Body language is something we all speak, whether we tune in or not. We stand with our arms outstretched, expressing our confidence. Or we raise an eyebrow, signifying our anxiety. Or we prowl the space around our opponent, glaring and scowling, revealing our nature as a predator.

Your body language is also a projection of your well-being. It shapes who you are, and, conversely, who you are shapes your body language. That’s what Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy illustrates in her best-seller “Presence.” And I’ll bet you a year’s supply of Tic Tacs that Cuddy’s book was front and center as the Clinton team prepared their candidate for the second presidential debate.

We judge political candidates (and everyone) on two primary dimensions: their warmth and their power, Cuddy’s research reveals. And body language is crucial in projecting both, which is one reason the Clinton team kept Hillary at home, eating strawberries, in the days before the debate.

She was boning up, they said, not on policy or five-point plans but on facial expressions, body language and vocal cadence. Clinton confessed a while back that she wasn’t nearly the natural and persuasive campaigner that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are, and this kind of advanced training tells us she’s willing to do the work to bring her presence into alignment with her convictions and her message. No screaming allowed.

Say what you want about her answers, Clinton’s body language spoke volumes. She was poised, confident and unshakeable, even when Donald Trump called her a liar who should be thrown in jail, a devil with a tremendous amount of hate in her heart.

Clinton remained calm. She never lost her cool or blew her top.

And what about Trump’s body language? Well, that’s another story and the subtitle might be “Stalking for Dummies.”

Trump was on the prowl most of the night, pacing the stage behind Clinton, scowling, grimacing, glaring.

“He’s using his physical presence to intimidate her,” said MSNBC’s Joy Reid. Many others on TV commented on Trump’s “menacing presence,” his “weird body language” that came off as “bizarre and creepy.”

And then there was his constant sniffing. It was widely noticed in the first debate and it continued full steam ahead in the second debate. He’d say a few words, and he’d sniff. More words, more sniffing. Bring this man a Kleenex!

So what’s that about? The snarking, the stalking, the sniffing? It’s his body language speaking to a kind of physiological-psychological meltdown that psychologists like Ann Cuddy call “leaking.”

“Simply put, lying — or being inauthentic — is hard work,” Cuddy explains. “We’re telling one story while suppressing another, and as if that’s not complicated enough, most of us are experiencing psychological guilt about doing this, which we’re also trying to suppress. We just don’t have the brainpower to manage it all without letting something go — without leaking. Lying and leaking go hand in hand.”

Trump’s gestures were also revealing. He slashed, he stabbed, and he constantly repeated his signature move, curling his fingers into the universal sign for OK, all the while telling us that nothing is OK, and that he’s the only one who can save us.

Saying one thing and signaling another is a huge no-no when it comes to body language, according to Cuddy. It sends the wrong signal to people and creates distrust.

That’s certainly what happened to Hillary Clinton in 2015. Facial coding expert Don Hill did an analysis of her body language at a Las Vegas press conference when the media grilled her repeatedly on her private email server and the thousands of missing emails.

“I want the American people to see everything,” she told the press. But according to Hill, she said it with her eyes closed. He also noted that she closed her eyes nine times more than she smiled. Whether she was literally tired of the questions, or not being candid, Hill wrote on Reuters.com that she was “deeply discombobulated.”

Not any more. Those days are over. Trump is leaking and Clinton is leading, partly because she is putting in the time to master body language. It’s not a manipulation. It’s a skill she needs to project to the voters the woman she really is.

Donald Trump is also projecting. We’ll see how well that turns out.

ENERGY EXPRESS-O! DANCING AROUND THE TRUTH
“The body says what words cannot.” — Martha Graham

— Marilynn Preston — healthy lifestyle expert, well-being coach and Emmy-winning producer — is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, marilynnpreston.com, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to MyEnergyExpress@aol.com. She also produces EnExTV, a digital reincarnation of her award-winning TV series about sports, fitness and adventure, for kids of all ages, at youtube.com/EnExTV and facebook.com/EnExTV. To find out more about Preston and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.