The Eyes Have It

Post Four In A Six-Month Series On People Reading

I’ll save you the typical rundown of clichés about the meaning of the eyes, and instead jump into some simple, to-the-point tells that can be found in and around the eyes.

The Pupils

Dilated pupils mean one of two things: pleasure or stress.

Pleasure as in something the subject enjoys looking at (experiments have shown women’s pupils dilate the most when looking at pictures of a mother and child) such as someone they hold affection for, an object they admire such as a painting or something of value. Pretty much strong positive emotions = dilated pupils and an easily read facial expression. Your pupils will also dilate when you’re on drugs and experiencing a ‘good trip’.

Stress can mean hatred towards someone, or simply stress from a situation. It’s obviously very easy to distinguish why someone’s pupils are dilated. You’ll never find yourself looking at someone with dilated pupils and thinking, “Hm, I can’t tell if they like me or want to strangle me…”

Though someone may have a false smile and dilated pupils, in which case figuring out if the smile is fake will not be challenge, as I will show you below:

It’s All In The Orbits

In medicine and body language alike, the area around the eye is referred to as the orbit, or, if you’re referring to both eyes, the orbits. The muscle that controls facial expressions of emotion around the eye is called the orbicularis oculi (I’ve heard it pronounced every which way, but the most common is simply ‘or-bick-you-lare-is oke-you-lie’).

Orbicularis oculi seen around the eye. Directly above it you see the muscle that covers the forehead, known as the frontalis.

When a smile is genuine, the lower outer corners of the eyes raise, sometimes causing tiny lines around the eyes.

Genuine and false smile shown by the master himself: Paul Ekman.

In case you’re wondering – no, you cannot make the orbit muscles imitate a genuine smile, you’ll see too much action around the nose and it’ll be downright obvious to any observer who knows where to look.

Remember: some facial muscles cannot be sufficiently activated unless they are expressing genuine emotion.

Therefore, you can temporarily display ‘smiling eyes’ by thinking of something that makes you happy, but only momentarily, because you can only hold onto the happiness from a memory for so long before you must endure the present reality and the muscles have no choice but to tell the truth.

Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP)

Countless times I’ve seen on television shows, in blogs, in books and in magazines a common gargantuan lie. A lie about the eyes and how they reveal deceit. In a nutshell, the notion goes that if someone looks down and to the left while they’re speaking, they are fabricating their story and therefore lying.

Noooooooooooooooo!

But, there is a factor of truth in this – you can get an inkling of where someone’s thoughts are as they speak by noting eye movements, but it will never never never never be as simple as ‘Down + left = lie’. This inkling of truth comes from a concept known as neurolinguistic programming, or NLP. NLP is really much more than a guide to eye tells, but for this post, we’ll only be looking at NLP’s explanation for eye movements.

The basics of NLP go like this:

Someone remembers something they saw: eyes go up.

Someone remembers something they heard: eyes go to the side.

Someone remembers an emotion: eyes go down and to the right.

Someone is talking to themselves: down and to the left.

The problem: while we are speaking, our mind is bouncing all over the place, retrieving information, organizing thoughts, planning on what vocal inflections and volumes to use to get our point across. When we talk, our eyes will bounce around no matter what. So while NLP may be accurate and useful, remember that these signals come in clusters and happen in a fraction of a second. I can tell you from personal experience that after three years of attempting to master these signals, you just have to focus and eventually develop an intuition for it. You may not catch a lot of the signals (they are extremely difficult to catch as they’re happening, more difficult than micro-expressions), but eventually your subconscious will start looking out for them for you and you’ll find you get a lot more ‘gut feelings’ about people and what they say.

But! A note about lying and eye contact:

Despite popular belief, people who are lying will maintain eye contact longer than someone who is telling the truth. Like I said, someone who is talking will have a million things happening at once, one of these things is information retrieval, while a liar will be watching your reaction and will not require certain cognitive functions that a person telling the truth will be using.

Also, a fun trick that I use when I’m addressing a group of people or trying to hold someone’s attention while I explain something (and Heather, if you read this, I wasn’t manipulating you – just attempting to anchor your admirable, occasionally cocker-spaniel-esque attention span…you know I love you!), is using a pen, stick, pointer or any like object when explaining an idea (only when a visual aid of some sort is nearby, like a map, article, object ect.,). It goes simply like this – when explaining an idea, using the pointer to, well, point to the article, and when explaining an important part, bringing the pen up to near eye level, which automatically causes the other person to give you direct eye contact. It works every time, and no one can deny the first few times are extremely fun and amusing and sort of make you feel like the Mentalist. (I learned this trick from books by Bernard Asbell and Allan Pease.)

The Mentalist.
Must…steal…suit…and hair product…

Blinking

The average relaxed blinking rate is 6-8 blinks per minute. When we’re under pressure, feel stress and anger, or otherwise a sudden burst of emotion, our blink rate will increase dramatically.

Darting Eyes

As I mentioned in my post about Harold Camping’s body language during an interview directly after the passing of one of his latest dooms dates, eyes darting from side to side can indicate someone looking for an escape route. I’ve had this happen to me on several occasions, and understanding what the signal meant let me know it was time to wrap up the conversation, lest the image they have of me in their mind become slightly negative and unpleasant.

