Made You Think Podcast

Feb 13, 2018
Decipher people like the FBI: What Every Body is Saying by Joe Navarro
Part of

In reality, the way animals, including humans, react to danger occurs in the following order: freeze, flight, fight. If the reaction really were fight or flight, most of us would be bruised, battered, and exhausted much of the time.

In this episode of Made You Think, Neil and I dissect What Every Body Is Saying by Joe Navarro. In this book Joe shares his 25+ years experience conducting interrogations as an FBI agent, and reveals behaviors and reactions we can’t control under stress. He gives very actionable tips to understand if someone is lying, if someone is happy to chat with us, if we should close that business deal, or how to improve our public speaking skills.

We cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Heuristics for understanding when others are uncomfortable or under stress.
  • When we can confidently suspect someone, and when not.
  • How our body reacts when threatened.
  • The human body reactions, explained part by part.
  • Rips and warning when trying to unmask deception.

And much more. Please enjoy, and be sure to grab a copy of What Every Body Is Saying by Joe Navarro!

Links from the Episode

Mentioned in the show:

Books mentioned:

People mentioned:

Show Topics

0:00 – “In order to ensure our survival, the brain’s very elegant response to distress or threats, has taken three forms: freeze, flight, and fight. Like other animal species whose limbic brains protected them in this manner, humans possessing these limbic reactions survived to propagate because these behaviors were already hardwired into our nervous system.”

1:13 – Looking at how the human body reacts to stress and using that to figure out if somebody is lying or better understand emotional and mental state of somebody.

1:38 – Why Nat read this book at college. How Nat improved his public speaking abilities after reading this book, following a suggestion he received during college.

2:04 – About Joe Navarro’s background as an FBI agent for 25 years. How he was able to include all his experience interrogating and what was suspicious or not in the many cases presented in the book. Example of Joe trying to figure out accomplices of a suspect, that was betrayed by his pupils when put under stress.

3:54 – Reference to Darwin: evolution is the foundation for body unconscious reactions. Behaviors are involuntary because they drive from the limbic system instead than from the frontal cortex. Joe stresses that nobody can really detect lies, but what you can detect is discomfort, and discomfort  may lead you to find a lie or information that not being shared.

6:56 – The key to body reading is to look for behavioral changes, rather than specific behaviors.

7:56 – The book is organized in chapters: 1. Commandments (guidelines for body reading), 2. How to pacify ourselves, 3. Reading each part of the body, 4. Deception.

8:40 – First Commandment: Look at behavior in context. Example: we feel cold when we are uncomfortable.

9:32 – Second Commandment: The idiosyncratic behaviors. Body contradicting what one is saying. Example of nodding while saying no. Example where the suspect said went right while moving the left hand.

10:22 – Fifth Commandment: Establishing baseline behaviors. Nat rolling his eye example. Neil’s example running hands on his head when sleepy.

12:45 – Sixth Commandment: Always try to watch people for multiple tells, clustering of different behaviors. A single tell is not determinant. Why body language is much more communicative than spoken language.

15:27 – Limits of spoken language. We can pick someone’s emotional state even if we don’t have words for that.

18:25 – Gut feelings when you meet someone. Neil’s example of a guy being elusive about payment. Having negative intuitions just because the other is “tribally” different. How to handle intuition’s contradictions and why we should to prefer the negative one.

23:03 – Cues. Watching people’s shoulders will reveal feet excitement. Core of the behaviours. Describing each part of the body’s possible reactions. Each reaction comes in the flavour of some interaction of: freeze, flight, or fight. Freeze is the first reaction. Flight examples: turtle effect, pulling shoulders up to try to protect your neck, smaller neck in fighting poses.

31:20 – Pacifying behaviors: we do a lot of things to comfort ourselves, to distress, to feel more calm. There’s no intentionality in these reactions. Why dating advice can go bad: shoulder touching example. Why we don’t pics of ourselves smiling. Examples of forcing these reactions and trying to make them pass as natural.

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44:15 – Looping back on the baseline commandment, we should recognize reactions beyond the baseline, and understand the reason behind. Different pacifying behaviors can indicate different mental states. Pacifiers scale with the intensity of the discomfort.

49:34 – Heuristics: “weighting” different parts of the body: facial cues are the least reliable, the face is the most likely to lie. The feet are the most honest ones. Gravity defined behaviors. Colloquial phrases tied with actual behaviors: walking with a bit of a bounce on your step, walking on air, turning your back on someone.

52:17 – Tangent. Reactions of protection inherited by evolution and survival from predators. Evolution is a great first principle heuristic for understanding a large span of topics.

57:54 – Tangent. Optionality trap in dating. Sex in our generation. Optionality trap in jobs. Youthful tendency to sit around and wait for the best option.

1:04:17 – Details of different situations for legs, chest and arms. Leg crossing, nodding up or down, tilting our heads to the side, feet pointing, turning away our chest, crossing arms, etc. When it is easy to force subconscious behaviors. Importance of arms for protection. Problems of helmets in American football.

1:11:46 – Face. Fake smile. “Keep your chin up”. Keeping good posture to feel more confident. The nasal flaring. People that lose sense of smell have a hard time establishing deep relationships.

1:16:09 – Deception. Most people including FBI agents are not better than chance detecting deception. But we have some clues to be suspicious. Synchrony, if what a suspect speaks jives his body language. And emphasis: “I have never seen or heard a person who is lying yell affirmatively, “I didn’t do it,” while pounding his fist on the table”.