Customer Reviews: The Definitive Book of Body Language
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on March 1, 2013
I have read and enjoyed Allan and Barbara Pease's other bestsellers Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps and Why Men Lie and Women Cry: How to Get What You Want Out of Life by Asking and therefore was really looking forward to reading this book. It was quite a disappointment. Half of the body language described seems perfectly obvious to me. Some of the explanations were useful, but others were dubious or downright mistaken.

It didn't start well when on page 7 the caption under Schwarzenegger showing the thumb up explained that it meant five in Japan, which is utterly false. I can forgive one mistake, but not dozens, and the book is filled with them. Here are other examples.

On p. 18-19, the authors say that shaking the head from side to side to indicate 'no' is universal. Are they forgetting that in India it means 'yes' ? Over one billion people is not a minor exception.

On p. 20, under the title Universal Gestures, the first example is the shoulder shrug to show that a person doesn't know or doesn't understand. In France it means that the person doesn't care or that it can't be helped. Perhaps their meaning of universal is not the one universally understood by English speakers ?

On p. 109-110, they say that figures E and F are insults in Japan, and figure L means 5 in Japan and 1 in (continental) Europe. None of that is true.

On the next page, under 'Why We are All Becoming American', they say that the middle finger raised is originally an American insult that became adopted in other countries because of American TV and movies. It actually originated in Ancient Greece and Rome and has been used in many European countries (especially Mediterranean ones) for a very long time. The authors claim that the American Ring gesture to mean OK is now recognised in many countries due to American influence. It may be recognised, but is hardly ever used in most of Europe and Asia, where it often has a different meaning. They carry on with the words for toilet becoming Americanised, but what does this have to do with body language ? It is also a fallacy, since most speakers of English today are non-native speakers, and Europeans are far more likely to use the word 'toilet' than 'bathroom' because the word 'toilet' exists in most European languages.

On p.114, they claim that the French greet each others with a double kiss and the Belgians with a triple kiss. The truth is that the number varies from one to five in France, depending on the region and generation. In Belgium it is only once among French speakers, and usually none among Dutch speakers like in Britain.

On p.119, they explain that the American OK sign means zero in France and money in Japan, but they are not done the same way and therefore cannot be misunderstood easily. The OK sign is done with the three other fingers open (pointing up). The French zero is done with the middle to little fingers closed, aligned on the index finger. The Japanese zero is done with the hand placed horizontally, open fingers pointing sideways, and the palm pointing towards the body.

On p. 171, we read that the Japanese are the only ones that don't 'eyebrow flash'. Again it's not true. That's an East Asian thing.

After the ignorance of other cultures come the scientific errors. On p. 171, the authors say that, contrarily to humans, "apes lack eye-whites, which means that their prey don't know where the ape is looking or whether they have been spotted, giving the ape a greater chance of hunting success." Really ? It's a surprising theory to say the least, since all apes aside from humans, and all monkeys are vegetarian.

I also wonder what they mean when on p.192 they write "by animals, birds, fish and primates". Animals sound redundant here.

In the section of personal space (p.193), they explain that lions have a territorial space of 30 miles or more, but that lions raised in captivity have a personal space of only several yards. They confuse personal space (safe distance between two individuals, even of the same family) and the lion's hunting territory, which isn't personal but used by all the lionesses (as it is the females that hunt) belong to the same clan. They make the same confusion afterwards by mentioning countries, cities and other non-personal boundaries. It's sounds highly unscientific and unprofessional on the authors' part to make such a simplification on a book about body language.

I wasn't happier to read on the next page that they were going to compare the personal space radius in (and I quote) "Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, North America, Northern Europe, Scandinavia, Canada or anywhere a culture is 'Westernised' such as Singapore, Guam or Iceland". Wow ! What's the point of saying Great Britain and Scandinavia is they say Northern Europe ? Why say North America and Canada ? But much worse, why on earth would they consider that Iceland is not part of Scandinavia and believe it is not a Western country but a Westernised one like Singapore ? Do they have any idea of how uneducated that sounds ? On p.202 they insist again on saying "Northern Europeans and Scandinavians" as if Scandinavians weren't Northern Europeans. It might be useful for them to look at a world map some time.