Gazing

Social Gazing:

Experiments have shown that this area is the area most commonly focused on for 90 percent of the time during social encounters. Some researchers believe this is because we feel that not looking directly into someone’s eyes will make us appear nonthreatening.

Power Gazing:

This gaze is often used in power plays among businessmen – sort of a tool of intimidation. The effect of this gaze, according to Allan Pease, “…has to be experienced to be believed.” It creates a serious atmosphere, and if used unwaveringly, can make the subject feel very uncomfortable.

_______________________________

Like anything in body language, in order to really be able to get accurate reads, you need to:

1. Not read too much into signals.

and 2. Practice, practice, practice. Eventually you’ll develop a reliable ‘spidey sense’.

And, apologies for not giving you much to think about for this one. As I said last time – I promise the next post will be better!

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

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The Power In Your Hands

Post Three In A Six-Month Series On People Reading

Before this post officially begins, let’s take a quick review of  important points from the previous post:

The most accurate reads are the most basic reads.

 “The big picture never lies unless that is the intent of the subject.”

You already know how to read people.

“We instinctively recognize facial expressions (happiness, sadness, anger ect.,)”

You automatically imitate whatever facial expression you are viewing.

“Some researchers believe that we have a ‘mirror neuron’ that causes us to imitate the facial expressions of the person we are looking at. “

Always consider the obvious!

“Someone may be crossing their arms because they are cold, not because they are comforting themselves or feel defensive.”

________

Pre-Post Ramble

 I love Glenn Beck. (This is relevent to the post, I promise!)

It was perhaps a year and a half ago when I was watching an episode of Beck’s show on Fox News that I noticed several signature body language signals that he would use during any given episode. One signal in particular he didn’t use often, but it conveyed a very interesting message.

During one of his monologues Beck was sitting on his desk, facing the camera.  Midway through a sentence he suddenly paused and made a joke about a politician. The audience laughed. But instead of showing a body language signal suggesting that he was proud of the response, his smile faded slightly and he sat on his hands before continuing the monologue.

Our hands represent power. Think about the power of a handshake, the honesty represented in an open palm, the negativity behind a hand raised to stop us, the meaning behind a clenched fist. Sitting on his hands after receiving a positive response to the joke seemed to be Beck’s way of shutting down any proud feelings from the response of the crowd.

Post-Ramble Post:

Let’s take a look at a few common signals represented by the hands in body language:

Hands And The Face

Steeple Hands

I used to be a skeptic of the supposed meaning behind steeple hands, and even though Allan Pease (who wrote my favorite book on body language of all time, The Definitive Book of Body Language) has said multiple times in interviews and in his books that steeple hands mean confidence and that the subject feels in control, I doubted it. I didn’t buy it until I was at Starbucks with Heather Madame a couple of years ago and I saw about a dozen men in business attire seated at a table and my ‘spidey sense’ made me feel like one of the men was the leader of the group. I eventually realized that it was because he was using steeple hands in combination with a stern, judgemental expression and the fact that those around him shifted their posture and expressions to match his.

Which just goes to show… never doubt Allan Pease. Ever.

The rest of the signals are a tad complicated, and it’s very important that they not be mixed up.

When it comes to the subject’s hand touching their face, the message changes depending on how much of the hand is placed exactly where, and in combination with general facial signals and body language signals (it may be complicated, but I can assure you it is easier than it sounds.)

Resting Head On Hand

Depending on the subject’s facial expression, this can mean one of two things (it’s always very obvious which one it is)

  1.  If the subject’s facial expression appears bored, the subject is bored.
  2.  If the subject is with someone they enjoy being in the company of (it’s a safe bet that the subject will have romantic feelings for the person they are looking at), they will use this signal as a way of putting their face on display for the other person. This is another signal that I highly doubted the meaning of until I ended up using it one night at work when I was talking to Josh.

Another version of this signal is the picture below:

As well as a another version, where the hands are open, palms facing down with the fingers interlaced.

As I was looking over our next picture, I saw a perfect example of a fake smile. So, while we’re learning about hand gestures, I thought I’d type a note or two onto the picture so you can find out the simple secret to discovering whether a smile is genuine or not:

You should be used to me jumping from one rabbit hole to the next by now, just be happy I haven’t gone on a thousand word rant on my love for Allan Pease.

Back to the hands – take a look at Ben Bernanke’s hand in the above picture. Whenever you see the fingertips touching the subject’s temples or near/on the forehead, this represents a negative emotion. Stress, anxiety, tension and often a negative emotion specifically about the person they are looking at, or the conversation itself.

Touching the forehead almost always signals a strong emotion, but it is not always negative. An open palm to the forehead can mean relief, but it can also represent punishing oneself for lack of foresight. Fingertips kept on the forehead always represent stress.

Hands On Their Own

Before this bit begins, I need to show you a picture of Allan Pease from his television special in the early 80’s:

Allan Pease with his eternally happy eyes, horrid suit and dreadful hair. *Swoon*

There’s no reason for this picture to be here. I just thought it was amusing.

Back to the post!

Folks in politics learn quickly to try to never use the classic finger point when giving a speech, because they will be seen as harsh, and be perceived more negatively by the crowd than they would have if they had used the ‘hand chop’ (hand sideways, fingers straight, lowered onto the podium in a ‘chopping’ motion) or the cupped hand (hand sideways, fingers slightly curved). Anything but pointing at the crowd directly.

