Former FBI agent explains how to read body language

Forget poker face — how's your poker body?

"My job was to catch spies," shared former FBI agent Joe Navarro. He was straight up recruited to the FBI when he was a 23-year-old cop and he spent the next 25 years with the Bureau, working in counterintelligence and counterterrorism.

He specialized in the science of nonverbal communication -- reading the unspoken clues about a person just by observing their body language and behavior.

"Most of my career I spent within the National Security Division. A lot of it had to do with looking at specific targets and then it was about, 'How do I get in their heads and neutralize them?'"

There are a lot of myths out there. Take crossing your arms; Navarro says many people think of this as a "blocking behavior," but crossed arms are actually known as "self-soothing" -- the action of calming or comforting oneself when unhappy or distressed. "It's a self hug," he asserts.

"We are never in a state where we're not transmitting information," Navarro says with confidence. Check out the video to see precisely what that means:



"We humans are lousy at detecting deception," he claims — and if you've ever wondered if you're getting away with that lie, read on...

As in his book, Navarro breaks down different features on the face: the forehead can reveal stress; the nose might crinkle when someone is upset and similarly people compress the lips when upset.

Even the cheeks and the jaw can alert an expert that someone is attempting "perception management," and then Navarro is on the hunt.

(YouTube screenshot | Wired)

Even body posturing in the stance Navarro calls "arms akimbo" can communicate different behavior based on the placement of the fingers. On the left, the fingers forward might indicate territorial behavior. It changes to a more inquisitive stance when the thumbs are forward.

Navarro can discern meaning from hand placement to foot activity.

"It really is looking at an individual and saying, 'What are they transmitting?'" From walking pace to blink-rate, agents like Navarro will determine whether they should marshall resources to monitor or question an individual.

In the video, Navarro goes on to describe the effect a handshake can have on people, down to the very bonding chemicals that may or may not be produced by the body. He also unsettles a pair of strangers and describes the ramifications that action has on their interaction.

Then the video gets interesting, that is, if you're a poker fan.

Navarro breaks down the body language of a poker table. "This is a great opportunity to be looking for behaviors indicative of discomfort," he explains. "Even before the game starts this is an opportunity to collect 'poker intelligence.'" If you think you've got a killer poker face, you may want to check out the video above! You'll never look at your thumbs the same way again...

As always, the comments are where it's at.

(YouTube screenshot from Navarro's comment thread | Wired.)