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Here’s what body language experts are saying about the Trump-Kim meeting

President Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sentosa Island in Singapore. Evan Vucci/Associated Press/Associated Press

To the average watcher, the public greeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seemed to be over in the blink of an eye.

But to body language experts, there was a lot more to unpack.

After the two leaders strode toward one another, shook hands, and exchanged pleasantries before launching unprecedented nuclear talks, experts were already analyzing what the smiles, handshakes, and shoulder touches could mean for America's foreign policy.

Two experts who spoke to the Globe shortly afterward agreed that Trump reached out to Kim first in the initial handshake. However, the analysts' interpretation of the pair's body language varies significantly.


Lillian Glass, a Los Angeles-based communication and body-language expert, said that based on the interaction she could see between the two leaders, she predicts that the summit will have a positive outcome.

"The first four seconds of meeting someone determines how a relationship is going to go, and it seems there is going to be a great relationship," Glass said.

She said that Trump reaching out first to Kim seemed to be his way of making the North Korean leader "feel very comfortable and very accepted, as though he was being a good host."

Evan Vucci/AP/Associated Press

However, Patti Wood — author of "Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma" — said Trump had more selfish motives for instigating the handshake.

"He likes to be the initiator, which shows power and strength," she said. "You see that in how quickly he puts out his arm, and how broadly and far he stretches it out. He showed a lot of energy in that handshake."

Wood also said that by touching Kim lightly on the arm in a so-called "politician's handshake," Trump conveyed his desire to show dominance. Trump then continued to lightly touch Kim throughout their interaction, which might be normal in America — but isn't so to the North Korean leader, she said.


"That's not typically appropriate in Asian culture, but that is Trump's norm," Wood said. "Some might say it shows warmth, but his touches are quick, patting motions, which shows power. He's doing something he knows at some level is not standard or diplomatically appropriate, which shows dominance."

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As the pair spent the next several minutes together, the two experts again differed in their analysis of what both leaders' smiles and touches meant.

Glass said that Trump touching Kim's arm showed that the US president was feeling "very warm" and "very affectionate."

"When Trump likes you, you know it. He's the kind of guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve," she said. "When you see he really likes you, it shows, and you could tell that's what was going on there."

Then, Glass said, something amazing happened: Kim put his hand on Trump's arm, mirroring the leader of the free world.

"That's huge. Huge!" Glass said emphatically. "When people mirror another person's behavior, that means they like them, and that they were connecting to them.

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"I predict things will go well," Glass continued, taking an optimistic stance. "It will be respectful, and there will be good communication, and there will be something good to come out of this."

Wood, however, felt differently.

"Some people will see Kim's smile, and think he's happy about the event, but that's the cultural norm," Wood said. "It's called a masking smile. It just shows he's being diplomatic."


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She also said that Trump had "a lot of normal smiles" and some microfacial expressions showing his internal thinking.

"I think he's feeling very upbeat and positive and in control," she said. "It might not be diplomatically appropriate, but that's his style. He likes to break rules. People in other cultures will look at that and say, 'Oh my gosh, how dare he.' That doesn't bother Trump, but will make other people cringe."

Evan Vucci/AP/Associated Press

Glass reads Trump's face a bit differently, especially as he was walking with Kim toward the meeting room.

"When Trump was walking, that was telling," she said. "We haven't seen that kind of soft facial expression since Trump won the election and was visibly moved. He realized the gravity of the situation."

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And when the pair sat down moments later, answering questions from reporters, Glass also said that the handshake the two shared was more of an embracing of hands, not "tense," and noted that both men's toes were pointing in the same direction — which Glass said meant the two were hitting it off.

"It means the people really like one another and they're very much in sync. It's another huge sign," she said.

Evan Vucci/AP/Associated Press