Finger-pointing is always seen as a negative signal, and is often used when the subject is accusing someone of something, even if the intent of the subject was simply to drive home a point, the signal will always make the subject appear harsh and judgemental. And the audience will not only view the speaker in a negative light, but they will also retain less information from the speech.

You will appear more open and honest if you express an opinion with upturned palms.

Post-Post-Ramble:

You might have noticed that the hands are not my favorite part of reading people. Or really my favorite signals to study. But I know that anything you have learned here will benefit you, and I’m just relieved to have finally finished this post! Since I missed the original publish date last week, there will be a new PWRP post this Wednesday.

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

P.S Please shoot me if I ever wait until the night before to write one of these posts! Goodness me I’m never drinking another cup of coffee as long as I live, eight hours and countless mugs filled with coffee and green tea doesn’t do very much to warm one to the act of writing about a topic that one doesn’t like very much to begin with.

P.P.S I just realized that tomorrow is Wednesday, so I will be working on Wednesday’s post tonight… please disregard the first sentence of the post script above…

On Emotional Psychology…Sort Of

Just a note before I publish this little post. The fancy struck this morning (well, by now, yesterday morning) to write a post on psychology. For my PWRP post series I try very hard to remain on topic. But for this post, while I will try to stay on one little rail of thought, I’m not going to limit myself to any rules. That is, don’t expect decent writing or really any order to this post. As for this little bit here that I’ve just written, think of it as a friendly warning of pure disorder and dull recollection.

Enjoy.

~Hannah-Elizabeth

I’ve been known to drink a few pots of coffee in one day.

Yep, not a few cups, a few pots. These days I tend to do it more out of routine than anything else. The familiar motions of making a cup of coffee, opening an old newspaper and trying to forget about what I need to do. To heck with it. I think, A moment of peace now will go a long way later.

And even if my daily routine means that I’ve lost time that could have been used to be productive, I don’t even try to eliminate those moments. Sometimes I think that I stick to it just so I can tell the story of drinking too much coffee and reading old newspapers. It’s something comfortable and set in its ways. It’s something that I do, that I always want to do. It may not be productive, it may not be healthy (though, one could argue, there are multiple benefits to drinking coffee,) but it does place me in a positive state of mind.

Recently while reading a few articles on Psychology Today, I suddenly came to the conclusion of several weeks worth of contemplation: Negativity and self-delusion can be healthy.

Allow me to explain:

Self-Analysis

I recently started rereading material on personality profiling after seeing a reference to the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator in a post of a fellow blogger. During a recent trip to the library, the post came to mind and, out of boredom and curiosity I picked up a popular book on the subject of the MBTI that I first read  several years ago, Do What You Are, and reevaluated my personality type according to the MBTI (still INFP…dangit,) along with my type according to the Hartman Color Code, the Five Elements personality test found in The Face Reader, my brief self-analysis from my Rorschach inkblot test (I couldn’t bring myself to do a full analysis because the Rorschach is touchy enough without extreme bias from the tester getting in the way,) as well as several classic tests, and very quickly I realized an undeniable truth:

Self-delusion is very much in my nature. According to the five elements test, I tend to make excuses for the bad behavior of people I care about. The Meyers-Briggs informed me that when I’m in a relationship I tend to fabricate positive traits in the person I’m with, and even in the face of strong evidence I will still keep them on the pedestal I’ve created. According to the color code I tend to ignore negative traits in people and instead admire their values because of my inherent need to keep peace and avoid conflict. All other tests said generally the same thing, that I tend to view the world through rose-colored glasses, my mind remains oblivious to the potentially negative outcome of a relationship until it’s much too late, and on and on and on…

At first this revelation made me want to track down the creators of each test and give them a talking-to (which would be rather difficult with the MBTI, because the true creator of the test was Carl Jung…he died in 1961), but then apparently my passive nature made me rethink that idea. And I realized that I couldn’t deny what the tests told me, because I purposely lie to myself everyday.

In late September of last year I started a personal happiness experiment. Everyday I focus on one thing to be happy about and, as I’ve mentioned before, this significantly changes the mood of the day. When I can’t come up with anything, I settle on ‘Today is going to be a good day.” Even if I know it’s going to be stressful and hectic I say it anyway. I asked myself once ‘what exactly should one do when there is absolutely no silver lining to be seen?’

I replied to myself instantly, Well, just make one up.

I couldn’t help but wonder if I was negatively affecting my view of reality, and perhaps delaying my psychological maturation by doing this to myself. After all, if I’m viewing my relationships incorrectly, my friends incorrectly, my family incorrectly and myself incorrectly, I must be missing a lot of what other people are seeing throughout their lives.

I suppose the easy answer is yes, yes I am. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mind Over Body

The mind controls the body. This is seen everywhere from a strong emotion giving you goose bumps, to a biofeedback machine helping a patient learn how to ‘think’ away their headache and lower their blood pressure. There are even mind-over-body techniques used in cancer treatment, in a field called psychoneuroimmunology.

John Gottman (my favorite relationship psychologist) discovered a darker way that mind affects the body. Specifically, that the presence of contempt in a relationship spells out not only the end of the relationship, but also problems with the health of the person on the receiving end of the contempt. “…we can predict how many infectious illnesses that person receiving the contempt will have in the next four years. People in those kinds of relationships really live significantly less…they die earlier.” He said in an interview with 60 Minutes.