On p.199, trying to justify that people become more aggressive when their personal space is invaded, the authors claim that "areas that have the highest human population density also have the highest crime and violence rates". This is another factual mistake. Countries with very high population densities like Japan, the Netherlands, England, or even India, tend to be more peaceful and have lower crime rates than sparsely populated countries like most of Africa or South America, or even the USA.

On p.268, Mr and Mrs Pease claim that "Twice as many women smoke as men". This is completely wrong. The WHO data shows that in average, worldwide, smoking is five times as prevalent among men than women. There is hardly any country where women smoke more than men, and in some Muslim countries the percentage of smoking men is one hundred times higher than for women (for example in Morocco and Algeria).

After the factual mistakes come the dubious theories. On p.260-1, we read that one of the most common forms of mirroring is yawning, and that "It was one thought that the purpose of yawning was to oxygenate the body but we now know that it's a form of mirroring that serves to create a rapport with others and to avoid aggression". The problem with this theory is that yawning is most commonly done when people are alone or with close relatives at home, and therefore doesn't serve to avoid aggression.

I also want to add that the quiz at the end of the book is terrible. The pictures are very unclear and it's hard to find all the signals even after reading the descriptions.
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on January 7, 2006
This book introduces body language from the point of view of business executives. The authors specialize in the use of body language for business and politics. I found the illustrations and photos that accompany the text to be very funny and appropriate. This is not a very scholarly book, so if you're looking for a very serious and academic book about the study of body language, then this isn't the volume you're looking for, but if you'd just like an introduction to body language from a practical point of view, then this is a perfect book to read. In addition, it is very easy and entertaining to read, so I can recommend this to anyone.
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on September 17, 2006
This is a fascinating book! What I liked most were the many illustrations demonstrating the authors' points throughout the book. Read the text though--there is so much more to this book. The author's sense of humor, though a little dry, added entertainment to an already enlightening read. I especially liked the courtship section. It is amazing that women send signals an average of 5 times before the men they are interested in respond. It just shows you how dense we men are. I found it unsettling that if you are interested in another woman at a party, the woman you are with will pick up your signal is a New York minute. And, if another woman starts flirting with you from across a room, the woman you are with will send recognizable body language to the other female: "hands off, he's mine--you're looking at trouble."

After reading this book, I guess I will never go into another meeting without subconsciously, or consciously, trying to recall the lessons in this book. I hope someone in the Harvard business school considers teaching this text in a course.

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on May 2, 2008
I became interested in a body language book after hearing about it from my prof in grad school. The title of this book made me think that it was a "definitive" or "complete" book, but it was not.

What's good about this book is that it is written from the perspective of experienced salesmen. That is very good in itself (you're paying to learn from their expertise). They cover common body language signs and explain what they usually mean. They also give practical advise on learning/reading body language for many different kinds of settings (business, dating, etc). In other words, this book is very practical and easy to read. I did learn new things about body language by reading this book. However, it did not cover some things that are important from a more purely psychological or medical point of view (such as psychomotor agitation, etc).

What I hated about this book:
1) It is loaded with questionable scientific information. The experiments were not really experiments, and the authors use scientific names and information like pharm reps would. I noticed use of weasel words and lots of sketchy information to "sell" their ideas. That is what made me lower my rating the most. It cheapened the feel of the book and made the reading less enjoyable. (-2 stars)

2) It contains extraneous information, such as sections on why laughing is good for your health. I also got annoyed at how much of the beginning of the book was dedicated to scientific information when none of them are clearly qualified or well-informed on the subject.

