In What Every Body is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People, Joe Navarro offers a comprehensive guide to collecting information by observing bodily messages and non-verbal communication.
As a child, Joe Navarro was the child of Cuban immigrants, and came to the States with his family at age eight. In his situation, he did not speak English at his time of arrival, and before he was able to master the new language, he learned to pick up on even the slightest non-verbal communication to understand what people were really saying. It was this skill that he took with him into the FBI and allowed to enhance his career there. Today he attempts to share these skills with many people: detectives, police officers, and poker players, and anyone who is interested in his book and reading body language.
This is a fascinating book to help guide individuals to better observation of the world around them. One could think of Joe Navarro as a modern day Sherlock Holmes. And as Holmes succinctly stated in “A Scandal in Bohemia,”[Y]ou see, but you do not observe,” is the same issue that Navarro hopes his readers will be able to overcome after to putting to practice many of the observational skills laid out in his book.
Navarro is careful to point out that making snap judgments merely based on the way a person moves, breathes, or reacts can be an oversimplification when the broader context is not taken into account. Although I felt Navarro did a fairly good job at making sure to clarify after each section, I still fear that it could be all to easy to take some of these ideas and use them to make inappropriate conclusions about others (especially if you are a legalist).
I also felt that it would have been helpful for Navarro to touch on personality differences a bit more, and how that affects how different people will react in various situations. Also, I had to wonder if a serial, planned criminal studied this book enough, if s/he could master and overcome the typical limbic responses and body language. Navarro briefly addressed how actors and actresses in movies portray enhanced body language to communicate without words, and so one would think that if a criminal thought to “act” the role of being not guilty, or lied to himself about the crime enough, etc…, he may be able to evade some of the natural bodily responses.
Likewise, to learn to observe body language and non-verbal communication takes skill and practice. The book is helpful in that it includes charts and photo illustrations of the expressions and nonverbal in discussion.
If you need to do some interrogations in the future, you will likely find this a helpful book. Similarly, if you like to play the role of a Sherlock Holmes, you will undoubtedly find this instrumental in your daily activity. However, if you just want to learn more about the subject, this will still most likely prove a fascinating study; it just might make your friends and family a little nervous when you’re around them.
Table of Contents: