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What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's…

What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading People (edition 2008)

by Joe Navarro, Marvin Karlins

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573717,365 (3.77)9
Title:What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading People
Authors:Joe Navarro
Other authors:Marvin Karlins
Info:William Morrow Paperbacks (2008), Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:body language, kinesics, mannerisms, stance, movements, motion, physical response, facial expression, gesture, bearing, behavior.

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What Every Body is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading People by Joe Navarro


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Written by a former FBI counterintelligence officer who first became an expert in nonverbal communication as a non-English speaking child immigrant from Cuba to the U.S. before using it to catch countless criminals, What Every Body Is Saying is one of the books you’ll hear most often recommended for learning how to decode body language. Expanding your ability to decode body language is an incredibly important factor in your capacity to deduce motivations in others or establish trust with them – and perhaps more importantly, it is an invaluable skill to use certain body language yourself to do things such as communicate authority or feel more confident.

As you read through this summary, it is often helpful to act out the body language yourself, both to understand exactly what it is and recognize it in others, and to give yourself a mental note so you can identify when you unconsciously exhibit it yourself.

1. & 2. Mastering the Secrets of Nonverbal Communication & Living Our Own Limbic Legacy

The author repeats the often-quoted statistic that nonverbal behavior is 60 to 65% of all communication. He explains why this is through a concept known as triune brain theory, which classifies our mind into the three areas of the reptilian brain (stem), mammalian brain (limbic), and human brain (neocortex). While the classification is not technically accurate, it is useful in conceptualizing how our minds control our actions. This book is primarily concerned with the mammalian brain, which controls most expression of our nonverbal behavior. The key here is to understand that everything we do, even the most seemingly insignificant scratch or lean, is directed by some portion of the brain. By observing these behaviors, we can learn to interpret what the mammalian brain is communicating.

The communications of the limbic system are extremely reliable because they operate outside of our conscious thought, showing our true response to our environment. In fact, there are only three responses to distress or threats that humans have: freeze, flight, and fight. We express these responses differently than our hunter-gatherer ancestors, but the way our brains react has not changed.

Examples of the freeze response:

-Someone being chastised will become very still
-Someone being interviewed will often exhibit shallow breathing
-Shoplifters will subconsciously try to hide their physical presence by keeping their arms close by their side and hunching slightly

Examples of the flight response (distancing nonverbal behaviors):

-Leaning away from the table
-Placing an object on your lap
-Turning your feet toward the nearest exit
-Closing or rubbing your eyes
-Putting your hand on your face

Examples of the fight response:

-Puffing out your chest
-Violating personal space
-Aggressive posture

These three types of limbic responses are often followed by pacifying behaviors, which are representative of the brain directing the body to provide comforting actions in order to calm down and restore normal conditions. By observing these pacifying behaviors, you can detect when someone has reacted negatively to some situation – perhaps something you have said or done.

Examples of pacifying behaviors:

-Covering the neck, such as playing with a necklace or adjusting a tie
-Rubbing your forehead
-Touching or rubbing your neck
-Touching or rubbing your cheek
-Exhaling with your cheeks puffed out
-The “leg cleanser” – when sitting, pushing your hands from the top of your legs toward your knees
-The “ventilator” – pulling on your shirt collar (for men) or tossing the back of your hair up (for women)

There are many more examples, often involving touching your face, neck, or hair, and sometimes things like whistling or excessive yawning. These behaviors indicate that someone is uneasy or stressed about something, and while the cause is not always straightforward (e.g., these aren’t guaranteed indicators of lying), they are helpful because people generally think nothing of them and make no conscious effort to hide them.

3. Getting a Leg Up on Body Language: Nonverbals of the Feet and Legs

The author then begins to go into detail about various nonverbal communication, starting with the feet because they are actually the most “honest” part of the body, and the easiest to read. He attributes this to the fact that the feet are usually the first body part to be engaged by the freeze, flight, or fight limbic response. This is in direct contrast to how we are used to reading people, which is from the face down. By learning to reverse the process, you will find it to be much easier to read people.

Another reason that the feet are the most honest part of the body is that since childhood, most people’s efforts to disguise their emotions or intentions have always focused on the face. Think about some common parental reprimands: “Fix your face,” or “At least look happy when your cousins stop by.” Most people have given comparatively little attention from their neocortexes to their feet.

1. “Happy feet”. Bouncing or wiggling your feet often indicates excitement or satisfaction. Be careful, though; this behavior can also communicate impatience. Like most nonverbal signals, you must understand the behavior in its context. While you can’t always see someone’s feet, this movement will show in their torso or shoulders even when they are sitting.
1 vote DE_Blog | Mar 25, 2015 |
Ever wondered what a furrowed brow really means? Or how to tell if someone is actually listening to what you're saying? Or why you feel more in control when you stand, lean forward, spread your arms, and place your hands on the table in front of you?

Author Joe Navarro, former FBI agent, is an expert in interpreting body language. In his revealing book, What Every BODY Is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading People, he breaks the body into categories --- feet and legs in one chapter, hands and fingers in another --- and catalogs each movement a person can make, and what it means.