And, sort of a fun fact, multiple studies done in the 1990’s revealed a loss of hippocampal volume (8% in war veterans) in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (your hippocampus is a part of your brain that mainly handles memory storage.)

Optimism = More Likely To Pop The Red Pill

blog post on the Psychology Today website in December brought a new spin on what looking on the bright side means when it comes to being level-headed.

Raj Raghunathan, Ph.D. executed an experiment at the University of Texas that involved polling the students to discover if the majority of individuals would decide to be happy even at the cost of being aware of the whole truth, or if they would instead decide to be completely aware of the truth, even at the cost of cheer. Long story short, Raghunathan and his research partner, Yaacov Trope, put subjects in either a bad mood or a good mood, had them read an essay on coffee that contained both positive (caffeine promotes mental alertness) and negative (caffeine can cause cancer) factoids about coffee, and then tested their memory of the essay. Turns out, individuals who felt more upbeat were more likely to remember negative effects of caffeine, while sad participants were much more likely to remember the positive facts from the essay. Raghunathan believes that this is because the sad subjects subconsciously “chose” a reality in which coffee is all good, “Because they were sad, they were inclined to repair their mood through positive knowledge – or felt too down to handle a dose of negativity.” While the happy folks proved that more upbeat feelings make us more receptive to the truth and all of its downsides. “A hierarchy emerges: First we seek happiness. Only after we’ve tipped toward contentment are we open to hard facts.”

This article surprised me because when I think pure and simple happiness I think illogical. Trusting. Endlessly peppy. A child in the middle of a war that climbs on some giant rock, holds a little fist in the air and yells “Can’t we all just get along?” The idea of happiness lending us the ability to accept more difficult facts is unheard of (or rather, was unheard of to me).

The Upside To Negativity

Honestly, fourteen hours ago when I started writing this whole shindig  (yep. I have been writing and rewriting and deleting entire paragraphs in this post for the past fourteen hours straight. I was determined to write a post and I don’t mind that it’s nearing 2:30AM, I am not leaving my computer until this post is published,) the title of this post was “Making The Case For Rose-Colored Glasses”, and I was going to attempt to convince you of the upsides of a little self-delusion here and there. But, the positive side to negativity kept trying to elbow its way into my post and I just kept shoving and pushing and aiming and firing at the idea of negative thinking being helpful, when I realized that I was being too negative about negativity.

To quote a popular Eli Young Band song, “Start out depressed, everything comes as a pleasant surprise.” It seems rather obvious: If you apply for a job and have high hopes of getting it, you’ll have to deal with the intense disappointment if you’re rejected. On the other hand, if you have low expectations and end up not getting the job, you won’t have to deal with strong negative emotions. (But you’ll be that much more excited if you have low expectations and get the job anyway.)

“The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised.” – George F. Will

A pessimist will also see things that an optimist might miss if said optimist is too busy being angry at personality tests for declaring them an optimist…Also if said optimist is making an important decision and may not be thinking as clearly as someone with a bit more doom and gloom and less smiles and sunshine. Pessimists lend a new and possibly clearer perspective.

In closing, though, we need to remember why pessimism has gotten such a bad rap. The bad news about being a pessimist and why every article on mood in every psychiatric and psychological journal and magazine and report tells us to aim for happiness. Let us look at two simple facts:

1. Happy People Live Longer! A study in the UK involving 3,800 people aged 52 to 79 has yielded results informing the world that happy people live an average of 35% longer than people who claim to be unhappy. And the happier you are, the longer you live (which means, terrifyingly enough, Barney and Spongebob are probably going to outlive all of us.)

2. Happy People Are Happier! Yep! Happy people get more serotonin, dopamine, endorphines…all of our favorite feel-good neurotransmitters that give us a natural high. Meanwhile pessimists get cytokines (blood proteins that have been linked to major depression, Alzheimer’s and cancer) and an increased risk of many a horrid disease.

Alright then, it is nearing five in the morning, and I leave you with…ah, whatever it is that I was writing and editing the past seventeen hours.

Before I leave you be I’m going tell you something that I learned five years ago from a book that a behaviorist by the name of John Watson wrote (something that I misunderstood entirely at the time, but a misunderstanding that shaped who I am), it is impossible to fully understand the outer workings of a human being unless one first comprehends the inner mechanisms. Understanding psychology is an incredible foundation for reading people at a glance. If you want to read people through body language and facial expression and you want to learn to do it right, begin with the mind and work your way out. It gives us empathy and understanding and an ability to better predict the behavior of those around us. Psychology is the science of mental life, as William James once said. And mental life is reflected on our faces.

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

Viewing People As Structures

Post Two In A Six-Month Series On People Reading

Pre-Post Ramble:

Sometimes when I’m in a public place, I stop seeing the people around me as human beings, and instead see them as a living pattern.

The image above is from one of my 'little black books' I've mentioned - small notebooks that I use to record random observations.

You may have already realized something similar to what I mentioned in my notebook. When Heather Madame and I took zumba classes last year, I noticed that when we started the class, we wanted to stay in the back and blend in. But the more comfortable we became, the more we wanted to be on the edges of the group and eventually ended up near the front-middle of the group. It was about this time that I was wrapping up my Rorschach inkblot experiment at The Center, so my mind was still spinning with random psychological information.