3) It is ultimately NOT a book that's purely on body language. Read it and you'll see why. They should add a subtitle or change the title. (-1 star)
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on February 28, 2013
The title and subtitle (The Hidden Meaning Behind People's Gestures and Expressions) give the unwary buyer the (false) impression that this is a book about reading people. In reality, it is a collection of... dreck, pure and simple. How to convey what this book seems to be about... How about I just tell you how I experienced it when I opened it up...
I opened it to the (5-parted) Introduction. The first paragraph explains how the author sold rubber sponges door-to-door. If the person who answered the door told Pease to go away but showed their palms, the author knew it was "safe to persist with their presentation" because the person answering the door "wasn't aggressive." If the person answering the door, however, told them in a soft voice to go away but used a pointed finger or a closed fist, Pease figured he had better leave. The author goes on to say how he became a salesperson and set all sorts of records. The next (sub-)section of the introduction was entitled: "All Things Are Not What They Seem." What follows is a story about two idiots who, coming upon a hole in the ground, begin throwing heavier and larger items into the hole because they cannot hear things hit bottom. The last thing they toss into the hole is a railroad tie. Suddenly a goat comes "running out of the woods and jumps into the hole." Shortly after that a farmer appears and asks if they have seen a goat. They tell the farmer that yes, a goat just ran out of the woods and jumped into the hole. The farmer says, "That couldn't have been my goat. My goat was chained to a railway sleeper." (!) That is not just a cute lead-in to this section, it *is* the section. All of it. As a joke, maybe it gets a 1.5 (out of 10) on the laugh-o-meter. Sub-chuckle quality. In a book about body language, the reader should get more. I opened randomly to the body of the book. Pictures of JFK and Nixon (JFK on the left side of the picture) and Clinton and Blair (Clinton on the left side of the picture) and the author's assertion that the person standing on the left side of the picture has a 'dominant edge' over the other.. what? really? I thought this was a book about reading people... (flip to another section) Hand-shaking - How to identify when someone is trying to dominate you with a handshake and how to out-dominate them (Walk across in front with your right leg and turn his palm up - p. 48) (flipping to another section) In the "Eye Signals" section (p. 183) one third the way down the page are two lines separated from the text by dotted lines above and below the lines which read: "Why do men have trouble making eye contact? Breasts don't have eyes." Really? Isn't one of these authors a woman? Flip back a couple of pages to the section about blinking. Page 179-180 . According to the authors, people blink because the person is either bored, disinterested in you, or because they feel superior to you. The author suggests (seriously, I think) that if you believe the person is simply arrogant "when they've closed their eyes for the 3rd or 4th time, quickly step a pace to your left or right. When their eyelids lift again, it gives the illusion that you've disappeared and materialized in another place and this can really rattle them." Thus far, I've seen nothing about actually learning to read people. I've learned about dominance in pictures, dominance in hand-shakes, arrogant blinking and the kind of trick that only The Flash could pull off. This is not a book about understanding body language. It is an attempt by two people who have made their livelihood in high-pressure sales jobs. Given all of the fancy footwork 'moves' the authors suggest to their readers, I think they should write a book about how to dance.
I am convinced that if you listen to what people say and pay attention to what they do, they will tell you what they are about. In the introduction, we are told that "Things Are Not Always What They Seem." This book certainly isn't. Unfortunately I had already purchased the book from Amazon. If I had picked this book up in a bookstore, I would not have bought it. I seriously regret purchasing this book. I hope it at least burns well.
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on May 10, 2013
The prescriptive side of this book, which prevails throughout, is where it fails the hardest. They say things like, do this, and you will project confidence and power.

Page 351 (American version, 2006):
when somebody makes you wait in their office, take out some "financial papers and a calculator and do calculations. When they call for you say, "I'll be ready in a moment - I'll just finish these calculations."
arrange for an urgent call to be put through to you during your meeting. Take the call, loudly mention large amounts of money, drop in a well0known name or two, tell the caller you never settle for second best and that they are to report back to you as soon as possible.

I DID NOT MAKE THIS UP. THIS IS VERBATIM. omfg. Are they kidding us? Who, WHO, in the world would actually.... do this?

Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite???

I live in NYC.

You meet all kinds of people, here. But you can always tell when you meet that certain someone. A young, single male in their mid 20's. Probably a year out of college. Trying to dress up, move up, climb up. (Lost, scared, desperate to show the world....something)

They've read books like Body Language, 48 rules of power, how to psych-out everybody you meet, and other trashy titles. They do little stupid things that they learned in these books, and it's obvious, and it doesn't work.

You can't blame them -- after all how do you learn how to "carry yourself" in this world, when you move from a small town to the big city? Well, it's hard. You learn from experience. Snake oil doesn't work, never has, never will. Being fake instantly destroys all the silly subtle cues anybody is trying to convey.

A book like this might help someone who has absolutely no social skills whatsoever, only in that it will help them begin to analyze physical behaviors, to begin the long journey of "public personality" development. But things like confidence, grace, warmness, composure, etc, can't just be faked. These are things INSIDE your character, which you learn to develop. If you really need a book to deal with these things, I suggest the Bible. Seriously.

