One Common Donald Trump Expression Means More Than You Likely Realize

Former president Donald J. Trump is a politician ripe for caricature. With his bouffant hair, unnaturally orange skin tone, instantly recognizable voice, and exaggerated hand movements, he has proved popular fodder for satirical shows like "Saturday Night Live" and late night talk show hosts. But away from the comedy world, Trump's mannerisms have drawn the attention of political analysts, behaviorists, and psychologists interested in uncovering what makes Trump tick, and the non-verbal cues he gives off, consciously or unconsciously, when he appears in public.

In 2021, The Atlantic published what it called "A Taxonomy of Donald Trump's Facial Expressions," identifying nine familiar expressions used by the former host of "The Apprentice," such as his "Imperial Pout," which they saw as an expression of the perceived "nastiness" of the people around him or the subject at hand. The magazine also noted Trump's tendency to purse his lips, which the article's author saw as a misguided attempt to look like a "Serious Person," but actually makes Trump look like he's lost interest in the world around him. However, body language experts have found Trump's characteristic lip purse to be more revealing than most people realize.

The truth behind the forward lip purse

Dr. Jack Brown is a body language and emotional Intelligence expert, behavior analyst, and physician, who has spent years analyzing the non-verbal signals American politicians give off unwittingly in their everyday lives. Specifically, Brown has been drawn to Donald Trump, who, lacking the media training of more traditional political candidates, is an open book when it comes to revealing facial expressions, and his idiosyncratic forward lip purse is no exception.

Brown told Grunge in an email interview that "a Forward Lip Purse is a sign of a partially (or fully) undisclosed disagreement and/or a clandestine plan." The expression occurred repeatedly during Trump's debate appearances before the 2016 Presidential Election and again in 2020 (above) and indicated that, while he was able to momentarily rein in his speech, he was planning his next utterances and, ultimately, the downfall of his interlocutors. 

Political debates and interviews are rife with instances of body language that reveal a speaker's dishonesty. "Powerful people very often gained their power because they've adopted a Machiavellian approach/worldview," Brown notes, claiming that rather than speaking to honestly inform and educate, their speech often represents "an effort to maintain their power."

"They also tend to be more skilled liars," says Brown. However, by studying the non-verbal habits of those in power, body language experts believe it is possible to expose an added layer of meaning alongside the words they say.