The Science Behind Donald Trump’s Body Language (& 8 tips you can steal from him to up your charisma, likeability and confidence)

Regardless of how you feel about Trump and his funny looking hair, one thing I have to admit is that he has body language down.

The man knows what he’s doing. He knows how to make opponents look silly, how to communicate with the audience (even when he’s not speaking) and how to influence the audience’s emotions with one simple look.

Today I want to share 8 body language strategies Donald Trump uses and how you can use them to get people to like you, up your charisma and improve your confidence.

Donald Trump Body Language Cue #1: Using Obvious Facial Expressions

It won’t take more than a quick YouTube search to reveal that Donald over exaggerates his facial expressions to illustrate his emotions. Check out this picture of Donald Trump’s facial expression as his opponent, Jeb Bush, is speaking.

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Talk about actions speaking louder than words!

Although Jeb is speaking, you can’t help but focus your attention on the dumbfounded look on Donald Trump’s face. And when you see Trump make that face, the same feelings of confusion are triggered thanks to mirror neurons!

Mirror neurons are a relatively new discovery in neuroscience, but they’re super helpful when it comes to affecting how others feel when they are around you. They’re essentially a way to make someone else feel certain emotions by simply looking at you. For example, if you look over at me and I’m smiling, you will feel happiness and other emotions associated with smiling.

This was originally discovered in an Italian lab when they noticed motor parts of a monkey’s brain being activated by simply watching a human move around (while the monkey was standing still). The neuroscientists learned that your brain perceives observing someone else doing something as actually doing it yourself!

Your facial expressions also affect your inner-psychology.

In a famous study by Martin and Stepper, subjects were asked to keep a pencil in their mouths (to simulate a smile) while reading comic books. The control group was given the same comics without any instruction at all. Those who had mimicked a smile were more likely to find the comic books humorous than the control group. This experiment showed the influence that facial expressions have on your inner-psychology.

When Donald is using facial expressions to express himself, he’s killing three birds with one stone.

First, he’s able to show other people how he feels (without speaking), which is extremely powerful when it’s not his turn to speak during debates. Secondly, when the audience focuses on his reaction, Donald influences the emotions they’re feeling thanks to mirror neurons.

Finally, his facial expressions are influencing his inner emotions making him feel more confident when he laughs at his opponents or happier when he smiles.

So how can you use these principles to have engaging conversations?

Tip #1: Mirror facial expressions to increase charisma

You can mirror facial expressions to show the other person that you’re listening and empathizing. These non-verbal forms of communication can increase your charisma and presence significantly.

In a study by Chartrand and Bargh, researchers interviewed subjects one-on-one while mimicking their body language and posture as they spoke. The group that was mimicked rated their interviewers as more likeable and rated having “smoother” conversations with them compared to the group that was not mimicked.

Use this to your advantage!

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For example, if someone is telling a sad story they’re likely frowning or furrowing their eyebrows in a sad state of emotions. You can mimic those facial expressions to show your concern for what they’re saying. You can also furrow your eyebrows while locking eyes with them to show that you’re feeling the same emotions they’re feeling. It works like a charm and it will get people to like you.

 

Tip #2: Smile to trigger happiness

As we learned, mirror neurons make smiling a must if you want to pass along positive feelings to those around you (especially those you are romantically interested in).

But an interesting study conducted at the University of Cardiff in Wales proved that facial expression also affect your internal feelings. The study researched women who had botox injections that compromised their ability to frown. They were then compared to women who were able to frown.

Which group was happier? Those that had the injections and could not frown were found to be happier on average!

“The botox recipients reported feeling happier and less anxious in general; more important, they did not report feeling any more attractive, which suggests that the emotional effects were not driven by a psychological boost that could come from the treatment’s cosmetic nature.” (Source)

Thanks to mirror neurons, flashing a simple smile can trigger feelings of happiness in anyone who sees you. Additionally, smiling will also trigger internal feelings of happiness. Finally, smiling makes you way more approachable and gives the perception that you are open and welcoming conversation, which is key to attracting people to you.

Tip #3: Make eye contact

You can use your eyes in so many ways to non-verbally communicate. For starters, a short period of locking eyes with someone can show them that you’re interested.

Making eye contact and flashing a smile is a great way to non-verbally ice-break a conversation and make an approach so much easier because you’ve already communicated that you’re ready to connect.

