The 5 biggest body language fails of the presidential debate


Clinton and Trump traded insults. But what did their non-verbal messages say?

If you watched last night's presidential debate, chances are you didn't learn much about the issues facing our nation. With three hours of debating now under their belts, not to mention thousands of hours of stump speeches, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have already said every sound bite they have to say.

Last night's debate was especially vitriolic--so much so that CNN dubbed it the "scorched-earth debate." If you just listened to what the candidates said, there wasn't much of anything new. But if you watched their body language closely, both candidates revealed more about themselves than they bargained for, and not in a good way.

To help parse out the body language messages of last night's event, we enlisted the aid of Janine Driver, president of the Body Language Institute, and a retired federal officer who specializes in deception detection.

Here are some of the body language goofs she spotted, and that you can learn from:

1. Refusing to shake hands makes you look weak.

Breaking with many years' tradition, the candidates did not shake hands at the beginning of the debate. It was subtle enough that you could easily miss it, but if you watched closely, you could see Clinton saying "Hello, hello," coldly to Trump and then turning away before he could approach her to shake hands. He wound up taking an awkward step away from her as she turned to face the audience.

Unless you've spent the last 24 hours away from all news and social media, you likely know that Trump has been vilified for a taped conversation in which he brags about being able to grope women as a star. He responded by assembling several women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual harassment and giving them prominent seats at the debate. The move appears to have gotten under Hillary Clinton's skin.

"I might have coached her to shake the hand," Driver says. "It looks to me that by snubbing him, she shows he has shaken her up a little." Driver also spotted Bill Clinton looking at their daughter Chelsea with a sad expression right before the debate began. Chelsea herself looked near tears and gave her father several reassuring arm touches as they sat down. So it may be the entire Clinton family is rattled.

2. It's still rude to point.

We were all told as children not to point at other people and it's still good advice. Hillary Clinton has been "a pointer" as Driver puts it. But she appears to have had some coaching and during the debate she did not point at Trump even once. He, on the other hand, pointed at Clinton over and over and over. It did not play well.

3. Smiling at the wrong moment makes you look smug.

Hillary smiles so much that she had what Driver refers to as a "permasmile." Smiling, of course, is powerfully positive body language but too much of it is a bad thing. Perhaps because of coaching, Clinton has not had a constant smile pasted to her face lately.

But during last night's debate, whenever Trump came out with a particularly harsh criticism, Clinton responded with a huge grin. "It was like an alarm going off," Driver says. The effect on those watching, she adds, was to make Clinton seem smug, especially combined with her frequently raised chin, another sign of feeling superior. It's a simple rule: Save the smile for times when a smile is called for.

4. No matter how threatened you feel, don't clasp your hands in front of you.

If you're under attack and feel intimidated, it's natural to assume a defensive posture, making yourself small and perhaps clasping your hands in front of you. But when you clasp your hands in front of you, it tends to look like you're trying to protect your private parts, making you appear even more defensive and weaker, as Trump did during the discussion of his lewd audiotape. It's not a good look.

5. Pacing is always a bad idea.

Clinton would often walk over onto Trump's side of the stage and sometimes into his space. "That's dominant," Driver says. "I'd bet a million dollars she was coached!"

Trump was clearly rattled as a result. To get away from Clinton's encroachment, he walked toward the back of the stage, grabbed the back of his chair and began pacing in an almost threatening way. "I teach a pre-assault class to law enforcement, and pacing is one of the top three pre-assault indicators," Driver says.

Obviously, Trump would not physically attack Clinton on national television, but his walking around behind her appeared threatening played very badly as this Twitter exchange shows.

And here's one brilliant subconscious verbal signal:

6. Use 'don't' when you mean the opposite.

It's a powerful subconscious message, Driver says. "When you say don't do something, it becomes an embedded command. 'Don't turn around and look who came in this restaurant.' When you add the 'don't' it becomes twice as strong."

So check out this comment from Clinton near the end of the debate, in answer to a question as to how the candidates would lead all Americans, even those who hadn't supported them: "If you don't vote for me, I still want to be your president."

That phrase "don't vote for me" in the middle of the sentence was an embedded command to do just that, and a very effective one, Driver says. "Without a doubt, it was planned."

Will it actually lead people to vote for her? A month from now, we'll all know.

See more photos from the second debate and see if you can decode the candidates' body language yourself!

43 PHOTOS
Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton take the stage for the second presidential debate
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Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton take the stage for the second presidential debate
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton acknowledge each other at the start of their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton stand together at the start of their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton appear together during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump listens as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during their presidential town hall debate with at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Saul Loeb/Pool
Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during their presidential town hall debate with Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Saul Loeb/Pool
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at the start of the second U.S. presidential town hall debate between Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens and takes notes during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump turns his back as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton talks about his comments about women during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Moderators Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz speak before the start of the second U.S. presidential debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. stand before the presidential town hall debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016.
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton acknowledge each other at the start of their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Saul Loeb/Pool
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the second U.S. presidential town hall debate between Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the second U.S. presidential town hall debate between Clinton and Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens during their presidential town hall debate with Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
The family of U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, (L-R) Melania, Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr. wait for the presidential town hall debate with U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Marc Mezvinsky, Chelsea Clinton and Former U.S. President Bill Clinton sit at the presidential town hall debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump listens as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton answers a question from the audience during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speak during her debate against Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump (L) at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during his presidential town hall debate against Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (not shown) at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the presidential town hall debate with Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speak during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, board her campaign plane after the presidential town hall debate against U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton watches as Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump (L) and his wife, Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, participate in their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during their presidential town hall debate with Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the presidential town hall debate with Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton pause at the conclusion of their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Saul Loeb/Pool
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Saul Loeb/Pool
Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the presidential town hall debate with Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump listens as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during their presidential town hall debate with at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
(L-R) Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick and Kathy Shelton sit together in the audience before Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton begin their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump's daughters-in-laws Lara Trump, Vanessa Trump and daughter Tiffany Trump (L-R) are seated at the start of the second U.S. presidential town hall debate between Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Chelsea Clinton and Former U.S. President Bill Clinton arrive at the presidential town hall debate between Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton face the audience during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump looks at Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump is seen during his presidential town hall debate against Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (not shown) at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Journalists Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz prepare to moderate the presidential town hall debate between U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton makes her opening remarks at the start of the second U.S. presidential town hall debate between Clinton and Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton take the stage at the start of their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton shake hands at the end of their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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