What Donald & Ivanka Trump’s Body Language Reveals About Their Relationship

A lot has been written about the relationship between Ivanka Trump and her father. Her siblings Donald Jr., Eric, and Tiffany all openly admitted that she’s Donald Trump’s “favorite child ” in a 2015 interview with Barbara Walters. But the fact that she’s a senior advisor in his White House adds a layer of complexity to their dynamic, especially given that they reportedly don’t always agree.

“She feels a certain level of power. So does he. They each have their own internal feeling about the power they have with the other person,” body language expert Patti Wood, author of Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma, told Refinery29. “Meanwhile, we see her desire to connect with him in many of the photos of them.”

Ahead, Wood breaks down the complicated relationship between the president and Ivanka based on their body language.

Context: Trump thanks Ivanka before addressing the Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons annual meeting at the White House in October.

“Her placement of her arm on his seems to be out of comfort, but it’s high, which indicates she believes she has a certain power in the relationship,” says Wood.

Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images.

Context: Trump and Ivanka are participating in an Iowa roundtable about job development with Gov. Kim Reynolds in July. Here, he makes a joke about the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, after she had just finished proudly announcing it: “Maybe I’ll veto it!”

Wood says that on her Facebook page, she showed a closeup of Ivanka’s face after he says that. “Just before this, she showed sadness, then you see this nonverbal ‘withholding cue.’ If you look at her eyes, you can see she is withholding anger.” But right after that, she bounces back and they do a playful “gun battle” with their fingers. “It was a putdown. He was asserting power over her,” says Wood. “She recovers and plays it off.”

Context: In this cabinet meeting in July, Ivanka made a speech about her new jobs initiative. After she finished her remarks, the president said, “Wow. So if that were Ivanka ‘Smith,’ the press would say that was totally brilliant. As Ivanka Trump they’ll say, ‘Oh, she was okay,’” adding, “That was really great, unbelievable.”

“What nonverbally I find interesting is that instead of clapping here, he’s got his arms crossed,” Wood says, comparing it to Trump’s body language when he recently met with Kanye West in the Oval Office, because he had his arms crossed throughout most of it, too. “He doesn’t get everyone applauding. The arms crossing is a closing off an opening to connect with anybody who’s there. I’ve seen him doing it before when another person is the center of attention, like with Kanye. And when a powerful person is doing that closing off, it’s telling the rest of the group that it’s acceptable to do that to the speaker.”

Context: Ivanka hugs her father after he finishes delivering his acceptance speech after winning the presidential election in November 2016.

“This one is interesting to me,” says Wood. “Look how straight up and down he is. His head is not fully forward. Compare that to her energy, to how far forward her head and body are. He’s standing in his strength and power, and he’s not giving her a lot of close affection with that arm around her. He’s not about being a dad in this moment, but she’s all about being a daughter. The fingers around his upper arm are going for affection, but she’s also showing she feels she has some strength in the relationship.”

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

Context: Donald and Ivanka visit his Scottish golf course in July 2015.

“She’s looking at him with such adoration and love and happiness,” says Wood. “I think that is really marked, really obvious. There’s no artifice in it. The smile is unusually big for her and it’s not plastered on. It’s genuine.”

As far as her father, says Wood, “His hand is clasping at her neck. That’s slightly unusual, just because it’s so high and so gripping. He’s holding her where the carotid artery is, a very vulnerable part of the body. The higher the placement of the hand, the more control. This is an interesting combination of control and protection. That combo of placement and firmness is interesting in an adult child and a parent; I don’t see it that much.”

Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.

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