When you analyze the results of a Rorschach inkblot test, the one thing you look at first is certainly not what the subject saw, but where. Because the exact content of what the subject saw may be from a TV show they watched the night before, or from a song they heard on the radio that morning, an article from a magazine, ect., exactly what you see in an inkblot will change hour to hour, sometimes minute to minute, I’ve realized. Sometimes in phase two of the test (when I had the subjects look over the inkblots a second time and speak in about greater detail what they saw) when I would remind the subject of what they originally found in the blot, they would look at the paper, flip it this way and that, and say “I’m sorry…I just don’t see it anymore.” But what never changed was where their eyes darted when they looked at the inkblots. Take a look at the image below:

This is a rather basic inklot. The way Rorschach arranged his inkblots when he interviewed his schizophrenic and depressed patients, was the same arrangement that he used to test children and mentally healthy adults. The blots start out basic and colorless, and gradually become more intricate and more color is added until you are shown a blot entirely in chromatic tones. The same interpretations always apply for every blot:

If you look more in the middle/bottom of the blot, you are likely predominantly introverted depending on how many blots you view this way, but if you find yourself paying more attention to the outer edges/top of the blot, you are more likely to be extraverted. (Though it should be taken into account that the subject will probably pay more attention to the top of the blot due to the lack of ink at the bottom of the blot posted above.)

I saw the zumba group as a giant Rorschach inkblot. This idea cannot be used for every group of individuals, because, as Rorschach himself said in Psychodiagnostik (1921), the inkblot test, in purest terms, is truly only a test of how well a human being can respond to the tension of a completely unfamiliar  situation. At the zumba class, nearly every woman there was middle-aged and very insecure. No one knew what to expect to come up on the playlist or the dance routine. A perfect situation for a living, breathing Rorschach inkblot to form.

Post-Ramble Post:

Viewing human beings as structures can give us, incredibly enough, greater insight into human nature than viewing human beings as, well, human beings.

Think of a pointillist painting: thousands of tiny dots are used to form an image that can be seen clearly when you back away from the canvas and view the image as a whole. Too often people want to read people by first looking at the finer details and then building upward, when really the opposite method should be applied. In this way, learning to read people is the same as learning to analyze handwriting. You must start with the basics, the framework, the big picture before looking for signals that will give you more specific information. Why? Because it’s easier to interpret. The big picture never lies unless that is the intent of the subject (as for spotting lies, we’ll discuss that in a future post.)

Remember – you already know how to read people. I’ll prove it to you, take a wild gander at what facial expressions these are:

 

We know instinctively what facial expressions such as the ones featured above mean. While some facial signals vary from culture to culture (as in deliberate facial expressions or movements such as a wink or sticking out your tongue) all natural (involuntary) facial expressions are the same throughout the world, even blind people use the same facial expressions, so we know we are born with not the ability, but the involuntary feature of expressing our emotions as a way of protecting ourselves by showing we have good intentions (smiling is seen as an unthreatening expression, even in animals,) or intimidating an enemy (when we see the facial expression of intense anger, or ‘fury’, fight or flight kicks in and starts up our autonomic nervous system (think: automaticThe ANS controls all involuntary functions,) and prepares us first to leave, and if we cannot, for an altercation.)

The autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, the sympathetic nervous system controls fight or flight and the parasympathetic helps us recover afterwards.

I tell you all of this because, while I do not encourage always reading someone by intuition alone (you will always be biased subconsciously when you try to read someone,) when you can’t read someone from clear signals, you should trust your instincts. You’ve been reading people since the day you opened your eyes and saw your mother smiling at you, causing you to imitate her facial expressions and associate her smiling with positive circumstances.

We Are All Empathetic

 Experiments have shown that we automatically imitate whatever facial expression we are viewing, even if we don’t completely mirror the other person, our brain responds to their expressions and subtly activates the muscles creating the expression. Some researchers believe that there is a ‘mirror neuron’ in the brain that causes this imitation. Psychopaths, who lack empathy completely, cannot understand facial expressions on an instinctive level like healthy individuals can. They instead have to teach themselves what facial expressions are acceptable, and consciously imitate them to manipulate those around them.

Just a side note: if you want a more positive mood or to feel more confident, then even if you don’t feel the emotion, imitate the signals! Paul Ekman (the man who is responsible for nearly all major breakthroughs in our understanding of facial expressions) found that we’re attracted to people who smile often because when we see them smile and our muscles imitate the expression, it causes a release of endorphins that we would have gotten if we had been the one smiling in the first place! In a nutshell, smiling, even if you don’t feel happy, causes the release of ‘feel-good’ chemicals in your brain and improves your mood. As for feeling confident, the same principle applies, if you stand with your shoulders back, chin level and walk with purpose, your brain is going to help you out and make you feel the emotion you portray, so within minutes you will actually be confident! I’ve tried this out myself on many occasions when I’ve felt uncomfortable in social situations or unsure of myself in the middle of a test even, and without fail this has improved my mood and self-esteem… ha, and that was supposed to be just a side note…

 Now, for the actual point of the post, viewing people as structures.

I’ve noticed four similarities to the method of analyzing handwriting and body language:

  1. The Lean
  2. Framework
  3. Amount of Expression
  4. The Use of Basic Intuition

For this section, we’ll be looking at the lean.

