There were many quotable and meme-worthy comments said during the final presidential debate between Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump, but there’s also a lot to be said for the way someone says something and their accompanying gestures and facial expressions. Nicki Swift spoke to Lauren Cohen, an executive coach, body language, and communications expert about Biden’s body language and what it conveyed throughout his debate performance.
“Joe Biden’s nonverbal communication skills spoke volumes tonight,” Cohen said, even though his “body language is never full of drama or excitement.” She pointed out that Biden “attempted eye contact with both the moderator Kristen Welker and Donald Trump.” She observed that Biden “deliberately wore and then removed his black mask,” explaining that the “super noticeable” gesture draws attention to his stance on wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden was also “holding his pen almost the entire time,” which was a dual purpose move, she said. Of course, the pen allowed him to take down notes. Additionally, Cohen said that it “can serve as a crutch to relieve his stress.” Speaking of stress, Cohen observed “endless head shaking, smiling, looking down and faces of disbelief from Joe Biden [at the debate] whenever President Trump spoke,” which isn’t shocking considering the many differences between these two candidates. “Biden was full of faces tonight,” she said, and those faces convey a lot. Check it out.
Joe Biden conveyed his annoyance and frustration
There was a lot to unpack from the final 2020 presidential debate. Lauren Cohen, an executive coach, body language, and communications expert, told Nicki Swift that Vice President Joe Biden looked down often and shook his head a lot when President Donald Trump was talking. “Biden often turned his body to face him and then would regularly look down and smile implying that he disagreed with whatever President Trump was saying.” Cohen said that Biden’s smirk “showed that he was flabbergasted, dumbfounded, frustrated” in response to some of Trump’s remarks.
When President Trump spoke about China, Biden “uncomfortably shifted side to side” and “was visibly angry and frustrated.” According to Cohen, “Biden’s closed eyes a few times were a blocking behavior to show that he was annoyed and strongly disagreeing with President Trump.” Furthermore, “his eye avoidance at times with President Trump shows that he finds President Trump unlikeable and obnoxious.” Cohen added, “Biden did a few long eye closes in an effort to show how strongly he disagreed with President Trump.”
According to Cohen, “lips are a tell of emotions,” and Biden “did some lip pressing tonight when he was annoyed.” When Trump mentioned President Barack Obama, “Biden licked his lips and was noticeably upset.” Cohen explained that licking one’s lips can be “a sign of nerves.”
Despite all those negative signals, Cohen said the former vice president’s body language also conveyed some positive messages to viewers.
Joe Biden's body language reinforced his views
Body Language Expert Lauren Cohen observed that Vice President Joe Biden “was more much more serious and not as much his smiling friendly self” during the final presidential debate with Donald Trump. She felt he “deliberately wanted to come across as more serious” to voters.
“Joe Biden used his hands tonight to reinforce his points of view,” she said, noting that his gestures helped him “hold people’s attention” and truly “drive his point home.” His hand motions were a way to convey his “authority and competence,” she noted. Additionally, Biden would “speak with his hands with palms down when he was making a point that is indisputable in his mind.”
Biden also looked directly at the camera at times as if making eye contact with viewers watching at home. Cohen said that body language “helps create a culture of making every viewer feel important.” When it comes down to it, “people tend to prefer the company and think more highly of those who look us in the eye.” It also “communicates confidence and belief in your point of view,” Cohen said. Biden’s deliberate eye contact is an “attempt to increase his credibility, likeability and makes him come across as more trustworthy and empathetic” to the public, which is why he “regularly looked straight into the camera and tilted head a little and pointed to the viewers when he answered questions.”
Biden’s body language conveyed the full gamut of expression, from confidence, to nerves, to frustration. Time will tell how the American public responds to the experience.
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