Presidential Debates: The Qualities We Look for in Candidates

Available for Interviews: Dr. Colleen Cira, Psy.D.

Dr. Colleen Cira, Psy.D., is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who specializes in Women and Trauma, and has worked with hundreds of people struggling with mental health issues.

What Dr. Colleen Cira can say in an interview
On Presidential Debates:

When it comes to Presidential debates, style really matters. This is important to consider because being President comes with a tremendous amount of stress and responsibility. If one doesn’t have a good handle on their nervous system, then they can’t possibly manage stressful situations well because that kind of leadership and rationality requires us to have our nervous systems under control.

Qualities We Look for in a Presidential Candidate’s Debating Style

What we’re looking for in a Presidential Candidate during a debate is the ability to be passionate, competent, AND respectful. 

  • We need passion because this is a tough job and passion can be an amazing source of inspiration and motivation when things get really difficult. So we want someone who really *cares* about not just the issues on the ballot, but the people of the United States. 
  • We need someone who is competent because data, science, and facts always matter, but they matter now more than ever with COVID 19 upon us. The American people need to know that the President has a firm grasp on the facts and has a Team of competent people around him who he respects and listens to when the facts are outside of his wheelhouse. Both of these things are required to make the awesome kinds of decisions that presidents get to make, especially when they concern our livelihoods and, more importantly, our lives. 
  • We need someone who is respectful. This shouldn’t require an explanation, but I’ll say it anyway. The President of the United States of America is the leader of the free world. We need this to be someone who conducts himself with integrity, decorum, honesty, and kindness in order to maintain our standing in the world. But regardless of what kind of power someone has, we expect everyone we encounter to be respectful. We teach our children to be respectful. To treat others with kindness. To follow the rules. To conduct themselves with honesty and integrity. If these are merely *basic* ideas that we have for ourselves and others, our President should be able to EXCEED these expectations, not fall short.
  • What happens when someone exudes some or all of these things? They are able to get fired up without mouthing off. They are able to convey their passion while still following the rules.  They are able to disagree, but in a respectful way. They stick to the data and facts and avoid personal attacks. And when they mess up, as all human beings do, they take responsibility for their mistake, apologize, learn from it, and try to do better. These are all essential things that we should be looking for and expecting out of anyone who wants to be our President. 

Body Language Affects Our
Perceptions of the Candidate

  • Body language is hugely important and cannot be understated. The vast majority of our communication happens non-verbally and this is for good reason! Our brains take in TONS of data that we are not aware of and body language is part of that data.
  • Body language can serve as reassurance to our nervous system that we’re safe and no threat is present. This happens when someone makes eye contact with us in a gentle way, smiles at us, has good posture (not leaning forward, but also not slouching), is being respectful of our personal, physical boundaries, and is speaking with appropriate volume (for the situation) and kind tone of voice.
  • Alternately, body language can serve as a cue to a nervous system that we are experiencing a threat and may not be safe. This happens when someone is making unwavering, unflinching eye contact with us or refuses to look at us at all, when someone is leaning forward aggressively, invading our personal, physical space, interrupting us or using a very loud or condescending tone of voice.
  • We saw threatening body language in the 2016 Presidential Debate when Donald Trump walked over to Hillary Clinton’s space, placed himself too close and behind her (out of her eyesight) and stayed there for too long. You didn’t need any kind of special degree in body language to have an uncomfortable feeling as you witnessed that and a cringe-y response.  That reaction is not the result of being overly sensitive—that’s our brain picking up important data from the situation we’re in, and trying to help us get out of it.

Essentially, a Presidential Candidate needs to be a mentally stable, emotionally mature, and be an emotionally intelligent human being with a firm grasp on science and facts in order to make good decisions while under the pressure of being the President.


Interview: Dr. Colleen Cira, Psy.D.

Dr. Colleen Cira received both her Masters and Doctorate from The Illinois School of Professional Psychology and is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the State of Illinois.  She’s the Founder and Executive Director of Cira Center for Behavioral Health, PC, a boutique group practice specializing in Women and Trauma with locations in Chicago and Oak Park.

She was named one of the “Top 100 Women in Chicago Making a Difference,” by Today’s Chicago Woman. Dr. Cira is a trauma and anxiety expert, clinical supervisor, writer, speaker, consultant, activist, wife, and Mommy to two little ones.

Jo Allison
Managing Editor
Director of Publicity
Success In Media, Inc.

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