Trump is not the first president to be scorned by the First Lady. The nonverbal truth!

Some news outlets are suggesting that it was hot and their hands were sweaty - the weather wasn't conducive to hand holding. Others say that Melania was trying to avoid an incident in a country where religious sensitivities disapprove of public intimacy.

It is true that Orthodox Jews don't touch in public - they believe that intimacy is special, private and reserved for the bedroom. This standard of behavior however, is not expected of everyone including secular Israeli Jews. Add to that, the couples (Netanyahu and Trump) all exchanged hugs and kisses on the tarmac so clearly the reports that suggested that it was a modesty issue are misguided.

So, what happened? Short version - Melania was upset at her husband. It happens in the best of marriages. [see below]

The manner in which Melania rotated her wrist as if to get away from him (limbic brains flight response) and then hit his hand (limbic brain’s fight response when fleeing won’t do) should make that clear. Add to that, Melania immediately looked away slightly to her left – she didn’t want to deal with him. For some context watch the first 12 seconds here.

At 9 seconds into this footage, Pres. Trump already shows signs of feeling beta as his lips stretch tight with mild feelings of fear and this makes sense in the context where he is entering the stage of a diplomatic reception where protocol rules the day and a diplomat, Pres Trump is not.

Then at 12 secs he places his right hand (his dominant hand which is more significant) on his waist or bottom of his tie as if to hold onto something for comfort and up-regulate alpha feelings. Melania adjusts the bottom of her jacket at 11 secs, of course no adjustment was needed – she was experiencing mild anxiety.

The Trumps aren’t at their most comfortable in extreme controlled environments and that just makes them human.

Skip over to the handshake incident and watch from 24:10 to 24:22 and you will see that Pres. Trump had left Melania behind, she had been trying to walk alongside him but then just fell back so that when Pres Trump's gesture came, it was too little and too late. By this time Melania, first lady are not was not going to take it and so at 24:24 she gives him the nonverbal flip.

See 3:47 here where the Trumps arrive in Saudi Arabia, Pres. Trump does the same tie touch.

Posted on May 25, 2017 .

Engaging Your Audience – It’s In Your Hands

When Nixon and Kennedy took part in the first televised presidential debate in 1960, the world and the candidates were in for a shock. They learned that their nonverbal behavior, in some ways has a larger impact than their words. The radio audience thought that Nixon fared better because they didn’t see the obvious discomfort in his body language, and his verbal message was strong. On the other hand, the television audience saw Kennedy’s confident and engaged body language and thought that he was the obvious winner.

Even the most brilliantly written speech will fall on deaf ears, if the speaker fails to establish trust and rapport with his audience. Our hands are arguably the best tool for this job.

Start by using gestures that allows your audience to see your open hands, this will help with trust building. Use hand gestures as you speak to engage and establish rapport.


There are two basic types of hand gestures; Emblems and Illustrators.

Emblems are gestures that are recognizable and used in the absence of words. They aren’t necessarily universal, for example the ok sign used in the USA has a very different meaning in Southern Europe where it is reserved for enemies. Display the ok sign after answering a question from your audience, and ask them if they are ok with your answer. This will help to establish a positive rapport.





This emblem is universally understood to mean that you are listening, and when you use this gesture at a noisy event your potential new client will appreciate your willingness to hear them. Listening is key to rapport building.






The thumbs-up is another emblem that is well known, and it is frequently employed by politicians even if it is not always complemented by a suitable smile. You can use the thumbs up to demonstrate your enthusiasm when your audience is coming around to your point of view, but please remember it’s not a real thumbs-up without a smile.






The thumbs-up can even be used to soften an action that otherwise would seem harsh. Pres. Obama incorporates the thumbs-up in a modified finger pointing. It is purposeful and subconsciously communicates optimism even if he is berating somebody.

