The fictional detective Sherlock Holmes once remarked to his assistant Dr. Watson:
"You see but you don't observe."
Sherlock was making the point that Watson sometimes missed obvious clues.
Last week I read Joe Navarro's book, "What Every BODY is Saying". Navarro is a former FBI agent whose expertise is body language. He would sit in on critical interviews with "people of interest" (alleged criminals and terrorists) and watch their body movements.
I must say that until I read Navarro’s book I was a little skeptical about body language. I presumed that a hardened terrorist, for example, could learn to control his body "tells" and confuse an observer.
Navarro changed my mind. He explained that the brain operates in different ways and that the limbic system is that part of the brain that acts reflexively. In other words, there is no conscious control over the limbic system; it will react as it has been wired to do for centuries. It will evidence signs of "fight or flight" when in danger. It will indicate shock when surprised.
Speaking of "fight or flight," Navarro explained that there are actually three different physical reactions to danger – freeze, flight and fight – which manifest themselves sequentially. When at risk, an animal will first freeze to assess the danger. Then the flight option is considered. Only as a last choice will most animals fight. Humans are the same and indicate differing body positions for each reaction.
I was also surprised to learn the one part of the body that is hardest to disguise. Want to guess?
The legs and feet.
"When reading body language, most individuals start their observation at the top of a person (the face) and work their way down, despite the fact that the face is the one part of the body that most often is used to bluff and conceal true sentiments. My approach is the exact opposite. Having conducted thousands of interviews for the FBI, I learned to concentrate on the suspect’s feet and legs first, moving upward in my observations until I read the face last. When it comes to honesty, truthfulness decreases as we moved from the feet to the head.
I will be back to you with more information about body language, a new and interesting subject for me.