Book Review: What Every Body is Saying

2 minute read

Published:

In What Every Body is Saying, Joe Navarro provides a dictionary for the human body. Based in science and personal experience, Navarro’s insights are immediately applicable and verifiable. Anyone who wishes to unlock the “70% to 93%” of communication that’s nonverbal, Navarro’s book is the place to start.

Here’s the paperback and audiobook.

Utility: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5)

If this book were a long .txt file, it would already be immensely useful. But, paired with pictures of every described behavior, the book becomes a perfect field guide. Reading the book at a cafe, I found that I could immediately apply Navarro’s ideas to the people around me.

The book recognizes its own limitations. Navarro explicitly cautions against missteps in reading bodies and encourages the reader to place a low weight on any particular cue. Clearly, Joe intends to provide practical advice, not to sell a grand theory.

Writing: ⭐⭐ (2/5)

The writing was much more bland. As expected from an ex-FBI agent, there was a bureaucratic feel to the narrative. The case studies would’ve been helpful for occasionally illuminating concepts, but Navarro litters them across the book, disrupting the narrative flow. Fascinating content, but not fit for light reading.

Notes

Limitations

  • Reading bodies requires careful observation of both verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Behavior is influenced by context and idiosyncracies; some people might habitually twitch, and others my always sweat in interviews.
  • Establish baseline behaviors and seek out deviations.
  • Never place too much weight on one cue; a cluster of behaviors is a better signal.

The Brain

  • The limbic system acts impulsively and controls our body language. It’s much more reliable for ascertaining the truth.
  • People adopt fight, flight, or freeze responses, which manifest in many different ways.

Cues

  • Pacifying can indicate stress: Chewing gum, wishtling, neck-touching, touching facial hair, rubbing a leg, talking to oneself, leg clenching, crossing arms
  • The feet and legs are more reliable than the upper body. Some behaviors: “happy feet”, turning feet towards things we like (and away from things we dislike), forward leaning to indicate a desire to leave, crossing legs t oindicate comfort
  • Liars tend to restrict arm/leg movement, lean away, and ave digestion issues
  • Arms can signal many things: keeping arms behind the back and hooding (interlocked behind head) suggest dominance, hiding hands indicate suspicion, lesser touch indicates relationship problems
  • Hands have their own behavior: finger pointing is aggresive, nail biting suggests stress, thumb in pockets suggests insecurity, genital framing (hands around genitals) is sexual signalling