More than two years ago I had a brilliant idea. I was going to learn more about body language. Quick scan over the net revealed quite a few books on that topic. I narrowed down my choice to two or three and as with the texting book, I got lucky with the first one I picked.
"What Every Body Is Saying" is written by Mr. Joe Navarro, a former FBI agent that excelled at reading people, suspects and witnesses. There isn't much of a personal story inside, it's more like a manual. However, there are a lot of anecdotes where Mr. Navarro tells you exactly what every body is saying.
I can also assure you that the title is the only pun.
The book is nicely structured. At first you get some information about our human brain and our instincts. If words like "limbic" and "neocortex" scare you, you can totally skip that part. But if you want to learn "why" as well as "what" then stick around. It isn't that long.
The main topic is of course learning about body language. Mr. Navarro goes from feet up to the top of your head. He analyzes each body part and describes the most common signs and tells. You can really tell that the author is not only an expert on body language but also he knows how to teach.
It feels very much like a textbook because of its structure and the abundance of pictures and examples. You almost expect a test in the end but instead you get a nice summary on detecting deception.
Spoiler alert: you can't tell when someone's lying, you can only tell when something is making them nervous. Those reasons can be good or bad and you'll probably never know what are they. Bummer.
A lot of our communication is nonverbal - the tone of our voice and our body language. Some say that the majority of our communication happens nonverbally but that has been debunked long ago. You absolutely need words.
But you can understand people a lot better if you focus on how they're saying things and what they're doing rather than merely listening to the words. The "gut feeling" is real not because of some magic but because you subconsciously analyze all the subtle changes in people’s behavior. By doing it consciously you can become a lot better at it.
Don't get any funny ideas. Reading people is very hard. You need to establish a base level of their reactions and only then you can guess whether certain topics are making them particularly uncomfortable. It involuntarily shows in their body language.
You won't become a human lie detector. It's just not possible. An average reader at the very least will start noticing some cues in behavior of others... but also in his own.
To this day I always notice when I start to stroke the inside of my right arm. This is called a pacifier and it's apparently how I'm trying to soothe myself. Whenever I do that, it always means that I'm stressed about something. Because of that cue and knowledge from "What Every Body Is Saying" I'm usually able to find what's bugging me.
To read others you need to be actively looking at them, analyzing whole time. This isn't always doable. Many of the FBI interviews mentioned in the book were filmed and reviewed. In the real life, you have to act immediately.
However, armed with all that knowledge you will notice particular behaviors, especially when they come in sequences or groups. You will also notice drastic changes in nonverbals. This book isn't that big of revelation for anyone that did thousands of daygame approaches but it nicely systematizes your knowledge of body language.
If you're new to all this then you might be overwhelmed with the sheer amount of cues. Pick a few and train yourself in noticing them, then expand your body language vocabulary.
It is also easier to notice your own nonverbals. You can only recognize them with hindsight and unfortunately, it's impossible to suppress your somewhat subconscious reactions. But even after they occur you can compensate by changing your posture or voice.
But you have to understand not only what you did but also why. It was really an unexpected result of reading this book as now sometimes I notice that I act nervously before I even feel it in the first place. That's an awesome side effect.
The most important take away from this book is the notion that discomfort (hunger, coldness, huge hangover) is making you behave as if you're nervous. There is no difference between acting troubled, sick and anxious.
When you're uncomfortable, your nonverbals will be projecting low confidence. That means you shouldn't try to act confident when you're uncomfortable, tired, hungry or cold.
That's also the reason that when you have a bad day everyone seems less friendly. You're just presenting yourself in a certain way and people pick up on this. Emotions have huge impact on behavior and that's beyond your control.
Or is it? Your emotions may influence the way you behave but in the same time your behavior also has an impact on your thoughts and on your mood.
If you start to act like a happy person you'll become more happy. Simple things like straightening your posture, raising your head and putting a smile on your face can make you actually feel better. If you can - do more!
Start humming, singing, dancing or doing whatever you do when you're really happy. Treat yourself with something of your liking, cash in some positive emotions and leech good vibes from others. You'll notice that your interactions will be different, better.
Of course the best thing would be to deal with all your daemons. That is often called "sorting yourself out". But what I just mentioned is a great short-term solution.
And in some cases "fake it till you make it" really does work.
Knowing exactly when you're feeling low and correcting that can be crucial in ending a bad streak.
If you haven't done hundreds or thousands of sets then this book can also help you in understanding nonverbals.
It will definitely help you better understand yourself.
And it will teach you body language.
Besides all that - it's a really nice read.
You can buy the book on Amazon. It's 250 pages and it is available on Kindle as well.