In debates, listening is as important as talking

October 16, 2012
Stand-ins for Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and President Barack Obama, right, run through a rehearsal with moderator Candy Crowley, back to camera, ahead of Tuesday's presidential debate, Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

NEW YORK (AP) — They sound like simple principles for debating: Pay attention. Stay focused. Be respectful. Don't act bored. Or angry. Or distracted.

Sometimes it seems as though political candidates forget that, during debates, they're being watched not just when they're speaking, but when they're listening.

That's never been truer than this election season. Joe Biden's skeptical chuckles, President Barack Obama's copious note-taking, even Paul Ryan's thirsty gulps of water have become fodder for endless chatter.

On the eve of the second presidential debate, experts suggest a candidate take notes as long as he doesn't appear rude or inattentive. He should be polite, but not so polite that he's agreeing all the time with his opponent. And if he must interrupt, he should do so without coming off as overly aggressive.