As for my purposes, looking for a book dealing with body language (which DOESN'T try to tell me to look like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons, in order to "control a room" omg...), I think I willy gladly buy another title which is written by a PhD. It might get closer to the mark.
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on April 6, 2003
I got this book a year ago and indeed this book is a reflection of the soul! What people say to us is different from what they think and feel! With Body language wiz by Allan Pease, one can correctly interpret other people's thoughts by their gestures. This book has quick references as 'How To' :
1. Find out if someone is lying
2. How to be more likeable to others
3. How to get cooperation
4. How to successfully conduct interviews and handle business negotiations
5. How to pick up a partner
More n more - What I like about this marvellous book of Allan is the illustrated Gestures. The eye signals and Hand-to-face gestures are simply terrific illustrated readings and Allan sure has deep roots to indepth study of Body Language, it seems. Hand and arm gestures,way of using cigars,cigerettes, glasses, head gestures, courtship gestures and signals and more wide areas are selected which is very interesting. A good Interesting read and good to explore.
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on December 12, 2006
This book is full of information, but it is poorly presented. The authors may know what they are talking about, but it's hard to tell. It's like that poorly written term paper your friend asked you to proofrean and you had to completely rewrite. I learned more from the Introduction of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Body Language."

My main beef with this book is that after reading it, I know a lot about the "basics" of body language, but not really how to read it. They take a lot of time to point out that you have to look at "clusters" instead of any one signal, and then spend the rest of the book interpreting individual symbols! They also tend to present most of the gestures as "absolutes" or definite, while every other book warns you that all gestures can have multiple interpretations and you must be careful.

Honestly, not a bad reference, but hardly "Definitive." don't make it the only book you read!
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on March 4, 2009
One of the better psychological influence books I've recently purchased. Excellent insight into interactive persuasion in business and marketing. A very interesting title to say the least. It provides very detailed information and analysis on the full gamut of body language; facial expressions, gestures (hands, feet, torso, arms crossing), head movements, eye contact, postures and stances. For the learning impaired, these are accompanied with illustrations to explain body language explanations quickly. A great deal of the information is intuitive and often things you would never think of. Some of it is pure psychological speculation not backed with any scientific data or experts. All in all, you'll find the contents to be extremely beneficial in any sales career, as you can effectively recognize and decode the nonverbal messages of others. It's uses are as much for selling yourself as well as picking up on what others' body language is telling you.

Additionally you'll find some NLP influence explanations for mirroring people's actions to build rapport. Also, tips on reading people's emotions; flirtation, deceit, confusion, gullibility, excitement, etc. Teaches how to get the advantage in every social interaction.

I wouldn't vault this book up there as a scholarly piece like Robert Cialdini. There's a fair amount of pretty bold claims and leaps to judgment that cannot be backed up. But it is occasionally funny, and easy to glean the intended advice. Excellent analysis on detecting whether people are lying to to be more approachable and likable. Overall an interesting, dry and entertaining read, for effective improvement of your business and marketing influence abilities.

As far as seduction, I'd couple this book with the funny psychological satire The Professional Bachelor Dating Guide - How to Exploit Her Inner Psycho to enhance your subconscious attraction, emotional influence skills, as well as improving your reading and seducing of the ladies.
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on October 22, 2008
This book reminds me when I was in grade 8, and had to finish a paper within 2 days. I would go to the library, search for keywords of the topic, and put whatever information I find into a paper. To meet the minimum word requirement, I would expand a good piece of information I find to several paragraphs, and I would also make the fonts a little bigger.

This book seems it has done all that. It has some useful information, but often a single piece of information is explained using 5 pages where a few sentences are really enough. There are some scientific experiments that are irrelevant to the topic discussed, but are there to make it seem credible. Most information, however, is based on the author's personal opinions without any scientific proof, and a simple piece of opinion is, again, explained using many pages. I can't really say the author is wrong on her opinions though, because, well, let me put it this way: It's like I can say anything about aliens -- I can't prove any of the arguments, but you can't disprove them either.

The Amazon book rating system is a great way for buyers to decide how good a book is. This time, however, it has been abused. I believe the author or publisher asked people to give 5-star reviews. I can't prove this argument, but hey, you can't disprove it either.
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