Despite it being common knowledge that finger pointing is rude, it is still common around the office and even with public speakers. Finger wagging (extend index finger and wag up and down) is the most offensive and should be avoided, period. If you must point, try this: 1. Make an ok sign. 2. Extend your arm forward in the direction of your target.


Illustrators refer to the hand gestures we use as we talk, they help to convey ideas, but their meaning may change when taken out of context. They are prevalent where there is an emotional attachment to what is being said. Illustrator use has been shown to engage an audience very well even in the absence of an emotional attachment.


Illustrators can be purely functional too….

If I need to get my audience to move to one side of a room, which approach will help build the trust and rapport that we are after?

1. I gesture to the side with my hand held at shoulder height, palm down, like a Nazi salute.

2. I gesture to the side of the room with an open and upward-facing-palm, at a level just above the waist.


Illustrators can be used effectively when:

· Demonstrating something large by opening our arms wide. Small – bring them in.

· Demonstrating sincerity with our dominant hand placed briefly on our hearts (you need to             actually be sincere).

· Demonstrating growth with a diagonal upward movement of one hand.

· Using a chopping motion to indicate a sudden end.

· Bringing two fists to your chest in a demonstration of strength or passion.

· Gesturing with your right hand and then your left to show contrast – “this or that”.

                                                                                         · The steeple (left) says “what I am about to say is brilliant!”


Negative nonverbal cues

We soothe children by touch – we stroke their arms and shoulders and pat their backs, and we carry that instinct into adulthood. We self-soothe by touching the front of our necks, we touch our face and we stroke our own arms. We deal with tension by squeezing the back of our neck and wringing our hands together. Self-soothing gestures send a loud and clear message that we are uncomfortable, and when we are uncomfortable our audience becomes uncomfortable.


The spectrum

Where are you on the spectrum of using hand gestures?

If you are that guy who would become mute if your hands were tied behind your back, then you’re at the highest end. Since this can be distracting and make you look erratic you may want to bring it down a notch.

If you never use your hands when you talk you are at the lowest end of the spectrum and you may want to try to notch it up a bit. A tip that some people find useful, is to keep your hands slightly below your chest and pretend you are holding a basketball. This will position you to use your hands freely and it helps to prevent self-soothing.


Anthony Awerbuch is a certified body-language trainer and can be reached at / 201-618-5170 for corporate training workshops, coaching and much more.


Posted on May 26, 2016 .

Anthony with ATC Hub

The folks at ATC as they hangout with Anthony to find out what cues should a recruiter look out for during interviews to help him or her detect deception and what you can do to “test” the candidate for any signs of dishonesty. Watch the video to learn more!

Posted on May 3, 2016 .

Listen So Others Will Speak – 7 Nonverbal Techniques

In an attempt to be an engaging conversation partner we sometimes find ourselves thinking, even obsessing over what we should say next. We become so focused on formulating a witty response that we find ourselves not at all attuned to what is being said. I have experienced this many times and I bet that more than a few of you can relate. If your experience has been anything like mine, you probably found that the conversation deteriorated fast.

Active listening has many benefits, aside from the obvious information gathering, we also earn the trust, respect and admiration of a colleague, spouse or a friend.

Let’s explore 7 techniques that we can employ immediately to demonstrate that we are listening, and because they operate as self-reinforcing loops, not only will we be demonstrating that we are listening, we will actually become better listeners. When we do the things that people do when they listen, then we will actually listen better.

 1. Head tilt

Nothing says I am listening to you, empathizing with you, feeling what you are feeling more than a simple head tilt. Use this when you need to deliver bad news or when someone on your team is experiencing a crisis. If you have a dog at home, see if he tilts his head when you are speaking. Most people, with a heart at least, find this endearing and it’s not that different in our own relationships.

 2. Triple nod

If the head tilt says I am listening then the triple nod says I hear you, I understand and please go on speaking. Research shows that when we nod 3 times after someone is done speaking they will generally speak up to 4 times longer. So if you want someone to confess or be more forth-coming you can’t beat the triple nod. The evil twin of the slow triple nod is the fast and impatient nod that says – for goodness sakes just get to the point!

