What Every BODY is Saying

"Nonverbal behaviors comprise approximately 60 to 65 percent of all interpersonal communication."

- What Every BODY is Saying, page 4

Frankly, this is one of those books I don’t want anyone else to read! It is almost as though I felt like I was being granted a superpower like x-ray vision or invisibility. What is buried in these pages is so rich and so interesting, and so secret, that I want to be the only person with that knowledge. So read no further…unless you, too, need some new superpowers!

In What Every Body is Saying, former FBI agent, Joe Navarro,  captivated my imagination by telling stories of interrogating criminals who lied with their words, but whose bodies gave them away. He adds less dramatic, real-life examples of his observations of people that changed the course of investigations, counseling sessions or family conversations.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

"Because people are not always aware they are communicating nonverbally, body language is often more honest than an individual’s verbal pronouncements."
- What Every BODY is Saying, page 4

Mr. Navarro’s belief is that it’s our body’s job is to keep us alive. The “limbic brain,” as he refers to it, is the part of the brain that instigates our “fight, flight or freeze” responses designed to protect our lives. These three innate responses provide the most reliable “tells”, or tip-offs to our true feelings. For instance, which way a person’s feet are pointing is one of the most reliable indicators of whether they want to opt out of a conversation. Or, putting hands on hips, or “akimbo” is a way of staking out territory and/or preparing for an argument. Sometimes closing the eyes or placing your hand over your eyes is a subliminal way to hide from information or an unpleasant encounter.

Our bodies communicate and everyone is different. Just like some people say, “Um” all the time, others tap their toes. These are called “baseline” behaviors. They may not mean much because they represent the way that person normally is. But, deviations from baseline behaviors are clear indicators that you should pay attention to what the person is feeling.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Get Comfortable

"Pacifying behaviors almost always are used to calm a person after a stressful event occurs."
- What Every BODY is Saying, page 50

Navarro claims that face or neck touching is a pacifying, or comforting behavior. Men prefer to touch their face and women their necks. The more stressful an event is, the more face or neck touching will take place.

Looking for signs of comfort and discomfort is one of the ways that body language helps us discern truthfulness. When signs of comfort disappear or signs of discomfort appear, we have a clue that something important is happening.

I really wanted to use my newfound knowledge to scrutinize other people’s insecurities. But, sadly, I noticed my own behavior more than anyone else’s. I was listening to someone who should have been uncomfortable telling me a somewhat humiliating story. So I watched. Was he touching his face? No. I was so disappointed. Then, I realized I was stroking my chin, rubbing my temple, resting my head on my hand as I listened. I was the one who was uncomfortable. His story had made me uncomfortable, but I didn’t notice it until I notice what my body was doing. Yikes!

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Look under The Table

"When it comes to honesty, truthfulness decreases as we move from the feet to the head."
- What Every BODY is Saying, page 56

Navarro insists that the feet are the most honest thing about body language. Happy feet are just that, a sign of good news. When people move their feet to greet you they exhibit warmth. If they just turn, they are saying “hello”, but in reality are communicating “go away”. Crossing of the legs is commonly a sign of being comfortable. Stroking the legs is a comforting behavior.

As you move up the body, the way a person tilts their body toward someone they like or away from someone who makes them uncomfortable are clear indications of the way they truly feel. Crossed arms block us from unpleasant exposure. Expressive arms communicate certainty and confidence.

The more confident or even high-status someone is, the more space they demand. To expand your body is to communicate confidence.

Gravity defying behavior, whether a toe in the air, or hands gesturing with animated speech are signs of good news. These are easy to detect as well.

I loved this book. It was the perfect mix of kinesiology, psychology and human interest to make it a great read.

I must say, however, I am still far from an expert. The difference between a shrug of the shoulder and a half-shrug will take practice to discern.

This book takes people watching at the mall or airport to a whole new level! The chief application, however, will always be the people you interact with all the time, your coworkers and family members.

So, how can you put body language to work for you?

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Scott Reavely

ABOUT Scott Reavely

I am husband to one, father to five. By day I am a pastor, by night a softball coach for 10 year-old girls. In my free time I serve on the board of Western Seminary...
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