Home Sales and Negotiation What Every Body is Saying

What Every Body is Saying
Read in 19 min.
Listen in 23 min.
Learn the key ideas of the book by Joe Navarro

What Every Body is Saying

Learn to read body language

Non-verbal language, or body language, communicates feelings and intentions that are difficult to hide. This type of communication, in fact, is closely linked to our ancestral survival instinct as human beings. Mastering this language is essential if you wish to truly understand the person you have in front of you, and, at the same time, if you want to be able to better communicate what you would like to say. In the book What Every Body is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading People, former FBI agent, Joe Navarro, shows us the ropes in learning to decipher body language, starting with facial expressions - considered the least reliable because they are more easily altered, as poker players know all too well – until finally delving into what we can learn about people by observing what they do with their legs and feet.

What Every Body is Saying
Read in 19 min.
Listen in 23 min.

Understand others better and communicate what you think and feel more effectively by mastering body language

Human beings use two languages to express their thoughts, feelings, and intentions: verbal and non-verbal language. Children are taught verbal language from a young age, and it is the most direct form of communication used between people. Non-verbal language is made up of all of the different gestures, facial expressions, movements, postures, clothes, and accessories that people use to communicate something to someone, be it consciously or subconsciously.

Body language constitutes up to 65% of all interpersonal communication that takes place between individuals. To understand the importance of non-verbal language, just think about when you go overseas to a country where you are not familiar with the local language and you are trying to understand if the person standing in front of you is friendly or otherwise. By simply observing them carefully, you will come to understand what they have in mind. For example, if they look at you sideways, their intentions may not be friendly, while if they raise their eyebrows or extend their hand to you, they may instead be looking to create a positive relationship with you. 

Body language is based on everything that does not include speech: facial expressions, the look in a person’s eyes, hand gestures, the way their feet are positioned, posture, small movements (for example, drumming their fingers), tone of voice, and, finally, the clothes and accessories worn by a person. This non-verbal language is what gives rise to the sensation that we often identify as a “gut feeling”: when you meet someone for the first time, you immediately get a “gut feeling” as to whether you like that person or not.

Knowing how to interpret body language is not only important to develop a better understanding of the person you are interacting with, but also as a means to communicate what you feel and want more successfully. For example, at a job interview, we usually try to avoid carrying ourselves with a slightly hunched posture or with our chin tilted downwards, as this would give the impression of our being submissive, when the context instead calls for us to show that we are sure of ourselves. Sometimes these signals are just a matter of quick movements or reactions that pass in a couple of seconds, but which you will still be able to catch with a keen eye.

It is not always easy to tell if a certain behaviour is genuine or not. In fact, even body language can be manipulated, albeit more difficult to do than when it comes to verbal language. For example, you can fake a smile. The difference between a spontaneous smile and a fake smile is that the first case scenario involves the instinctive use of different facial muscles in order to pull the corners of the mouth up towards the eyes, while in the latter, which is also referred to as a 'courtesy smile', the corners of the mouth move instead more towards the ears, and the eyes are no longer involved in forming the expression.


The key ideas of "What Every Body is Saying"

Understand others better and communicate what you think and feel more effectively by mastering body language
Body language is controlled by the limbic system - the part of the brain that has helped humans survive for millennia
The limbic system also controls the subconscious reactions used to regain balance after a stressful situation
The first step to understanding body language is to become a keen observer of your surrounding environment
Noticing when a person’s gestures differ from the norm will allow you to understand their deepest feelings
Facial expressions can be manipulated, however signals given by the feet and legs are more honest
The feet and legs reveal whether we feel comfortable or not, and if we tend to be the dominant party in an argument
Our limbic system tries to protect the torso and belly, as they are considered to be our most vulnerable areas
The movement and positioning of a person’s hands, arms, and feet can reveal serenity, excitement, discomfort, insecurity or domination
Take-home message
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