While in conversation, it’s important to maintain eye contact, your eyes don’t have to be locked the entire team (i.e. you can look at their eyebrow or look at only one of their eyes if you start to feel uncomfortable) just make sure you’re eyes aren’t darting around the room..or even worse, looking down at your phone.

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Donald Trump Body Language Cue #2: Using his ENTIRE Body

Facial expressions are just one part of body language, what about the body itself?! Donald uses his entire body when it comes to body language.

Let’s take a look at a few of the hand gestures Donald uses. He uses his index finger like the “#1” to prepare the audience and cue that he’s going to say something very important or worth listening to, after that gesture.

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When he makes important points or numbers things off, he also uses his hands to emphasize his point. In the last picture he’s using both hands with his palms up to show that he’s open as if he has nothing to hide.

In all cases, notice how his posture is erect, his chin is level and his chest is open. You can tell his chest is especially open and his shoulders are back when he’s using both hands to gesture. If you watch Donald compared to the other candidates, you’ll realize that he uses the most hand gestures compared to everyone else.

Donald’s hand gestures help solidify his story of being “high energy” and impactful. He uses hand gestures very effectively to keep the audience on pace with him.

You’ll also notice that he seems relaxed and poised at the lectern. He only adjusts the angle of his body if he’s addressing or listening to his opponent. He also shifts his foot stance when he’s addressing his opponent to give the impression that he won’t back down.

Tip #4: Lean in

When you have something important to say, you can lean into your conversation partner to show that you’re letting them in on a secret. Another great tip is that if you want them to lean in even closer, lower the volume of your voice so they have to get closer to hear you. These intimate body language positions will take your conversation to a deeper level, verbally and non-verbally.

Tip #5: Hand Gestures & Positioning

Although I don’t suggest that you use a gesture for every point you’re making during a conversation, using hand gestures while telling a story can make it more fun or engaging. Especially if you’re mimicking a fun story!

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Another thing Donald does when he uses hand gestures is he occasionally keeps his palms open up.

When you meet someone for the first time, it’s a good idea to pair it with a physical touch and a handshake is usually customary. A nice trick I’ve observed is to open your palm up before shaking their hand. It shows that you are open and have nothing to hide. So right before shaking their hand show an open, upside palm for a few seconds before going in for the shake. This can help lower the other person’s guard as well.

 

Tip #6: Foot Positioning

Use your feet as a compass for your body. When speaking to someone make sure that your feet are positioned towards them. If your feet are shifted away or towards the door it can telegraph that you’re not interested in them.

Your feet will guide your body, so if you’re standing beside them, shift slightly and point your feet towards your conversation partner. If you want to have a more intense conversation, point your feet directly towards them. This may be a little intimidating for a first time encounter, so a good practice is to angle your feet towards them at a 45 degree angle so you’re not “head on.”

Donald Trump Body Language Cue #3: Donald Owns His Appearance

The fake tan, the crazy hair, the pursed lips…Donald Trump clearly is he is who he is and he owns it. This flies in the face of my most-hated cliche, “fake it til you make it.”

Donald Trump is being who he really is and is proud of it. If you can exude that type of confidence you will become highly attractive to others.

Although this isn’t a specific body language cue, body language counts for any type of communication that you are not verbally saying and your appearance does communicate something to those around you.

Here are some ways to “own” who you truly are and exude that same level of confidence in owning your appearance.

Tip #7: Be proud of your appearance

Donald always gets tormented on late night talk shows, especially for his hair. He’s been compared to an orangutan and there have been countless memes about his hair, it’s basically its own character at this point.

But do you see Donald trying to change his hair?

No!

The man will not change it. He’s embracing what others see as a weakness and he’s accepting what he looks like. In a weird way it’s like he’s allowing himself to be vulnerable and that’s because he knows that vulnerability can increase likeability!

In an interesting experiment, there were two models showing off a blender at the mall. One of the models blended the juice perfectly, another model “forgot” to put the lid on the blender before blending, getting juice all over the place. When the audience was asked who they liked more, they preferred the model who screwed up!

The takeaway is that showing vulnerability can increase likability. So before you try to pretend to be someone you’re not, embrace your differences and express them in a unique way!

