Commentary - What Is Everybody Saying?

There’s a new book by Joe Navarro entitled "What Everybody is Saying” and it’s all about non-verbal communication – body language.

I’ve discovered over the years that this is one of the most popular and intriguing topics for most audiences. We all want to learn how to know what others are really thinking and/or whether or not they’re telling the truth.

Well, if you take the central message of my lead article to heart, you already know that you do this extremely well at the cellular level. . . our problems begin when we attempt to rationalize our gut instincts. We sense that someone is sending us a ‘mixed message’ but given enough time and a little learning we talk ourselves into or out of the instinctual impression.

Joe Navarro contends that we should learn to listen to our gut. He has been an FBI special agent for more than twenty-five years, and he’s now a consultant and instructor for the banking, legal and insurance industries in this field. He has written several books on the subject of body language and has appeared on innumerable TV shows as an expert. He should know something about it; so I reviewed the book with great interest.

He makes good sense. There are several ‘basic truths’ that are essential to understand and there’s no substitute for diligent study and constant alertness. The first point he makes is that we must learn to really see – not just look. In the Polaris program we take our participants to a Horse Farm and also to an Art Gallery to demonstrate how important it is to see beyond the apparent – a skill that every organizational leader must possess.

Joe also says that we are cued to notice departures from the norm – but that assumes that we know what the norm looks like! Truth is in the deviance and the progressive trend, rarely is it in the single event or signal, so we need to learn to observe process, something our unconscious minds can do very well for our survival as a species has depended on this very ability.

He emphasizes the importance of multiple signals too; we can never rely on isolated events no matter how critical they appear to be. We would not draw too many conclusions from a single word offered in a neutral context, would we? Our rational minds though can persuade us otherwise and no one can lie to us as well as we lie to ourselves!

The role of the limbic or emotional brain is stressed. We’ll tell lies less frequently and competently through our body language than through our spoken words – ask any good poker player. However poker players are at a disadvantage since they tend to rely mainly on facial expressions – the part of body language we attempt to control the most. The area for most fruitful study, Joe contends, is the feet! Feet are all revealing!

As Joe focuses on the various parts of the body and illustrates the subtle yet compelling signals that are continuously propagated, we learn how to put it all together in ways that are truly revealing. Much of what is presented is not shocking or unexpected – I found myself nodding my head on so many points simply because my intuitive sense told me that he was right on the money.

The book is not only easy to read, it’s compelling and entertaining. There are lots of pictures and stories – many incredible, and the style is engaging and personal.

If there’s just one book to take on vacation – this is it!