Understanding body language helps us to be better communicators in both professional and personal situations.
Body language is defined as the conscious and unconscious signals people give off that indicate thoughts and feelings.
Knowing your way around these signals isn’t as hard as you’d expect once you know the basics. So, to get you started, here are 5 of the top titles on the topic.
The Best Books on Body Language
1. The Definitive Book of Body Language: How to Read Others’ Attitudes by Their Gestures – Allan and Barbara Pease
This book’s opening argument is that body language should be read like a word in a sentence rather than a standalone gesture. It’s an important stance to take because it tells readers not to put too much emphasis on signals.
It’s laid out much like any other “how to” book. The authors provide examples of common body language signals and explain how to read them. You’ll find out about lying, interviewing and negotiating, and how to make yourself likeable.
These are arguably the most common reasons people want to learn about body language, so it ticks the boxes of an introductory guide. The language is fairly clear and easy to read, meaning you can dip in and out as needed.
That said, its style won’t be for everyone. The Peases use many examples from business and politics, so some might not find them applicable to everyday life.
- Good introductory book.
- Covers the most common needs for body language awareness.
- Clear and easy to read.
- Written in a style that might not suit everyone.
2. What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People – Joe Navarro and Marvin Karlins
Joe Navarro is something of an expert in the world of body language. As an ex-FBI officer, his career was based on seeing these signals in people.
The book calls it “nonverbal intelligence”, but it’s the same thing. It takes a different stance to other books, though, as it focuses on speed-reading. Rather than taking your time, it prompts you to make split-second decisions based on obvious micro-signals.
You’ll learn the most tell-tale sites on the body to look for nonverbal intelligence (spoiler alert: it’s not the face) along with ways to adjust your own body language to appear more confident.
Navarro has some interesting information to impart from his FBI career. However, the writing is a bit bland. If you’re willing to stick with the drier parts, you’ll definitely learn some important things.
- Different stance to other body language books.
- Focuses on reading people.
- Includes lots of interesting information.
- Not written in the most engaging way.
3. The Dictionary of Body Language: A Field Guide to Human Behavior – Joe Navarro
The fact that Navarro has two books on this list should tell you something about his authority. Much like the above book, this one also relies on his former FBI career.
As the title suggests, it’s more of an “everyday” approach to body language, providing clear, actionable details you can use “in the field”.
It breaks the body down into distinct pieces and explains how you can read signals in each. Overall, you get 400 behaviours from different areas of the body, making this a very comprehensive guide.
Importantly, you can apply the findings to both yourself and others. Not only will you read signals in people, but you’ll also be able to apply them to your own actions. It includes illustrations to really hit the points home.
Due to its dictionary format, its chapters are quite brief and lack real depth on the various signals. However, it’s a good starting point for furthering your research and will help you to narrow searches elsewhere in the field.
- Easy-to-read dictionary format.
- Includes 400 signals divided into different body parts.
- Illustrations are very helpful.
- Dictionary format lacks meaningful depth.
4. Winning Body Language: Control the Conversation, Command Attention, and Convey the Right Message Without Saying a Word – Mark Bowden
This book doesn’t mess around with its purpose. Rather than addressing general body language, it goes straight to the most common reason: success.
Its format is a step-by-step guide explaining how to be better in professional situations and how to get others to listen. Bowden is another industry leader in nonverbal communication, and this book is an easily digestible version of his other work.
Bowden’s advice centres on acting (and looking) more confident rather than learning to read body language in others. As such, it works well as an accompaniment to other books on this list because you’ll use it more for your own actions.
Overall, his writing is interesting and thought-provoking but is quite padded in places. It’s symptomatic of this kind of industry, but Bowden does come across as patronising in some places. Even so, it’s a worthwhile read.
- Focuses on body language and success.
- Written by an industry leader.
- Works well alongside other books.
- Writing is a bit rambling in places.
5. Understanding Body Language: How to Decode Nonverbal Communication in Life, Love, and Work – Scott Rouse
Rouse’s book combines overall learning with on-the-spot tips so you’re prepared any time. It focuses on the link between body language and emotions. While other books also do this, Rouse comes at it from a purely relational perspective.
It’s far more in-depth than other beginner’s books on body language, so is a worthy place to start. Better yet, it’s not that long because it’s very concise.
Unlike other books, it looks more at groups than individual relationships. While this is helpful in workplace contexts, you might want to look elsewhere for clear guidance on 1-to-1 body language.
- Clear, concise writing.
- Illustrations clarify points.
- Good for reading the room.
- More for groups than individual relationships.
Becoming familiar with key body language signals is worthwhile no matter your profession.
It helps you become more confident and understand what people are really thinking.
Hopefully, these books above get you started in this vital area of psychology.