This is the first body-language book I've read that actually made sense to me, and which I feel I can trust. Rather than being written by TV personalities, with frequent appeals to speculative science, this one is written by someone who used body language for his day job in life and death situations over an entire career. He introduces a bit of (well-established) science, lots of empirically gathered experimental results, in case you're interested, but, mainly, he's talking about stuff he has observed over years and years, and personally put to the test.
Not surprisingly, this book makes far fewer claims for body language than some of the others I looked at. Navarro is categorical that body language alone cannot tell you a person is lying, although he does give some clear advice on what to look for. Rather, he focuses on barriers, pacifiers and emphasis which, when combined with the right questions, can lead you to seeing what areas a person is uncomfortable about. He quickly dismisses some of the grand urban myths of body language, for example that a person who touches their nose is lying, and makes some very good points from his criminal justice background about the dangers of believing such notions.
I learned a huge amount from this book, and it altered my thinking about what body language is and does. I learned even more about what it isn't and doesn't.
Chuck the other books away -- this is the one to buy.
Over the last decade I've read the books by Allan/Barbara Pease ("The Definitive Book Of Body Language" is the best of theirs); David Lieberman (in the end, I did not get a lot from his books which were not only disorganised but too much of his information could easily lead to getting false positives); and Paul Ekman (an academic who specialises in facial language - his video on reading facial microexpressions is very useful, as is "Lie to Me", the fascinating TV series based on his work).
There's benefit from reading most of the books on nonverbal language but this one is probably the most extensively field-tested and is also a good starter book, with lots of demonstration photos. The author began his sharp understanding of nonverbal language in the schoolroom when, as a young immigrant with little English, he identified what others felt about him from tiny changes around their eyes as he entered the room (slight eyebrow raise = friendly vs slight squint = unfriendly). He continually honed this natural gift over his decades in the FBI including many years of lecturing both FBI and police about body language.
The book has a whole-body approach that not only explains the what, why and how but also gives real-life examples; it is clearly organised from the most honest parts of the body to the least honest (essentially from the feet upwards), which provides a good flow. It repeatedly emphasises the importance of context and the need to compare any changes with the baseline or normal behaviour of the individual; the author confesses to still making mistakes and cautions against over-reliance on "tells".
The author provides background psychology behind many of our subconscious actions yet the book is easy to read and understand. Although it relates heavily to business interactions, the techniques can easily be translated to any social interaction. Even though it does not really help you with your own communication skills, it does provide excellent information on how to identify contradictions between what is being said vs what that other person is really thinking - how valuable in the workplace!
Later note: now there's specific workplace advice in "Louder Than Words: Take Your Career from Average to Exceptional with the Hidden Power of Nonverbal Intelligence" and "Your Body at Work: A Guide to Sight-reading the Body Language of Business, Bosses, and Boardrooms".
on 5 May 2011
I have many books on body language and many of them make the same mistake, they tell you that you can spot lies by studying body language. Indeed it seems that the 'lie' angle is what most authors go after, in different ways they tell you you'll never be lied to again.
Where this book differs is that Joe Navarro makes it plain that what you're looking for are signs of discomfort, once you see them he suggests you ask questions designed to elicit the reason behind the discomfort. Perhaps the person in question needs to go to the bathroom, perhaps they're woried about a chld who's ill, there are many reasons people become uncomfortable and not all of them mean the person is lying.
The book shows classic 'clusters' of comfort and discomfort and quite rightly in my opinion advises you to create a 'baseline' of behaviour for anyone you are going to use these skills on. That baseline should show when a person is comfortable and when they deviate, you know something is going on. He shows you how to look for positive tells, those that would indicate the person is excited and 'up. As well as showing you what are generally accepted as 'negative' or 'down' tells.
He also reminds you to pay attention to your own body language and how to present a good 'image'.
