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  • Writer's pictureNeha Srivastava

Readers' Review 2: The Dictionary of Body Language by Joe Navarro

The Dictionary of Body language is a crisp sourcebook throwing interesting insights into the world of unspoken intentions. Authored by an ex-FBI agent, the book covers the interpretation of more than 400 body signals that you can tap into, to catch what lies behind those spoken words.

There is language in your eyebrows, your nose, your torso...

"If language was given to men to conceal their thoughts, then gesture’s purpose was to disclose them.

The essence of this quote by John Napier is truly reflected in the book – The Dictionary of Body Language, by Joe Navarro.

This book promises to give you a new ability to read people’s true intentions. You learn to get an instant insight into what people are saying without speaking.

In the process, you also wise up on moderating your own mannerisms, and that helps you stay conscious of how you project yourself.

In short, the book helps decode body language.

Now, does the book deliver on its words? – Yes, it does, however, in degrees.

Not very deep on nuances, The dictionary of body language is a simple documentation of a range of body cues and their possible interpretations. It is an easy read, given that the format has a reference manual/ dictionary approach.

A good number of these body language signals are very common, in fact sometimes too obvious for a mention in a book. You might feel at times, that it is written for a layman - someone who lacks the ability to read even the most common body language cue.

The significance of goosebumps or excessive sweating, for example, doesn’t need interpretation. Finger-pointing is another universally disliked phenomena that didn’t need a mention. The same goes for nail-biting.

However, you do find enough mention of less obvious kinesics scattered all along this publication.

For example, did you know, when businesspeople stand facing each other at a slight angle, the amount of time they spent together increases? Or, pushing the tongue firmly against one cheek could be seen as an attempt at hiding information?

Many more such examples that could be helpful in catching the unsaid during social, and business interactions find mentioned in the book.

The book rightly calls itself a dictionary, though it explains more than just the meaning. It is a bite-sized well-organized book that you can carry with you, say, for a critical deal- closing business meeting.

In one such chapter -The shoulders (pg.105), Navarro talks about the significance of raising one shoulder. He says, “In negotiations, when one party raises a single shoulder in response to a query, such as - Is that your best price? it generally signals there is room for negotiation. A one-shoulder-up answer suggests a lack of full commitment to what is being said.”

So, if you don’t know what non-verbal signals to look for while on a work trip, the book is hands-on. In other words, a quick reference guide!

What gives authenticity to the content is the fact that the author, Joe Navarro, is a former FBI agent- an ex-profiler and spy catcher, responsible for analyzing criminals taking cues from their body language.

A pro in his own right, Navarro has studied people enough to know the overtones and undertones behind body signals. He has formatted his book with an interesting breakdown of body parts and their movements. The book also talks about the psychological state of mind that could trigger the gestures in question.

That said, you do miss pictorial illustrations every so often. Mere word descriptions may not give enough clarity to readers who are not familiar with certain culture-specific gestures.

For instance, in the chapter The Eyebrows, signals like eyebrow greeting and eyebrow knitting would have been way clearer with pictorial depiction.

The book would be beneficial especially for people working in public speaking, training and client-oriented roles like Business Development, Customer service, Front office, Client relationship, etc. or those seeking to become more mindful of the image they are projecting.

However, if you are looking for an in-depth study of human behavior and deception detection, you might want to read his other book What Every Body is Saying first.

The Dictionary of Body Language probably serves as an add-on to this one rather than a self-contained resource.

In other words, a practical aid without being particularly entertaining- mainly due to the lack of stories from real-life experiences of the author as an FBI agent.

However, it does help satiate one’s curiosity to decipher people’s thoughts, feelings, desires, fears, or intent by decrypting gestures.

All in all, a fine desktop resource!


Neha Srivastava is a Corporate trainer, Performance coach, and independent web Content writer and editor with 20 + years of content designing, development, and delivery experience, across IT, ITES, and BPO sectors. Specialized in Business communication, Customer services, and Team Dynamics, she takes delight in helping industry aspirants and working professionals hone their soft skills.

To read more from her, visit » Office Gritties

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