A lean in handwriting analysis refers to which way letters seem to ‘sway’ on the paper. According to Confucius, you should “Beware of the man whose handwriting is like reeds in the wind.” And, so it turns out, Master Kong was thinking up the right alley. Quack handwriting analysis books and sensible texts alike explain that handwriting with a frequently changing lean (on average, two times per paragraph) suggests an emotionally unstable individual. As for leans in body language (when the subject is sitting down), they tell us:

  • How the subject feels about who they are speaking with
  • How the subject feels about the current situation
  • & how the subject feels about the current conversation

I’ll try to keep the explanation brief, because it really is very simple.

Imagine you have just walked into a Starbucks and you see two people sitting down in those rather extremely comfy leather seats next to each other, and both people are leaning towards each other. (Assuming that it isn’t just loud inside of the Starbucks and they’re leaning forward simply because it’s difficult to hear each other,) from this single glance we know that both people are on some level emotionally invested in the conversation.

Remember, just because one signal can represent a specific message, does not mean that the opposite signal represents the opposite message.

On the other hand, if both people are leaning away from each other, this does not indicate resentment towards the other person or disinterest in the conversation. They may simply be comfortable with each other and are talking about nothing of emotional concern. (Just a note: you will mainly see negativity expressed by leaning away from each other only if the individuals are in business attire and not casual dress. Obviously, two casually dressed individuals willingly sitting next to each other in a Starbucks are probably on good terms, meanwhile, businessmen holding meetings/job interviews – my father, a small business owner, does this often – will not be in the brightest mood, and if a superior is having lunch with a subordinate, you can be sure to see a lot of judging and discomfort.) Interpreting signals can always be helped along by noting clothing and gender.

If one person is leaning towards someone who is leaning away, often the person leaning forward is trying to ‘reach out’ or persuade the person leaning away. It may be they are trying to win them over emotionally (they don’t feel that the person leaning away is really friends with them, or they are uncertain whose ‘team’ they are on and are trying to win them over in this way,) or romantically (I have yet to see a female try to ‘win over’ a guy, it’s always the fellow leaning forward,) in this case you’ll notice the person leaning forward is closely watching the facial expressions of the person leaning away (Bernard Asbell, author of a wonderful book called What They Know About You, explained that couples who are secure in their relationship will not watch their spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend’s facial expressions often, while couples who are insecure will frequently note each other’s reactions.)

One mistake that even professionals make, is to forget the possibility of complete and total error. There is always the possibility that Person 1 is leaning forward because Person 2 is talking too quietly and Person 1 doesn’t want to be rude and say anything. Even Paul Ekman has said that real-life people reading is not as wonderfully accurate and quick as it seems to be on the show based on him, Lie to Me.

Always consider the obvious! Someone may be crossing their arms because they are cold, not because they are comforting themselves or feel defensive. Someone may be rubbing their nose because of a fiber or cat hair, not because blood has rushed to their nose out of the tension of the conversation and they are trying to come up with a lie. (In case you’re wondering, rubbing their nose while someone is lying does happen! When you lie, chemicals called catecholamines are released, causing the tissue inside of your nose to swell, and your nose actually expands with blood! Allan Pease, author of The Definitive Book of Body Language calls this ‘The Pinocchio Effect’.)

End-of-the-Post Rant:

There is no such thing as speed-reading. Not unless you’re one of Paul Ekman’s ‘wizards’ or ‘naturals’ (people who were born with the ability to instantly read and interpret microexpressions.) The reason a lot of us pick up books on handwriting analysis and body language, is because we like the notion that we can become super spies in our own homes. We can become the Mentalist, we can become Columbo, we can become James Bond. While basic signals can be easily read in an instant, the popular notion of actually ‘speed-reading’ someone so deeply that you might as well be reading their mind, is simply impossible, at least, if you’re one of the 99% of people who aren’t Paul Ekman wizards.

Allow me to sound like an arrogant bafoon for a moment and say that I am good at reading people. Very good. But here’s how I know that I am excellent at people reading: I came to the point in my studies where I stopped looking back at all that I had read and witnessed and how much I knew, and realized how much I had yet to read and witness and hear. I came to a place where I had to ask ‘Am I wrong?’ and stop justifying bogus interpretations. I won’t lie: it feels like a superpower when you learn enough to view people in an entirely new way, but after the high wears off, just remember that the best of the best truly are the greatest, because they know what it means to swallow their pride and throw away a perfectly lovely theory. A perfectly lovely read. A perfectly lovely explanation. You’ll know you’re good at something, very good, when you realize how horrible you have the ability to be.

–Hannah-Elizabeth

P.S. As soon I beat my scanner into submission, I will be opening a new page on my blog and uploading photos of my personal notes so you can perhaps get a better glimpse into my process. Also on this page I will list recommended articles and books.

P.P.S I’m sorry for waiting until nearly the end of the day to finally post this. Honestly I’ve been working on it for about twelve hours now and I’m not very pleased with it. But, I am learning to stay on track! I can assure you the next post will be better!

New Post Series “People Who Read People”

Post One In A Six-Month Series On People Reading

*New posts in the series will be published every other Wednesday*

An Introduction To This Whole Bit

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I remember late one night I found myself flipping through one channel after another (as one does during late nights,) and I came across an episode of Covert Affairs on USA Network, two striking women (who, since it’s television, simply must be the extremely intelligent and sharp-witted secret agents) inside of what appeared to be a glamorized version of the starship enterprise (turns out it was supposed to be the CIA…) were looking up at a massive computer screen that displayed a mans face with various markings and angles supposedly tracking his facial expressions.

