Psychology of the body

This is a review of Joe Navarro’s book “The Dictionary of Body Language”.

While one may argue that knowing how to read the body language of people is not important as a cybersecurity specialist, however I disagree, as many important psychological factors are involved, which develops us as a person, but also helps understand the human, and therefore the human factor in security.

The Dictionary of Body Language carries its name well, as it is a collection of phycial feature and meaning combinations, from parts all over the body. The book is split in a way that decomposes the body into parts such as head, eyebrows, lips, … which essentially make up the chapters of the book. Then for each feature, or chapter, body language “tells”, which are just signs and behaviour that a person makes, associtaed with the feature are listed, so for example for the head there could be hair pulling, or for the eyes, eye rubbing.

At times, Navarro gets very specific with the signs, such as listing differences when a person holds hands at their hips, thumbs facing forwards and thumbs facing backwards. For some the difference seems irrelevant, however the feeling communicated by both of the gestures is opposed. Even people who like noticing small details and touches in others and who may have developed a fairly good understanding of body language, may pleasantly be surprised by the thoroughness of the book.

Conitnuing on the topic of people keen on psychology and body language, the book may also be useful for those who may be familiar with all the tells, but not exactly sure of their meaning. It is not uncommon to notice something but not to be able to describe or clarify its concept to oneself. This is also where the dictionary form comes in handy: you can simply look up signs that you have noticed after a recent meetup with someone, or perhaps when you are trying to forge a feeling or emotion tell yourself.

The book does have some drawbakcs. First is the dictionary form: there is barely any narration in the book, as it is well, a dictionary. It may therefore also not be the best book on human beahvioural psychology and body language for novices, as instead of explaining, the book describes. In fact, the only narraitve part of the book is the introduction, where Navarro describes how he became and FBI agent and how he acquired his extensive knowledge on body language. It turns out that he had to observe people due to a language barrier.

This leads me to my last remark. If you are like Navarro and have always enjoyed noticing people’s actions and been interested in body language, I for sure have, then the book may be a letdown. I realise it may sound contradicting with what I stated before, that this book is useful even for those who already possess an aptitude for reading the body, however there is a difference in level. The book is too technical for a beginner, but not deep enough for someone able to spot and understand most of people’s body lanuage, therefore making it perfect for that golden middle.

All in all, it’s a neat book to have around, as even the best of us may forget what certain gestures mean, however, if you are a die-hard fan of reading people, this book may very well be too basic for you. Those of you looking for an easy read should also check out Navarro’s other’s books, this one being the cherry on top of the cake, completing any collection.