4 min read ⌚
An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People
Most people use their mouths to say things, but almost all of the people use their bodies to say some more. Oftentimes, there may be an inconsistency between the two.
About Joe Navarro
Joe Navarro is a former FBI agent and current writer and public speaker. He is one of the world’s leading authorities on subjects such as body language and non-verbal communication.
He has written numerous books on the subjects, including “Louder Than Words” and “Dangerous Personalities.”
“What Every BODY is Saying Summary”
Have you ever watched FOX Network’s TV show “Lie to Me”?
If so, think of Joe Navarro as a sort of real-world Dr. Cal Lightman (in case you forgot, that’s the guy Tim Roth plays in the series). But, wait! That guy actually exists: his name is Paul Ekman and he is called “the best human lie detector in the world”!
Well, Navarro has studied his – and the books of many other relevant and distinguished authors (think: Aldert Vrij, Mark Frank, Bella DePaulo, Maureen O’Sullivan, and Judee Burgoon) – and he was an FBI agent for 25 years.
So, when he says that he sometimes knows what our bodies are saying better than anybody – he is probably right. After all, his life – and the lives of others – may have depended upon that in the past.
And the first thing he’d like us to know is that body language shapes us. Because, counterintuitively, two thirds of all interpersonal communication are actually nonverbal.
Interestingly enough, people usually aren’t aware of the signals they send with their bodies. But, the real question is how can these signals differ from the ones we send by mouthing words? How is it possible that our bodies work against our brains?
Well, it’s actually not so.
There’s one part of your brain which is called “the limbic brain.” It works 24/7 and its reactions are instantaneous and automatic. In other words, you don’t have the time to change them.
That’s why the limbic brain is also known as “the honest brain.” It’s the oldest part of our brain, so many of its reactions are, in fact, evolutionary encoded – and rendered obsolete by modern societies. But, they still have some interesting stories to tell.
For example, our ancestors used their feet most instinctively: to run or kill small intimidating animals. And we still use them in a similar manner. That’s why they are the most honest part of our bodies.
For example, we don’t cross our legs voluntarily – we do that usually when we feel comfort in the presence of someone close. Also, when we talk to someone and we want to end the conversation, usually our feet are the first to react – they start turning away from our conversation partner.
Hands are almost as honest.
Almost understandably – since they are highly evolved. Evolution has also taught us to focus on other people’s hands, because someone may hold something in them which may be threatening. And that’s how magicians trick us!
And if crossing legs is usually good, crossing hands is not. Touching another person on his/her elbow or shoulder is a sign of real closeness. Putting your thumbs out of your pockets is a sign of confidence. Putting them inside is a sign of low status.
Moving on to lying:
What happens inside your body may give you a clue why you can lie with your mouth, but usually not with your body. Namely, the conscious brain controls your words; but the limbic brain doesn’t control the hormones.
So, there’s a real fight going on inside you! Outwardly, some parts of your body are trying to pacify others.
Usual tell-tale signs that you are lying: touching your face or neck and/or quivering. Some other body signs may be even more important. Hiding your lips beneath your teeth is usually a symptom for anxiousness and worry, and unblinking eyes may suggest a repressed urge for violence.
Be aware of them. Or, as Sherlock Holmes would say: be observant!
Key Lessons from “What Every BODY is Saying”
1. There’s an Honest Brain Inside Your… Not-So-Honest Brain
2. Don’t Watch Their Faces: Watch Their Feet
3. Your Hands Are Sometimes Too Honest
There’s an Honest Brain Inside Your… Not-So-Honest Brain
Nowadays, many people say that you can discern if someone’s lying by studying his or her body movements. But, isn’t it strange that your body and your mouth are speaking two different things?
Well, it’s not – if you understand the structure of your brain. It has inside it a limbic system – Navarro calls “the honest brain.” And that part of your brain reacts automatically and impulsively to external influences. So, even though you can control your words, you can’t always control your reactions!
Don’t Watch Their Faces: Watch Their Feet
Not every part of your body is equally honest. Contrary to popular belief – and “Lie to Me” – the face is the least honest part of your body. Mainly, because you’ve trained it to align with your words ever since your childhood.
However, your feet are especially honest. Watch them closely if you want to know more about a person. For example, if they are pointing away from you when you’re talking to someone – he/she really wants to go.
Your Hands Are Sometimes Too Honest
And you can’t control well your hands either! Sometimes, they’re just too honest for your sake. You’ll get the idea if you ponder a second over this fairly simple question. Namely, have you ever crossed your arms at home, when you’re alone and you’re not thinking of somebody else?
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