Rapunzel, Judging a Book by its Cover, and Other Fairy Tales

Practical Applications for Body Language and the Difference Hygiene can Make

By David Schneer

4-Minute Read

New York City Focus Group Facility, Midtown 2013

Even today I can recall it vividly.

I was in the “box” moderating with Sasquatches’ younger brother—a tall fellow sporting long golden blond hair with a long beard of the same color and then…Just like that…it appeared. Like a rappeler’s rope, dangling from a cavernous nostril. Thin at first but then like a bad car wreck, I focused on it and the more I looked the bigger and thicker it got. Oh no! Then Rapunzel! Rapunzel! pops into my mind heading toward images of Edward Scissor Hands…


And just like that I was back in the conversation. “What,” I said?

“You just asked me that,” the respondent said, and then the Locknose monster reappeared.

“Excuse me,” I said, and I lurched out of the room into the hallway, my back pressed firmly against the wall, my knees slightly bent.

My client popped his head out of the observation room. “You okay,” he asked? I nodded in the affirmative. I drew a deep, long breath, exhaled, and went back into the moderating room.

My powers of concentration are typically unflappable. For example, while I am asking you a question, I can count your eye blinks, gauge your breathing, body motion, facial expressions, amount of sweat, sudden changes in skin color and then follow up with a relevant probe.

But not that day.

I was conducting one-on-one, in-person (pre-covid) interviews when a single wayward strand of golden nose hair speared my Limbic system. This was no shy rootlet emerging from hibernation. This monster dominated the respondent’s face; like an eclipse, it blocked my powers of concentration. That’s when I snapped.

Why am telling you this (well, if you’re a moderator you’ll know what to do in a nasal hair smackdown)?

Because whoever told you to never judge a book by its cover gave you bad advice. This is why they have book covers! So that you can judge them!

Same with us humanoids. Our bodies are like book covers. So, what’s the moral here? You can have an attractive book cover or one not so much. What kind of book cover do you want? Why? Because it matters.

Hygiene Matters

Suppose you go to a restaurant and use the restroom. And let’s say the restroom looks and smells like a nasty dumpster fire, but only worse. Do you wonder what the kitchen looks like? Discerning folks do.

How you look matters. Hygiene matters. What you wear matters. How you comb (or not), trim (or not) and wear your hair matters. And how you smell definitely matters. Even the color of your clothes matter. For example, numerous studies show that people who wear brown are less credible than those who wear blue[1].

Sure, stapling a chicken to your face might impress someone in marketing at Foster Farms or Perdue, but it is probably not the best look for the hospitality, medical, or financial centers. These sectors require a more conservative look. Dress to the level of your audience.

My best advice? Look in the mirror before you meet someone (or on Zoom; yes, you can see these things on camera and people do notice them, especially in 4k, so don’t lean in too close).

And for Heaven’s Sake, Man, trim thy nostril hair!

Most Communication is Nonverbal are You Fluent?

[1] Navarro, Joe; Karlins, Marvin. What Every BODY is Saying (pp. 97-98). William Morrow Paperbacks. Kindle Edition.