• May 2016

What Can We Learn From the Gestures People Make?

“The way you stand when you’re talking to others, how you move your feet, your hands, your eyes — even your eyebrows — says a lot about your commitment to a conversation and your underlying attitude,” explains author Peter Collett in his latest release, The Book of Tells.

Collett also notes that your actions and stance can also affect how long you get to talk and how often you get interrupted. “Even when you’re seated, the position of your arms and legs provides a wealth of information about your mood and intentions, showing whether you feel dominant or submissive, preoccupied or bored.”

But Tells aren’t confined merely to conversations. When you are alone, you are constantly shifting your body — and each movement, each gesture provides clues about your state of mind, he insists.

In this fascinating book, the social psychologist, former Oxford don and a Big Brother psychologist, introduces us to the fascinating concept of Tells, showing how they work, where they come from and how to identify and iterpret them.

In addition to sentizing readers to the motives and actions of other people, this guide also focuses on the messages that we unwittingly send, and the impact that these might have on those around us.

Colette’s “Book of Tells” offers a new, unifying vocabulary for understanding human communication and social influence – and a unique opportunity to read yourself, and others.

Scroll down for a primer to get you started today!

Scratching nose: When you’re not telling the truth, you instinctively want to cover up the source of the lie — your mouth — so no one can see you’re fibbing. But because that’s too obvious, people disguise it by scratching their nose.

Looking up: If you look up you’re seeking help from above. People with a sense of self-importance also do it, suggesting they’re in contact with the Almighty.

Blinking: It’s a sign someone’s worried, excited or even lying as they’re under stress and thinking very rapidly.

Lip nibbling: Lip nibbling, whether biting the lower lip or a corner of the mouth with the upper teeth, prevents someone from speaking, so it’s used by people who want to stop themselves from saying something.

Tilting head: Often used by a woman to flirt and appear more attractive. It appeals to a man because it lowers her height; ­mimics a baby putting its head on its mother’s shoulder; and exposes the neck. As the neck is one of the most vulnerable parts of your body, showing it to someone is a way of saying, “I trust you implicitly.”

Furrowed brows: Lowering the brows is a dominance gesture used mainly by men, which tells people, “I may be looking at you, but I’m in charge.”

Shifting weight: When you want to escape from a conversation, you shift your weight from side to side or back to front. Men also sometimes do this when chatting to a pretty girl to make themselves appear energetic.

Open hands: Showing the palms of your hands is a friendly ­gesture showing that you have peaceful intentions. It indicates acceptance, good intentions and that you’re open to new ideas. Hiding them, on the other hand, shows that you don’t want to give anything away.

Foot point: The way your foot is facing indicates what you’re thinking. Follow the line of someone’s foot and it will show you what they’re most interested in — if it’s the door, they want to leave.

Don’t stop now! “Click here to buy The Book of Tells.


About Peter Collett

Peter is a former Oxford don. For many years he was a member of staff at the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University, where he taught and did research. His interests cover a broad range of topics, including body language, culture, management style and television audiences.

His books include “Gestures: Their Origins and Distribution (with Desmond Morris),” “Driving Passion: The Psychology of the Car (with Peter Marsh),” and “Social Psychology at Work (edited with Adrian Furnham).”

Peter is also the author of “Foreign Bodies: A Guide to European Mannerisms,” and “The Book of Tells: How To Read People’s Minds From Their Actions,” which has been published in nine countries so far.