 3. Mouth

Mouths are for speaking, that is true but they are also for listening. You can demonstrate that you accept what you are hearing, reject what you are hearing or you are trying desperately to restrain yourself from interrupting and expressing your own thoughts.

To show that you accept what is being said keep your mouth relaxed, your lips slightly parted and un-obstructed by your hands.

Pay attention to the following behaviors in yourself and in others; when you find yourself doing any of these things, you can take it as a cue to seek clarification or to calmly express your opinion. When you see it in your conversation partner, then show that you are attuned to her, by asking her opinion or asking what is on her mind.

·         Holding your hand or finger over your mouth as this says that you might be thinking more about your response than you are listening and that               you are holding back on voicing your opinion.

·         Lip Purse - closing your lips tightly says loud and clear that you are unhappy about what you are hearing.

·         Puckered lips – This looks like you are preparing your lips for a kiss, but of course it will be evident that you aren’t because of the absence of a             slight smile. Puckered lips says that you are considering what is being said, move your puckered lips from side to side and now you are saying             that you are considering alternatives to what is being said.

 4. Eye contact

When we make good Eye Contact we demonstrate that we are paying attention and that we are engaged. The opposite message is communicated when we check our email when a colleague is speaking to us - we might as well tell him to go tell someone who cares.

A good rule of thumb here is to engage in eye contact 70 % of the time – 7 seconds out of every 10. Much more than that could get creepy, much less is avoidant.

Eye contact is very intimate (not necessarily sexual) and so it’s a lot harder to remain upset with someone who is engaging in eye contact. If you find that you are unable to look someone in the eye, or they are unable to look you in the eye, something may be wrong – typically we think that the person is hiding information or being deceitful but it could just be that there is a level of disdain or fear and therefore eye contact is too intimate in the circumstance.

 5. Proxemics/distance

Proxemics is a fancy term that describes the space between us. When we come closer we indicate that we like someone. If we don’t like them, we will put space between us. This action is tied to the limbic brain’s flight response. It will manifest in the office, when you suddenly lean back during a meeting. Pay attention to this reliable cue and ask yourself what just got you bothered.

 6. Open body

When you show an open body you indicate that you are open to your partner. Cross your arms and you are literally placing a barrier between you and her. It’s the most common protective mechanism and is used universally. Even when it is in response to cold weather, it’s protective, and therefore no matter how comfortable it feels we can all agree that we will be perceived as being closed off.

 7. Fronting and feet

Finally, the Angle of our bodies makes it very clear if we are open to someone or to what they are saying – when we face someone head on it is called “Fronting” and studies have shown that it makes us seem more honest. You might want to consider this principle when you choose your linkedin profile picture.

In your next interaction with someone, stand and try this. Start off fronting someone and then while maintaining your position turn your feet. What happens to your torso?  Yes, it begins to turn away and you start to show your shoulder. And what does that feel like? Pretty obvious, I know it is disengaging and you are literally giving someone the shoulder (cold shoulder)

 Have time for a side busting humorous demo of the head nod? Check this out

Contact me to learn more about what Body Language on Purpose can do for you or your organization at

Posted on December 27, 2015 .

The eighth level of handshake

My dentist’s receptionist called me today to ask “where are you?” She said “you are 5 minutes late” and then even explained “You aren’t here”, really! So when I got there 1 minute later with a huge grin like a child who knew he was in trouble but also content that the great sin was worth the pleasure. I said “So, headmistress of Hogwarts (Harry Potter) do I get to go straight through or am I just late for my waiting period? She took it in stride, laughed and ushered me through and then the inner room wait began. 

