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What body language can tell us about the federal party leaders post-debate

Last Updated Oct 8, 2019 at 7:51 am PDT


An expert says visual cues is one way to cut through the noise during Monday's federal leaders' debate

After watching Monday's debate, body language expert says she picked up a lot of defensiveness between the frontrunners

Expert Faith Wood adds even the top body language experts can't gauge people's feelings with 100 per cent accuracy

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Anyone with a burning desire to re-watch Monday’s federal leaders’ debate should consider hitting the mute button, according to an expert on body language.

Faith Wood — who has 30 years worth of experience in the field, including 15 as a peace officer, mediator, and negotiator — suggests in an event filled with cross-talking, insults, and allegations, paying attention to visual cues is one way to cut through the noise.

“When we’re looking at non-verbals, it’s actually easier to discern what people are talking about than it is when you’re trying to listen to everyone talking over each other,” she says.

“A thing that we kind of watch for is leaning away from the person who’s questioning. It’s a very defensive kind of tactic where we see a shoulder leaning towards an exit, or trying to escape a conversation.”

After watching Monday night’s event, Wood says she picked up a lot of defensiveness between the frontrunners, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

“So you see a lot of failing to listen — let’s call it a smugness — a sense that they’re above the questions, above responding to questions,” she says.

While the candidates were typically careful to keep their hand gestures within the “truth zone,” between the shoulders and hips, there were moments when their hands crept higher up the body, a sign of aggressiveness.

“We certainly saw Mr. Singh catch himself a few times and try to reign it back in and go back to the presentation skills that he’s been working on refining, and so he grabbed a pen for example to try to manage being pulled off agenda,” says Wood.

Wood adds that even the top body language experts can’t gauge people’s feelings with 100 per cent accuracy, and in this case, some of the cues were obscured by podiums. However, she says most people can pick up on visual signals unconsciously, even if we can’t trace the feelings that result from those signals.

“I would encourage individuals to go watch the debate again, but this time with the sound off.”

-With files from Kathryn Tindale