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Tips and Insights

from Lange’s Communication Thought Leaders

Political Debates and Body Language: Tips from an Expert


by Maria Iams

You don’t have to be a body language expert like Joe Navarro to read people and figure out what they might be thinking or feeling. In his recent article, Navarro talks about what he saw during the Democratic political debate and called out a few nonverbal behaviors that the candidates displayed that showed everything from discomfort to passion. In our work as communication consultants, we talk about nonverbal behaviors all the time—and how people use them to show up with confidence and gravitas or... not. 

So, how can you use some of these tips to read other people? Here are three simple take-aways regarding nonverbal behavior that could help you in your next conversation:

  1. Pay attention to that feeling of “I can’t put my finger on it but…” This is your brain at work, picking up incongruent behavior between what someone is saying and what their BODY is saying. The brain likes congruence, and when it notices something is off, you feel it. I’m not suggesting to write someone off because of it, but just notice the incongruence – it eventually might help you determine someone’s true intent.

  2. When someone shifts their body positioning while standing or in a chair, they are ready for you to move on. They’ve broken rapport with you. The way to get it back is for you to reengage them with a question or quickly get to your next point. You can also try mirroring their behavior to get back into rapport.

  3. There are many nonverbals we pay attention to without thinking about it – but if you want to zoom in on one, look at someone’s smile. You’ll quickly be able to tell a “fake” smile from a “real” one. A real smile, and there’s even a name for it (Duchenne Smile), crinkles the corners of the eyes – so pay attention to the eyes to see if your joke is really that funny.

Give these three tips a try during your next conversation and let us know what you think!

Lexie Banks