The Definitive Book of Body Language
by Barbara & Allan Pease

  • Behaviour
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The Definitive Book of Body Language

The Definitive Book of Body Language – by Barbara Pease & Allan Pease

The Definitive Book of Body Language reveals that studies have shown that only 7% of our communication is verbal (what we say). 38% is vocal (how we say it) and the remaining 55% is non-verbal (what we do with our body language and our gestures). Intuitively, we often can sense when someone is meaning something different to what they’re saying, but ti isn’t until reading a book like this that dissects a wide range of different types of body language that we can really learn to decode actions and gestures.

 

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The Definitive Book of Body Language Summary

Researcher Albert Mehrabian conducted a series of studies and determined that communication was around 7% verbal (what we say), 38% vocal (how we say it) and 55% non-verbal. Different studies have found different ratios, so while the exact percentages may differ, the one things that they all agree on is the non-verbal communication is far more important than we give it credit for. If someone says something to you and you feel some intuitive feeling that they’re not telling you the truth, it’s because the 93% of their vocal and non-verbal communication are saying something completely to the 7% of communication in the words that they’re trying to tell you. 

This book goes through all of the different body parts. It shows what types of movements and language people convey, intentionally or unintentionally, and how you can interpret what a person is truly feeling just by looking at their body. We’ve had a lot of practice in saying things that we don’t mean and trying to be duplicitous with our words, but because we haven’t trained our body in the same way it becomes a dead giveaway, almost like our own lie detector working against us. Barbara and Allan Pease say that reading this book and getting an understanding of body language is like going from stumbling around in the dark to turning on the light to seeing what was always there.

A quick note – women are far better at this than men. In a study, participants were shown a TV show with the sound off and had to guess what was going on and what types of emotions were being felt by the character. The women scored 87% accuracy, the blokes got a putrid 42%. Lift, fellas! Here are a few of the little ideas from the book that might help.

HAND SIGNALS

Our hands and palms say a lot about how we’re feeling. If we’re accused of something we didn’t do, our hands will go up and back with our palms facing outward when we say ‘I didn’t do it!’. When we’re taking an oath in court or when we’re praising someone, our palms are facing out. On the other hand (sorry, lame joke, I’ll give myself a slap on the wrist), if a little kid gets caught lying they’ll put their hands behind their back to hide the hands, or if we’re feeling uncomfortable and don’t want to talk to someone we put our hands in our pockets. By looking at someone’s hand gestures, and specifically the direction their palms are facing, you can detect how open or closed off they are in a given situation.  

ARM SIGNALS

From an early age, we look to hide behind things for protection when we feel vulnerable. We might hide behind a tree or a chair, or we tuck in behind our dad’s leg or our mum’s skirt. This is a natural instinct for little kids when they feel unsafe, and it carries over (sub-consciously) to when we’re adults too. Whenever we feel uncomfortable, we put little barriers in front of us to act as a little buffer and give us a little extra feeling of protection. This might be crossing our arms to add a little barrier, or it might be adjusting your jewellery or fiddling with your watch or playing with your sleeves or cufflinks. Other barriers might be gripping your purse or handbag in front of you, or if you’re at a party it could be a glass of beer or bottle of water that you hold across on front of your body. If you see someone using their arms or some inanimate object as a perceived barrier in front of them, it’s a good cue that they’re feeling uncomfortable for some reason. 

EYE SIGNALS

If we want to have a good conversation with someone, we should be looking into each other’s eyes about 60% to 70% of the time. 100% eye contact is just too intense because we need to have little rest periods where we look away and then come back. But if you’re having eye contact less than 50% of the time, it won’t be a good conversation. The reason is harmless – you’re probably just a little timid and you’re a shy person. But the other person interprets this differently – they feel like there’s some kind of deceit in what you’re saying, or they feel like you’re not enjoying their company and you just want to get away from the conversation.

The authors off some practical advice for a job interview. We’re taught to always give as much eye contact as possible when we first meet someone and we’re trying to make a good impression, and we know that the person with more power holds eye contact for longer so we might want to try to sustain the initial eye contact and not be the first to break. But the authors suggest that you should give a good firm handshake to set the right first point of contact, be clear and confident when you say their name and maintain good eye contact at the start, but then you need some excuse to break the eye contact. This is because the person meeting you for the interview wants to check you out a little  – how’s your body language, how’s your clothes and hair, and other little things they want to pick up about your personal presentation. By holding eye contact they can’t do this subtly, but they desperately want to… so you should have a few seconds break in eye contact to allow them that opportunity. You might grab a pen or a notebook from your bag, you might turn around and take off your jacket, you might rearrange your chair – something for a few seconds where you aren’t making eye contact and allow them to check our your posture and presentation (obviously, going into a job interview, you would have already thought of this so your shirt is ironed, your shoes are polished, and your overall personal presentation is flawless so that you want to show it off). 

 

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