Reading Martin Brooks’ new project is potentially the equivalent to opening Pandora’s Box. After all, do you really expect a concise, clear, and even professionally illustrated collection of cards – called Body Language Decoder, no less – to leave you without a sour taste in your mouth? In an era when tensions are already high, a unique project like Brooks’ isn’t going to win hearts and minds. That’s for sure.
But from the standpoint of helping you learn a little bit more about the fallibilities of humanity – the good, and the bad – you couldn’t find a more evocative, better A to Z guide of behavioral mannerisms indicating what’s going on behind the person’s eyes. Forget your gut, what Brooks writes will have you turning off all internal biases and slanted perceptions to look at what’s right in front of your face. Whether it’s a loved one, an acquaintance, or a colleague, the box of cards by its very existence begs the question: How well do we really know people? And from that, do we really know anyone? Body Language Decoder’s implications can make you feel very lonely as a reader. It reduces your presumed knowledge of the people around you to potentially the same kind of appropriate suspicion one has for gentlemen on the street. It’s crazy, really. And Brooks clearly revels in the darker sides of these implications.
The cards seven categorical parts include the blisteringly obvious christenings of Confidence, Connection, and – of course – Deception. Granted from a corporate standpoint, being able to read someone through and through is great, as it’s very impersonal. It’s just business – to quote a hackneyed line. But your wife or husband, son or daughter from across the dinner table? Yeesh!
Brooks writes, “Real-time feedback about whether someone is interested in either you personally or the things you are saying is invaluable. Are you saying the right things to impress your date? Are the examples you’re using in your job interview having the desired effect? Are you making a good impression on your future in-laws?” He goes to say: “In group interactions, body language can show you when a friend or colleague isn’t receiving interest from their audience. You can then deploy behaviors in this category to reassure them that their message is being well received and boost their confidence, or rephrase the message to communicate it more clearly.
You can use your awareness of body language for delivery as well as decoding. Pay attention to how people express interest when you are not the subject of their attention. Assessing these behaviors when you are not the one talking will help you notice them more easily when you are. Knowing whether someone is interested in you can be a bit of a mystery, but, like most mysteries, the more clues you have, the more accurate your conclusion.”
Examine these cards at your own peril. It’s great in terms of what it promotes, and what it focuses on. The stuff is endlessly fascinating, and dynamic projects like Body Language Decoder as a whole reinforce that humanity itself is endlessly fascinating. I suppose that’s the purely positive thing I can say about it. It’s a fabulous concept, don’t get me wrong. But you certainly won’t walk away intellectually unscathed.