The style of writing is simplistic and yes at times the author does bang on a bit about his skills and does obviously enjoy his 'celebrity' status. Don't let that put you off however, the book is easy to read and understand and gives real insight into how body language affects us and can have an effect on our behaviour, whether we realise it or not.
on 25 March 2011
My name is Louie Blystad-Collins, and for the last 20 years or so I have been self educating and studying a wide range of sciences including Body-Language, Deception detection, Micro-expressions, Tells and non-verbal communication, Profiling, Criminal Interrogation techniques, The fight or flight (AND FREEZE) limbic responses, Intelligence Gathering, The art of persuasion, Mass Hypnosis and suggestion techniques, Cold reading, barnum statements, the Forer effect etc.
Over the years I have studied many experts in these different fields, and it has become clear to me that the people worth really listening to, and learning from, are not just the academics who run experiments and gather information, but the practitioners who have evolved into experts through the use of techniques in their own lives. As joe Navarro rightly points out in this book, it is not purely a subject for documentation, but a subject that can only be mastered through observation, application to what you know, and inspiration to what you will begin to see.
Allthough maybe a corny comparison, I would say a good example of this (allthough a different field) could be Cesar Milan, The Dog Whisperer. You may be thinking, 'what is he talking about?',but what i mean is, you could find many many dog trainers in the yellow pages, but the only true master is someone like Cesar, who has applied his science throughout his life, and therfore it is not just a studied subject, but a lifestyle and way of observing the world.
What I am eventually getting to, is that this book is just a really inspiring and informative read for anyone who wishes to understand the subject from the inside out. Navarro uses lots of example stories, and explains his findings in very simple and understandable ways.
Even his chapter about the different regions of the brain was facinating, as I used to think I knew a lot about the brain and its functions, but through his simple descriptions, I can understand it in a much clearer way. When most academics write about these complex subjects, they like to use a lot of jargon, and they like to refer to statistics and journals that mean nothing to the average reader. Joe Navarro is clearly a master at communication, because he explains things without patronising you in any way.
Another concept that i think Joe explains really well, and has clearly mastered, is the way in which he simplifies the methods of observation, and the tells to look for. As the subject is quite complex, and many signals can be easily mis-interpreted out of context, Joe emphesizes looking for just two simple contradictions, that is comfort and discomfort, and the context around it. Another master at lie detection and micro expressions is Professor Paul Ekman, who also looks for simple cues, and the details around them, in order to make split second discoveries.
I would highly recommend this book and any other work done by Joe Navarro to any enthusiast or professional, who wants to understand the subject,and open their eyes to this whole world of information that often passes before our very eyes, without us even realising. This book is not an A-Z reference book, but a personal and intriguing account and insight, into the subject and clever observations of an expert.
As several examples in the book acknowledge, these skills can even be life changing, and will apply to any human being, as it is not only a valuable tool for professionals, but will really help any parent, boss, medical professional, teacher, team-worker, trader, peace-maker, law enforcer, carer or student, to understand the people around them (and themselves) and improve their family life and work considerably.
Louie Blystad-Collins DoP, Bristol, UK
on 25 January 2011
I'm firmly a novice within the field of reading body language; in fact, this is the first book I've read on the subject - and it was brilliant.
The book is well structured, each section focusing on the language of a different part of the body. The main text is easily understood and gives you lots of useful information, but the real value of this book comes in the extras. There are multiple places throughout the book where boxes either contain a anecdote from his life that places the technique he's describing into a context that's really helped me know how to use what he's describing and when. Also, there are multiple pictures of the body-language he's describing meaning even if you don't understand what he's describing, you'll instantly "get" it when you see the picture.
This book has not suddenly turned me into a speed-reading wizard, and it will take patience, practice and multiple reads if you want to get the most of it. But even if you can't be sure you'll put the effort into it, it's a fascinating read that may well hook you into seeing what you can read.
I also purchased a couple similar books with this one, and I can say that they all correlate pretty closely suggesting that this book is correct in what it's saying. However if you're not content with that then the book has a full bibliography where he cites all the studies he refers to, so you can verify the accuracy yourself.
Overall, a brilliant read, even if your interest in body language is only fleeting, and if you get into it and practice it I can say that only a short time after reading it you'll find it will start to help you in day-to-day life.