Saturday, January 22, 2005

Book Review - The Book of Tells

The Book of Tells: How to Read People’s Minds By Their Actions by Peter Collett, Harper Collins, 310 p.

Few skills are more fundamental to lobbying than able to “tell” what the person you are lobbying is really thinking. Though deceit is rarely blatant, misdirection, bluffs, bluster, half-truths, and omissions are the staple of many a political exchange. The word “tell” comes from the use of the word in the gambling milieu where it is used to describe the unconscious physical signs or actions that people display indicating their state of mind. Using the methods described in the book, you should be able to decipher some of these “tells” – giving you a better understanding of how people communicate with you.

This book is extensively researched, though the casual reader may find it too detailed and encyclopaedic. It is the intellectual descendant of Desmond Morris’ breakthrough work in this field: “The Naked Ape”. It is a welcome and useful update to that now dated work.

Canadian readers will instantly connect with this book as Collett, a Canadian, draws heavily on references to Canadian political leaders such as Jean Chrétien and Brian Mulroney. While the author’s constant use of Canadian political examples make the work instantly familiar, his dismissive attitude towards politics and politicians grows irritating. It appears the author has little direct experience directly with politicians and politics, field and he is drawing many political examples from television news rather than direct experience.