 So after an imperfect beginning to my visit, my playboy dentist who looks like he is 60 going on 30 walked in and shook my hand and I almost verbalized my displeasure – Aaaagh! He just did it; palm angled down in that classic dominating position of a jerk boss to his worker. “Big deal” you may say. Yes “big deal, you see I am a body language trainer and I coach my clients to be in a position to fend off these kinds of subtle power plays and here I was caught off guard, laying down on the dentist chair unable to non-verbally respond as I would like to respond, and as I train my clients to respond.

Now, the truth is that my knee was perfectly positioned to deliver a swift kick to his kidney but maybe that would have been over doing it. So I did the best I could and just held on to his hand, wrestling it to a vertical position and then later, when we parted ways I was ready for “Playboy” and placed my other hand over his bullying hand. Yay - one point for the patient. 

All said though, this is a trainer’s special moment where we get to train from experience and so I am happy that this happened and the timing couldn’t be better because in my last article (How a powerful handshake will open doors for you) I explained my 7 tips for an engaging hand shake. In that article I promised to follow up with a tip on engaging in a handshake in such way that you will always be able to fend off a dominating handshake.       

 The eighth tip

This technique is intended to empower you to neutralize a power play and at the same time it contains a little bit of magic because it also engages with more warmth. 

Power play here refers to a palm-angled-down hand shake or the politician’s handshake (double).

Try this. Step forward with your left foot so that it is almost side by side with your partner’s feet and then shake with your right hand. You are now set up to counter with your left hand which is much closer to your partner, you can counter with either the politician’s handshake - embracing his right hand with your left or you can easily reach for his elbow. Both gestures can be a bit intimate in a different context but here you will send a clear non-verbal message that you are taking control and may even be condescending.

The magic – by stepping in with your left foot you close the distance between you and your partner; when this is done in combination with the previous tips it enhances the engagement but you won’t know this until you try it so what are you waiting for?

 By now I hope that you are asking “so what about when you are sitting or lying down as I was in that dentist chair, how can you counter from that position?” I had a similar question from a client who expressed his discomfort when he shook hands with someone who was walking behind him on a congested sidewalk. He asked me how he should have done it differently. I said “if you’re going to engage, do it from a position where you can do it well or don’t do it”, he objected with a frown – he didn’t need to say anything, it was obvious that for him it just wasn’t an option to not shake someone’s hand and so I added “then your only option is to create the circumstances that will lead to a great engagement.   

For him that meant turning around and indicating for his friend to move out of the way of the traffic so that he could properly engage.

For me in the dentist’s chair that meant that I should have been sitting, not laying down waiting for the dentist and then I could have stood up as he walked in. Standing up to greet someone has an added benefit; regardless of status, it shows tremendous respect and doesn’t minimize your standing at all as long as it’s done with confidence.



Recently I was asked 3 questions related to rule #1 - A firm grip, palm to palm will create an instant connection and non-verbally says "I have confidence and strength". See previous post (How a powerful handshake will open doors for you). 


1.      Should we shake a woman’s hand differently to a man?

Absolutely not but just be more conscious of not crushing. Women like a firm handshake every bit as much as a man and since men don’t like a wet fish nor a bone crusher handshake, I would use that as guidance. Since this is so subjective I recommend asking people after a handshake where it fell on the firmness spectrum. The worst that can happen is that it leads to a rapport building conversation starter.

2.      How can I avoid getting my fingers crushed by my rings?

The only way to avoid getting your fingers injured by your rings is to connect palm to palm.

3.      How can we insure that we don’t connect at the fingers?

Connecting palm to palm requires that your first contact is at the back of the hand at the thumb because as soon as contact is made your hand and your partner’s hand will close. I have asked for a redo on the rare occasion that a handshake doesn’t connect in the sweet spot and that has always produced some laughs.


Remember to keep it real and have fun. Please share your questions and comments in this post

Contact me to learn more about what Body Language on Purpose can do for you or your organization at

Posted on December 27, 2015 .