With real-life examples from his work history and personal life, Navarro makes interpreting body language an approachable topic. Want to know how to convey interest when you're being interviewed for a job you want? Or the most disrespectful eye movement to watch for in your kids or significant other? Navarro has the answers.

His tone is engaging and informative, despite the academic subject matter; he held my interest all the way through the book. Body movements I've always wondered about --- and some I've never even thought about before --- can be practically interpreted, and the resulting comprehension only benefits you and those with whom you interact.

For Writers

Picture a character in your current work who needs a quirk or hobby. Why not let him/her be an expert in reading people? What consequences would that have on dialogue, character interactions, and relationships? In a mystery, the sleuth is often able to read others --- but what does that look like in a romance? or a dystopian novel?

Play with the possibilities!

Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own. ( )
  Eleanore_Trupkiewicz | Sep 14, 2014 |
What a great book. This book is a revelation -- it points out a large number of cues that others pick up on effortlessly, and does so with enough underlying body language principles that I come away with a sense that I understand the material, rather than just having a set of memorized poses with associated meanings. This is a book that I tried to read slow, giving myself time for the ideas to sink into my brain and be observed in the real world before moving on to the next section

It contains a very good balance of specifics and patterns, and I thought that the concept repetition in the book was minimal and very useful in building out underlying principles when it did occur. I've found overused repetition to be rife in non-fiction and self-help-style books alike, so this was a breath of fresh air. However, it doesn't say anything shocking or new, and therefore isn't a book for people who already "get it" innately; this is definitely a book for people who get something from intellectualizing normal social interaction.

What Every Body is Saying is not about detecting deception -- in fact, the author repeatedly notes that deception is extremely hard to detect -- but rather about detecting comfort and stress in others. Awareness of others' feelings of comfort and stress, especially those feelings of comfort and stress that they are struggling to keep politely quiet from others, provides an extra layer of information about many situations that is extremely useful. The author gives examples of job interviews, waning relationships, new employment, infidelity, belligerent children, and negotiations, in addition to many examples from the FBI. (The FBI examples are given in little call-out boxes that I first sneered at as indicating a severe case of business-book-itis, but grew to appreciate for their real-world significance.)

The downsides of this book are few and far between. There are academic citations throughout the book that are weird, out of place, and clearly tacked on; I repeatedly rolled my eyes, because they are irrelevant to this sort of popular work. They seem much more about asserting respectworthiness to people who are impressed by that sort of thing than improving content. The Foreword and first chapter were likewise very much full of business-book-style bragging and maneuverings for respect based on what others have said. Those both decreased in presence and annoyingness throughout the book, however; by the end they weren't noticeable. Really, the largest piece of information this book lacked was an appendix where the various examples from the book were organized by the principles they exhibit and their body location. If the book had had that, there would have been nary a thing to quibble about. As it is, I still have very little to quibble about (and I have notes that serve the same purpose as an appendix :)).

Recommended, but only to IxTJs and those who aren't particularly intuitive with social interaction. ( )
2 vote pammab | Jan 19, 2012 |
Excellent in insight into non-verbal communication from an expert. I especially enjoyed his associated experiences with specific "tells" (non-verbal communication). ( )
  stevetempo | Jan 7, 2012 |
The author is an ex-FBI agent, and in this interesting book he explains how to detect if a person is lying. He looks for bodily reactions to pointed questioning and argues that particular limbic reactions are almost impossible to fake.
He explains that it needs training and shows that popular conceptions are often wrong - for example the error of taking voluminous speech to represent truthfulness and unease to represent deception.
The only other book that I've read on the subject is Charles Darwin's "The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals" but I found Navarro's book more enjoyable since it's crime focused and finer tuned. ( )
  Miro | Feb 21, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061438294, Paperback)

Read this book and send your nonverbal intelligence soaring. Joe Navarro, a former FBI counterintelligence officer and a recognized expert on nonverbal behavior, explains how to "speed-read" people: decode sentiments and behaviors, avoid hidden pitfalls, and look for deceptive behaviors. You'll also learn how your body language can influence what your boss, family, friends, and strangers think of you. You will discover: The ancient survival instincts that drive body language Why the face is the least likely place to gauge a person's true feelings What thumbs, feet, and eyelids reveal about moods and motives The most powerful behaviors that reveal our confidence and true sentiments Simple nonverbals that instantly establish trust Simple nonverbals that instantly communicate authority

Filled with examples from Navarro's professional experience, this definitive book offers a powerful new way to navigate your world...

He says that's his best offer. Is it? She says she agrees. Does she? The interview went great—or did it? He said he'd never do it again. But he did.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:51 -0400)

Read this book and send your nonverbal intelligence soaring. Joe Navarro, a former FBI counterintelligence officer and a recognized expert on nonverbal behavior, explains how to "speed-read" people: decode sentiments and behaviors, avoid hidden pitfalls, and look for deceptive behaviors. You'll also learn how your body language can influence what your boss, family, friends, and strangers think of you.… (more)

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