon like gestures (pointing, jabbing, stabbing, and slicing.)  You only saw the first edges of those so in that way he didn't look as powerful as he typically does in debate. Both candidate’s gestures were synchronous. You can look at my blog about (feel show say) indicating honesty.   Smooth gestures that come at the same time words do indicates a person is being honest. Again both of the candidates tonight had synchronous gestures. 

Something more subtle that I found interesting is though he said that Hillary did not have stamina, she showed even emotion and continuous solid ground and energy throughout the debate.  Trump started out powerful yelling and gesturing but about 45 minutes in you saw him gesturing less and grimacing more and placing his weight on his arms on the podium as if to support himself. If you look subtly at the musculature of his face it pulled down towards the end of the debates showing fatigue. I've seen Hillary look that way but she did not look at all fatigued tonight. Typically voters choose the candidate that is the most charismatic. Charisma is determined by high likability, attractiveness and power. It's interesting when you compare this with what we assessed and in a first impression typically we look for credibility, likability, attractiveness and power. Research shows when somebody is highly charismatic it overrides our ability to tell whether or not they are credible. We are easily persuaded by somebody that is charismatic. 

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at