Book Review: He Who Fights

He Who Fights, by Mike Morris. I’m going to give this fantasy a solid 4.5 stars. It’s grim, but the hero Nathaniel Raine at least makes it to the end of the book in one piece, saved a girl, Continue reading

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Book Review: Body Language for Dummies, by Elizabeth Kuhnke

Up-front confession first. If I’d bought this book instead of borrowing it from the library, I’d have walled it by now. And quite possibly screamed in frustration loud enough to get the cops called on me. Which, I suspect, is not entirely fair to the book. Maybe. Kind of.

Thing is, the title of the book includes “For Dummies”. So an unsuspecting person who is extremely bad at reading facial expressions and body language might well pick it up, thinking it could help them decipher what the hell people are saying that they aren’t verbalizing.

What the title should be is, “For Dummies Whose Mirror Neurons Are In Good Working Order”. I.e., if you can mimic someone else’s facial expression and posture, and from that have a good idea what they’re feeling, this book is probably a gold mine.

If you’re on the autism spectrum, it’s likely this book will not help what-so-bloody-ever. It’s like trying to jump into polite upper-society Japanese manners when you can barely manage “Domo” and “Sumimasen.”

Some examples.

“To read body language accurately, you must observe all the gestures a person is making. The full message lies in the combination of actions, not in a single movement.”

Someone who’s fighting just to maintain eye contact, remember not to stim, try to pay attention to vocal tone… isn’t going to be able to do that without extreme concentration. If at all.

“The head shake has two speeds of delivery.”

Okay, so it has fast and slow. How fast? How slow? If you don’t have a good starting point to judge these by, it’s impossible to discriminate between “disagreement” and “incredulity”.

“The person in the position of authority, be she taller, older, or wiser than you, has implicit permission to place her hand on your head.”

Given how many on the spectrum are incredibly touch-sensitive, not to mention clueless on what is and isn’t socially appropriate touch, there are so many ways this can go wrong.

“When you’re experiencing pure joy, your eyes involuntarily twinkle.”

Nice verbal flourish there, but what does that look like? The book assumes you already know.

That’s a problem with the whole book. There are pictures of some expressions, but they don’t break anything down into discrete pieces of the face, and there aren’t nearly enough to demonstrate facial and posture cues if you’re starting from scratch. Those pictures that are used seem either soap-opera exaggerated, or murky in emotional display. And frankly, the pictures that are supposed to illustrate interest and attraction give me the willies. As in “run the other way, this is Bad.”

When you get to the chapter on moving into someone’s personal space… disaster. Utter disaster. I’m not going to even touch chapter 13 on flirtation.

To sum up – if you’re an average Joe who wants to improve your interview presence or attract the guy/girl of your dreams, this is probably a great book. But if you have no clue where to start on social cues… save your money and get a good slice-of-life anime instead. You’ll get more out of it.