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Body Language Told Me Everything I Needed to Know About the GOP Debate

From Joe Novarro, writing for Politico

I learned that humans are fairly good at lying — but they’re lousy at concealing their true emotions, especially when stressed. We reveal our unspoken thoughts in our bodies: faces flushed with embarrassment, lips pursed at unwelcome questions, fingers covering the neck dimple when discussing a touchy subject. I once interviewed a spy whose cigarette hand shook every time I mentioned the name of a co-conspirator.

Body language is the primary means by which we communicate, revealing our true thoughts and feelings. It tells stories that canned speeches do not.

And what a story it told at last night’s GOP primary debate.

As the eight Republican candidates — Trump, the frontrunner, was conspicuously absent — traded rhetorical blows, I watched with the sound off to focus solely on their body language: the handshakes, the gestures, the revealing facial expressions. Then I turned the sound on to assess how their tone of voice and words matched or conflicted with their nonverbal language. Through body language alone, the candidates revealed their passion, their resolve, their hopes and fears — and they might just have won some precious undecided voters to their side.

Here’s what I noticed at this debate:

Ron DeSantis looked angry

As Trump’s closest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke first. He was a little nervous, as to be expected from the opening candidate: His lips quivered. He also looked almost angry. His voice was forceful and lacked modulation, which made it hard for viewers to distinguish his most important points. And throughout most of the event, he failed to smile. That may not seem like much, but part of leading is showing all sides of your personality.

DeSantis has been criticized — even by his own party! — for being socially inept. But I did not see that. I saw a very serious candidate who is concerned about the issues; it’s clear from the tension in his face. His glabella (the space between your eyebrows) furrowed, which along with his emphatic hand gestures expressed his concern. DeSantis’ body language may not have communicated likeability, an important factor for undecided voters looking for a candidate they can trust, but he did show viewers that he considers the issues raised in the debate to be of the utmost importance.

Vivek Ramaswamy had a ball

Former biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy consistently looked the most comfortable on stage, almost as if he was having fun. He smiled frequently and seemed to enjoy the audience’s chorus of cheers and boos.

His gestures were the broadest and the most emphatic of the pack. When you make broad gestures, you lend more power to your words than someone gesturing lightly or not at all. Ramaswamy also made repeated use of what’s called a precision grip — with his index finger and thumb making an OK sign — which people use to show that they have command of a topic.

His beaming smile garnered attention and defanged his detractors. But former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley turned that smile into what we call a grimace — teeth visible, high tension in the face — during one of their fiery interchanges. In part, that could be because Ramaswamy spread his arms so wide that he infringed on Haley’s space, a violation our brains interpret as threatening.

Chris Christie spoke with his eyes

For the rest, click here.

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