“There are no signs of deceit in his orbicularis oris or orbicularis oculi movements.” The raven-haired one said while staring intently at the screen.

It was three in the morning, that didn’t stop grumpy, half-awake me from snapping, “You mean his mouth and eye muscles, Barbie?” It always annoys me when I hear fictional characters complicate the obvious. I know, I know, they are not real people, and the writers need to make the characters seem intelligent, but it feels as though draping cut-and-dry explanations with useless jargon looks down on those who don’t speak the language. This extends past television, it goes into the real world through writers and inspirational speakers and public figures and authors like Joe Navarro, an ex-FBI agent who wrote What EveryBODY Is Saying (longtime readers will recall that I loathe Joe Navarro, and consider him to be my unofficial arch nemesis,) or the author of one of the first body language books ever written, Julius Fast who wrote Body Language in 1970. And so I tell you the point of this post series: there is a lot of hot air out there, in the world of people-reading manuals and how people reading is portrayed by the media. It is seen as some sort of mysterious skill. And we are all unfailingly impressed by people who read people. It’s just when body language experts come on Fox News and state the obvious cloaked in long-winded explanations, or when yet another new book comes out on how to not only read people, but to use what you find to manipulate someone and become a master persuader, that the art of people reading turns into a game for children. I am writing this post to explain to you how to read people in the ways that I know how. And I’ll mention reliable books and authors who will never write the prideful waste that is so common when it comes to the topic of people reading. I’ve been studying people for five and a half years, and during that time I realized that every manner of reading people (handwriting analysis, cold reading (minus the psychic aspect), body language, microexpressions, physiognomy) can be explained in bite-sized pieces that don’t need the fluff and padding and egos that fill the extra space long enough to fill a book and make a few bucks. Also, 90% of all people-reading material out there is nothing but gobbledygook, empty words, crap, intuition without testing and proof ect., I have read every book that I could get my hands on that speaks on the topic of reading people, and out of the hundreds of books and authors, there are only a handful that have proven themselves truthful and compassionate, and whose work has stood the test of time.

You might think that this means I am dismissing authors and experts just because they seem a tad full of it.

You would be correct.

While many authors may be correct with the very basics regarding the brain and how it influences our facial expressions (such as Joe Navarro,) an author that is riding in the clouds on their high horse (such as Joe Navarro) is bound to trust their own intuition far too much (ahem…Joe Navarro,) therefore skewing perfectly good material. I want you to only get the entire truth so you can accurately read people. This is truthfully a place where my heart is, because I do genuinely feel angry at folks who write books flooded with incorrect information, knowing that the public will read it and be misinformed. They may believe their analysis to be correct because experience surely must have given them a good enough spidey-sense to make assumptions with no foundation, but many times as I’m reading a point made from just intuitive analysis (analysis by one’s ‘gut feeling’ alone) I can recall several moments from personal experience off of the top of my head where points certain authors have made are proven entirely wrong (for example, one book claims that if you’re speaking with someone and their legs are crossed towards you while you’re speaking, and mid-conversation they switch their position so they have now crossed their legs away from you, they must suddenly disagree with your point. But, there have been multiple occasions where I shift simply because I lose feeling in the leg that is currently crossed, not because I disagree that Taylor Lautner looks exactly the same as he did in Shark Boy & Lava Girl…am I honestly the only human being who thinks he’s flat-out unattractive? Ahem, anyway…) I can trust an author’s analysis when I see joy in the project and humility in their words. A lovely example of this sort of human being is Allan Pease, who wrote (with his wife, Barbara) The Definitive Book of Body Language. Read, listen, or watch any seminar or interview of his and you can see passion for his work and a childlike amusement for the subject. His book on body language is number one on my list. There are several points in the book that I don’t entirely agree with because they cannot be proven (such as his belief that the movement of shaking our head to signal ‘no’ comes from our days when we would move our heads away from a bottle when we were finished eating as babies,) but without a doubt his book is the best on the topic I have ever read.

Also topics I’ll be covering include a few unusual methods of reading people. Such as cold reading. Cold reading is used by fake psychics to make their customers believe that they know impossible things about them without having met them before. I’m not going to try to explain how to be a fake psychic, but I will tell you about some neat little people-reading tricks that cold readers use frequently. As well as getting to know someone from their appearance, using everything from the size of their nose and cheekbones to the back of their shoes. I tell you now that this is sort of a personal venture of mine, about three years ago I realized that my mother could identify a decline in my mood based on my clothing choices alone, and ever since I’ve become fascinated with the art of profiling people based on their clothing choices. As for the nose and cheekbone bit, that comes from the Taoist art of mein shiang, which associates personality traits with facial features. Obviously, there’s a lot of spirituality in this type of people reading that we shall avoid (did I mention monks are the ones who came up with mein shiang?) but again, looking past the unprovable, we find some gems that can tell us a thing or two about personality.

Also I will tell you here and there bits about the brain…The lovely, lovely brain. Actually, expect me to try to make you fall in love with your central nervous system, because it’s pretty (dare I say it again?) freakin’ awesome when it comes down to it.

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

You Have Been Warned

As Alfred Hitchcock would say, good evening.

Odds are, this will be my dullest post yet, so if you find yourself seeking blog post gold here, I suggest instead seeking out the likes of the bloggers on my blogroll.