Tip #8: Wear clothing that expresses who you are

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What you wear says a lot about who you are. Whether it’s a t-shirt of your favorite band or funky tri-colored socks, you can use clothing to express who you are. Unique wardrobe pieces can also make for a great conversation starter, when you wear something unique it attracts people’s eyes leading to comments, opinions and compliments that you can use as a basis for a conversation.

This interesting study shows that what you wear can also affect your inner-psychology. In the study, subjects were given a white lab coat. When subjects were told that it was a “doctor’s coat” subjects showed increased attentiveness and carefulness compared to when they were told that same exact coat was a painter’s coat.

Other studies have shown that clothing with designer labels can lead to better outcomes when interviewing for jobs and can also improve perceptions of wealth and status.

The bottom line? Be presentable and wear clothes that make you feel good, it will change the way you’re perceived by others and most importantly, yourself.

Conclusion

Regardless of your political leaning, one thing we can all agree on is that Donald Trump is a unique communicator. He knows how to use body language to effectively convey his message, emotions and influence other people’s emotions.

You can use some of his body language strategies to get other people to like you, to boost your confidence and have more engaging conversations.

If you liked this article, sign up for a three-video mini course called: How to Shut Up that Inner Voice & Beat Awkward Conversations. It covers six secrets to social confidence, the #1 strategy to improve your life and how to have natural conversations…even if you’re super awkward.

16 thoughts on “The Science Behind Donald Trump’s Body Language (& 8 tips you can steal from him to up your charisma, likeability and confidence)

  1. Lots of valuable information here Katrina, thanks!

    It is also interesting because this morning I read another post on body language (I think Forbes) saying that leaders don’t use exaggerated facial expressions and body language. Those two things seem amateurish to me but I see how they are also effective! I wonder if they work well on the flip side- in show of support or in a positive way?

    1. Thanks for your comment Eileen! Absolutely, matching “sad” or lower energy facial expressions is a great way to show empathy or “mood match” other people who may be feeling this way

    1. Hi Steve, thanks for your comment! I think Hillary’s body language is alright, she has the smiling piece down which is key. But I don’t feel she uses as much body language as she should. She does the pointer finger a lot which can be interpreted as “commanding” or “requesting” which isn’t ideal to reach a mass audience (unless you’re being authoritative). If I were her, I’d do more hand motions with open palms (like I mentioned in the article) it shows openness and transparency.

  2. Excellent article. I don’t agree with many of his views, but he is undoubtedly a master communicator and very polarizing and entertaining public figure. Question- do you feel that you have to actually ‘feel’ the emotions of the person you are talking to, or that just doing the body language alone will be effective? I have noticed that when you feel it yourself, there is a lot more ‘congruence’ and it is much more powerful.

    1. Thanks Nathan! Yes, I’m a big proponent of truly feeling the emotions that someone else feels. It makes your body language much more genuine and ‘congruent’ as you mentioned. I like to visualize a story as someone tells it (just like when you visualize a story from reading a book) to really feel those emotions. People can detect “congruent” vs. “non-congruent” body language. It’s how human lie detectors (like FBI agents) detect liars. Thanks for your comment.

  3. As what I’ve always come to expect from my wonderful nerd teacher! 😉 Great article Katrina, Loved it!

      1. Doing Extremely well Katrina, I am using the very things in this article. I dress extremely well and it puts a huge self confidence swag in my walk as I am totally comfortable as I own it! I am using my body language openly and freely, staying present,mirroring and helping others communicate. The results are 75% of the time females and males are approaching me! What a turn around in the few months from taking your course ha I am pinching my self just to make sure I’m not dreaming! I am highly respected to a point where I went to the bar and ordered a drink for a girl as a kind gesture not expecting a thing from it and the bar tender actually delivered to her and paid for it! Thanks to your excellent course!!! Kudos

        1. Wow it sounds like you’re doing SUPER well Donald! Thank you, it was a pleasure having you as part of the course. It sounds like you’re putting all the strategies into action and it’s paying off….literally!

  4. I am a fan of Donald Trump but I never knew why I like him.. After reading your article I have come to know what’s so unique in him that forces me to love him.
    Thanks for such an accurate, objective and revealing article.

  5. Hi Katrina, great post and I’ve definitely noticed results since I’ve started mirroring body language. Now mirroring facial expressions is something I have to try!

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