It’s that time again you lucky ducks, Scott Drotar Literary Review Day is here. This week I am going to expose you to a book that I have read several times, and the information that I have gained from its pages has been useful in both my professional and personal life. Research has suggested, and most academics would agree, that at least half of human communication is nonverbal. Even though we may consciously focus almost solely on the words we say and hear, at the same time our subconscious mind is analyzing the person’s hand gestures, body movement, and the rate that they are blinking. All of this nonverbal information is examined along with the verbal components when you are trying to interpret what someone is trying to tell you. Since nonverbal cues are such a large part of effective communication, it is probably beneficial to gain an understanding of how we communicate with our bodies. This is exactly the type of information that is presented in this week’s entry. In former FBI agent, Joe Navarro’s, handbook on body language, “What Every Body Is Saying,” you will find a wealth of valuable knowledge on nonverbal communication.
I have read several books on body language, and “What Every Body Is Saying” is definitely the one that I have found the most useful. One of the biggest reasons this work is better than most others is that it begins with an introduction to the brain and the psychology of body language. It talks about the limbic system and goes over how some nonverbal cues are voluntary, and thusly can be disguised and controlled, and others are involuntary, and are more difficult to hide (making them more trustworthy). For example, you can rehearse hand gestures or head movements to make them seem natural (it is what actors do all the time), but you can’t practice your pupil dilation. Understanding this neurological background gives you a good foundation from which to take in all of the nonverbal cues and their meanings throughout the rest of the book. Navarro breaks the body up into sections, and he discusses some of the most common nonverbal cues for each part. He begins with the feet and legs, the most honest body parts, and works his way up ending with the eyes. In every chapter there is a discussion of how to be more aware of and control your own body language, and also an analysis of how to interpret the nonverbal communication of others. Photographs are used to illustrate different positions and gestures, and there are also numerous anecdotes from his work as a “lie spotter” that show how some of these nonverbal tells would occur in the real world.
His writing style is merely average. I found it to be accessible, but I thought that it sometimes lacked detail and depth, making the specifics of certain gestures difficult to fully grasp. Also, I read the ebook version on my Kindle so this may not be an issue in other versions, but the formatting and layout of the photos illustrating the nonverbal cues was pretty bad. I found myself having to flip multiple pages at times to find the correct pictures, and then flip back to try to find my place again. This got to be a bit irritating, especially since the photos are such an important part of learning information like this. The only other problem I had with this book is that I wish it had covered more gestures and nonverbal cues. I felt like there were several body language behaviors that were not discussed, but I guess at some point you have to say enough is enough. I guess I will just cross my fingers for a sequel.
As a proud “people watcher,” I found the information presented in this book to be extremely useful. Additionally, as a speaker I have to constantly be aware of the message I am sending to my audience through my words, but also through my body language. I also need to be able to accurately measure the mood of my audience to make sure my message is getting through. After reading this text, I have found it much easier to do both of these things, which has greatly improved my ability as a speaker. If you want to learn to communicate more effectively with your boss, your kids, or your spouse, this is a good place to start. You will find that after reading it, you start becoming aware of how much information you can pick up by merely being aware of what their body is saying. That is why this book gets a 4 out of 5 on the Roll Models Review Scale.