You have been fairly warned, this is going to be a dull post.

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So, tonight I was torn between trying to read Ted Bundy’s face in an old interview, or doing homework.

Something you should know about me – I love trying to read and intuitively profile psychopaths. Something you should also know – I like turning in completed homework. I picked Bundy. So I had to hurry to complete my homework and it’s rather messy, but, it is complete.

I took notes on his facial expressions, and I may do another post similar to my Harold Camping post, which has become one of my most popular posts of all time. I’ve considered doing a body language analysis post every other week since I profile people in the public eye for fun anyway. Of course, like the Harold Camping post I couldn’t just do intuitive analysis (profiling someone just from a single play of the video and my ‘spidey sense’ about their personality,) like the Camping post I would do a step-by-step, frame-by-frame explanation of what I see and read.

Hm…perhaps this will have to become a regular bit? My blog is not organized in the least, perhaps it is time for some order.

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

People Who Read People

William James (1890) proposed a distinction be...

Image via Wikipedia

Alright, this is getting sad.

Typically I write because something is on my mind – at the moment I’m writing because nothing is.

William James believed that there is really no such thing as introspection (viewing one’s own mental processes), there is only immediate retrospection. Because of course, I can’t think of what process I’m reasoning in, or exactly what reason I’m feeling something at the exact moment I’m feeling it. Because once I start breaking down my thoughts and feelings, those thoughts and feelings are contaminated viewing material, botched by my own view of them as they occur. All we can do is talk things over or instantly replay our thoughts and review them in this way. But, William James stated, there is no such thing as introspection in the pure form as it is defined – we can’t be logical about an illogical thought at the precise moment we are having the illogical thought, not without the illogical thought being tainted and becoming logical.

Have I mentioned I’m in love with William James?

My favorite book on the face of the planet – the one whose author I have named my blog URL after (good heavens that’s choppy grammar…) has arrived at my doorstep after all of my impatient waiting for three weeks:

Handwriting Analysis As A Psychodiagnostic Tool by Ulrich Sonnemann, Ph.D (published in 1950)!!

Every word is pure poetry, he was brilliant, fantastic, wonderful. Here’s one of my favorite bits ( parts of which I quote often when discussing handwriting analysis):

…all movements carried out by any organism at any time or place can be said to be expressive for the simple reason that their particular manner of execution, even if the purpose and environmental circumstances of the movement are “constant,” varies not only from individual organism to individual organism but, within the scope of activity of a single organism, varies from one occurence of the movement to any other. As no mathematically exact, automatic repetition of the same movement on the part of any organism is biologically possible, the element of uniqueness in every movement cannot be attributed to either the purpose or environmental circumstances of the movement but only to a structural principle within the organism which expresses itself in this very uniqueness.

In other words: you can tell the difference between your mom’s handwriting and your friend’s handwriting. And if this isn’t due to personality and present emotional state, then what? Handwriting, then, must reveal something defining about each individual.

I think there is an awful good reason why handwriting analysis books are found next door to mythology and superstitious material. Because I’ve read every handwriting analysis book out there, and all of the authors are so biased and picky and inconsistent and every single example interpretation just drips of intuitive analysis (when someone just grabs a magnifying glass and off of the gut feelings they get while looking at certain loops and twists, determine the author’s personality – something Sonnemann speaks out against in the first few pages of his book) that of course no one would (or should) take the books seriously. Sonnemann doesn’t nit-pick every sharp corner or garland of any letter. He starts off by looking at the letter as a structure, how strong it is, how bold the ink, if it leans or breaks. Very basic material. Obviously a legible, well-rounded sample of writing is created by someone in a bit more of a patient mood than bent, broken chicken scrawl.

For the longest time I was obsessed with profiling people in any way I could. Through their behavior (I’m still in love with criminal profiling) through their expressions (with the help of Paul Ekman’s Unmasking the Face, Emotions Revealed, What the Face Reveals and Telling Lies I’ve learned to read facial expressions and microexpressions), through their body language (thank you Barbara and Allen Pease!) and through their appearance overall (thank you, Ian Rowland for writing The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading) I was convinced I was going to be part of the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit. Speed-reading people and showing off like Sherlock Holmes or Lord Henry from The Picture of Dorian Gray. Speaking of people who read people – never read Joe Navarro’s book What Every Body Is Saying, Navarro may be a former FBI agent – but from his book, he knows this fact a tad too well. Also, he is incorrect about 70% of the time in his book. Odds are I’ve mentioned this before. If you mention the name Joe Navarro to Heather Madame she will tell you up-front that I do not like him in the least. I think he’s arrogant, closed-minded and for all that FBI experience he sure shows little for it except for common-sense facts regarding the human brain and body posture. It drives me mad knowing that people are reading that book and being so severely misinformed, when I first read it, I had requested it from the library (a general rule of mine: never buy a book that costs over $10 unless you get a trial-run with it first) it took forever and a day for it to come in because there were so many people ahead of my request in the queue. Now when I recall this I think of the people who have read it (and are reading it), believing that it’s all fact. Bah… I really, really don’t like Joe Navarro. (Especially since he keeps popping up in issues of Psychology Today magazine the past year.)

Alright, I have completed a ramble or two, and ’tis getting late. This would be a rather good place for me to perhaps halt my typing.

Goodnight all,

-Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic