Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summary of "What Every Body is Saying"

I just finished reading this book. It's a solid read on understanding body language from the eyes of an immigrant child who became an FBI agent and now coaches executives on body language.

The book starts with 10 commandments of body language behavior:

1. Observe your environment - keenly
2. Context of the behavior is key
3. Universal tells are easily noticed
4. Idiosyncratic nonverbal patterns are harder to notice unless you've known the person for sometime
5. Baseline behaviors help to distinguish future signals
6.Clusters of body signals are better for decoding than individual ones
7. Sudden change in behavior can also give clues to changes in internal states
8. Try to differentiate between real and fake signals
9. Most observed behavior can be placed into: comfort or discomfort behaviors
10. Observe unobtrusively

Notes on Discomfort:

Discomfort of any kind leads to pacifying behaviors.

Pacifying behaviors:
[a] In women, covering the neck dimple and playing with a necklace are both such signs.
[b] Rubbing the forehead, touching the neck or face, and exhaling with puffed out cheeks are all pacifying behaviors.
[c] In men, adjusting their ties, massaging/stroking their neck, or covering their neck are all such signs.
[d] Leg cleansers, which are hard to spot, due to being under the table often, are easy spots for pacifiers.
[e] Ventilating the neck is another key sign of stress and emotional discomfort.

Notes on feet:

1] We tend to turn towards things we like and vice-versa
2] Clasping of the knees and shifting of weight on the feet is an intention cue for leaving
3] Happy feet (upward pointing, dancing around, moving) are all signs of positivity
4] High comfort displays include crossed legs and mirroring legs (isopraxis)
5] Knees pointing towards you are barriers while pointing away from you are open
6] Suddenly kicking feet indicate discomfort as do interlocking ankles
7] Walking styles are important to notice for changes

There are a slew of other signals including torso leans, head tilts, and pupil dilation with all are comfort signals.

The author encourages the reader to be a keen observer and primarily differentiate between comfort and discomfort signals to read the person and the situation. He also uses the same set of signals in helping decode deception.