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A body language expert explains that Donald Trump really, really loves Mike Pence

Reuters/Mike Segar
This guy.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

At first glance, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence might seem to have an awkward relationship with one another. But a closer look at the two men’s communication styles reveals that they’re a solid political match—and that Trump really, really loves Pence.

The four codes of communication are body language, facial language, speech pattern, and voice. In all of these respects, Trump and Pence could not be more diverse. Clearly, Trump is the more outspoken of the two. He does not edit himself, as his feud with the Muslim parents of an American soldier killed in action demonstrate (to cite just one example).

By contrast, Pence clearly edits himself. He is more thoughtful in terms of what he says and how he says it, as is evident in his efforts to calm the controversy about Trump and the soldier’s family.

Trump is also more emotional, demonstrating a wider range of inflection in his vocal delivery. Unlike Pence, Trump speaks in simple sentences and emphasizes key words at the end of his sentences, making it easier for the listener to follow and understand exactly what he is saying. Trump often lowers the volume tone of his voice when he speaks. This gives the impression he is speaking directly to you, adding a sense of intimacy to his communication.

Pence, by contrast, is more measured in terms of his delivery and does not use as much inflection when he speaks. He uses longer sentences and has a more even tone and volume.

In terms of body language, Trump can often be seen leaning into Pence, making physical contact with him, while Pence remains in his own body space. This shows that Trump is more open and fluid with his emotions, but it also shows that Trump is in charge in their relationship—he is the one to initiate physical moves.

Another difference is in terms of how they express themselves through gesture. Trump is more open and fluid in his gestures. You can usually see the palms of Trump’s hands when he speaks, which signals to others that he is open. Pence, on the other hand, is more angular in his arm movements and much more controlled in his gesturing.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

As Trump’s vice presidential pick, Pence knows his place and it shows in his body language. He often stands a bit physically behind his running mate. Very often, Pence seems to admire Trump as he looks directly at Trump whenever Trump speaks. This is a signal of deference and respect.

Interestingly, it appears that Trump has genuine, almost paternal affection towards Pence. He’s often seen embracing the Indiana governor. Trump even gave him an “air kiss”—a clear signal that he really appreciates Pence. It’s safe to say Pence does feel warmth toward Trump, as indicated in his facial language. Above, we see a genuine smile (raised cheeks, crinkles eyes, and teeth showing). But Pence doesn’t display affection with his body language. Instead, he seems more stiff, and a bit uncomfortable with all the physical affection bestowed upon him.


Still, we can see mutual camaraderie in photos like the one above, which show their mutual arm embrace, where they both grab on to one another’s forearms and look directly into one another’s eyes. This shows trust and an openness towards one another.

Reuters/Jim Bourg

Another way in which Trump shows his dominance and affection is by initiating handshakes with Pence. He is consistently the first to put his hand out. In addition, Trump often reveals the palm of his hand when initiating the handshake. This gesture indicates that he trusts Pence.

Pence often mirrors Trump’s body language and stance, which is further indication that he admires and takes the lead from Trump. Because Trump is so open and physical with his body language, Pence seems to be becoming a bit more comfortable with displaying physical touching and affection. However, around minute 1:15 in the video clip above, it seems Pence still feels awkward as he reaches out to Trump while keeping an arms-length distance. Meanwhile, Trump leans down to match Pence’s height. This is Trump’s attempt to make Pence feel more comfortable and less awkward.

In summary, Trump and Pence’s body language clearly shows that they have mutual respect and affection towards one another. But their communication styles could not be more be more diverse—and this is what makes them a strong political match. Instead of being so similar that they would compete with one another, they are so different that they tend to complement one another instead.

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