Peter Collett

Dr Peter Collett

Psychologist, former Oxford Don, Author and Body Language Expert

Showing us how to use body language effectively so we can understand each other better, build empathy and maximise communication 

Biography

Well-known for his ‘razor-sharp observation’ skills, Peter Collett is a psychologist, former Oxford don and six-time author. Widely acknowledged as a world expert on communication—the Guardian has called him a “body language guru”—he speaks regularly on television and at conferences and events, contributes to a variety of news outlets and publications, and has provided consultancy and training workshops to a broad range of organisations.  

For many years Peter was a member of staff at the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University, where he taught and did research on topics including body language, culture, management style and television audiences. 

Peter has written six books and presented a number of television programmes as well as making guest appearances on documentaries and programmes such as the News at Ten, Newsnight and This Morning. He was also a resident psychologist on Big Brother for the first four series. He is a regular contributor for several newspapers and magazines, including The Times, Telegraph, Independent, Guardian, Daily Mail and New Statesman.

Among other descriptions of his influence, the Mail on Sunday has described Peter as “a grand master of the secret code of fleeting gestures, signs and expressions that give us all away.” Reviewing one of Peter’s books, Sir Peter Ustinov wrote that he “displays razor-sharp observation … There can hardly be a more astute and mischievous handbook than Peter Collett’s.”

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 author of Foreign Bodies: A Guide to European Mannerisms. His most recent book is The Book of Tells: How To Read People’s Minds From Their Actions, which has been published in nine countries so far.

This book also formed the basis of Body Talk, a two-part TV series that he presented on Channel4. The first programme looked at the body language of power, the second at the signals of courtship.  He also presented What They’re Really Thinking, a Channel4 programme about the revealing mannerisms of British politicians. His analysis of the relationship between Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness formed the basis of The Honeymooners, which was shown on BBC Northern Ireland.

In much demand for his keynotes and masterclasses, Peter has given talks to organisations including the CIPD, ICA, The Royal Institution, Cheltenham Science Festival, the British Science Association, the MOD, TimeWarner, HSBC, Unilever, Deloitte and the BHBIA (where he won an award for the best presentation at their winter conference). Some of his workshops included clients such as  J.P. Morgan and Invesco Perpetual.

Topics

You may want to go deeper into a topic for your audience. The keynote topics can be tailored and developed to suit your audience needs, be it a 90 minute Masterclass, half-day, full-day workshop or a full online or face to face programme we can help. Please contact one of our expert team to discuss.

Peter is offering a series of eight talks that cover some of the central topics of leadership and communication in business. These can be delivered as lectures, seminars or interactive workshops, and presented either singly or as a series. 

Embodied Leadership

Leaders need to have vision, commitment and the desire to lead.  But these qualities, in themselves, are not enough to guarantee effectiveness, because a leader also needs to look and sound like the kind of person that other people are willing to follow. 

In this seminar we investigate the outward trappings of leadership, including those aspects of language and body language that aspiring leaders need to adopt if they are to have any hope of encouraging others to follow them. We focus on “power talk”–the use of certain words, expressions and vocal qualities–that make someone sound like a leader, as well as “power walk”–those aspects of gait, posture, gesture, gaze and facial expression that enable someone to look like a credible leader.  We discover that it’s possible to project an image of leadership by producing certain dominance signals, and that in the process one is likely to actually become more dominant.  We explore the competing demands on leaders to appear both dominant and approachable, and then discuss ways that these competing demands can be accommodated by male as well as female leaders.  To be effective, every aspiring boss needs to understand the impact that their behaviour has on others, and to project a convincing image of themself as a leader. 

Reading Other People

Effective leaders need to be able to read other people–to work out what they’re thinking and feeling and what they’re likely to do next.  Leaders need to be sensitive to what board members, clients, colleagues and subordinates expect of them, what they’re personally trying to achieve, and what they really feel when they offer an opinion.  

Here we explore the giveaway clues that people produce, most of which happen to be unintentional. We examine the use of certain phrases and expressions, how people modulate their voice, and the signals that are present in their body language.  Special attention is given to body language signals which show when people are feeling anxious or threatened.  We also focus on lying and deception, identifying which types of clues to look out for when someone might not be telling the truth, as well as the signs to look out for when people are faking their emotions.  Finally, we look at some of the interpersonal strategies that people resort to in their attempts to manipulate and persuade others, particularly those that are used when they are trying to impress people who are more important than them.  We discuss the use of ingratiation, flattery and conformity as techniques for currying favour, and the best ways to deal with them.   

Embracing Change

In his famous treatise on evolution, Charles Darwin concluded that, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”. The same is also true of individuals and organisations. Those people or firms that are overly dependent on a particular strategy are more likely to be threatened by change than those which have a broad range of strategies at their disposal and which are therefore able to modify their responses as circumstances demand. In a steady-state situation, tried-and-tested responses may offer an advantage, but when things start to become unpredictable it’s adaptable people and organisations that are more likely to prosper and survive. 

In this seminar we begin by looking at the concepts of “niche fitness” and “adaptive fitness” as they apply to individuals and organisations.  We then explore the distinctive characteristics that are linked to adaptive fitness, like pragmatism, action-orientation, realistic optimism, creativity, resilience, social support, humour and the use of forward thinking.  Finally we identify a range of procedures that individuals and organisations can employ to make themselves more adaptable and therefore more effective in a rapidly changing world.

Meeting Challenges

How individuals and organisations respond to challenges is critical to their success and survival.  Every organisation has to deal with set-backs, delays, frustrations, financial squeezes, supply problems and aggressive competition.  How they react to these challenges can affect not only their sales and their brand, but also morale and relations within the organisation. Like animals, people have three basic responses to threat–freeze, flight or fight. 

 In this session we look at how these three basic responses are activated when organisations are threatened–how one organisation, for example, might “freeze” by doing nothing while another “takes flight” by retreating into a fantasy world where problems don’t exist. When facing challenges it’s important for organisations to adopt an upbeat, but nevertheless realistic attitude, avoiding the extreme, doom-laden views of the catastrophists and the rosy-tinted spectacles and equally dysfunctional attitudes of the Pollyannas, and to focus throughout on practical solutions.  The crucial role that emotions play in colouring people’s perceptions needs to be recognised, both within and outside the organisation, along with the important role that management can play in keeping things calm and providing a sense of stability and direction. 

 

 

Humanising Business

Because we’re such a social species, we humans invest enormous amounts of time and energy in other people–endeavouring, for example, to figure out what other people are like and what kind of relationship, if any, we want to have with them.  Since these psychological processes are hard-wired into our brain, it’s hardly surprising that when we come to deal with organisations we apply much the same criteria.  For one thing, we impute personality to brands, much as we do to other people.  The challenge facing organisations therefore is how to humanise their brand by cultivating and projecting a personality that’s distinctive, sincere and exciting, and which meets with clients’ expectations. In this seminar we explore the external as well the internal features of brand personality, as well as the psychological archetypes on which organisations can model themselves.  We examine how organisations react when their brand faces a challenge and the crucial impact that this can have on their future success.  We discuss the twelve cardinal rules that organisations need to follow in their attempts to humanise their brand, to enhance their “relatability”, and to consolidate their relationship with their customers and the people who work in those organisations. 

Principles into Practice

There’s a strong connection between the ethical values that a firm espouses and the way that it behaves towards its customers and stakeholders, and this in turn can have a dramatic impact on the firm’s reputation and its commercial success.  It’s therefore very much in a firm’s interests to embed a culture of integrity, trust and co-operation within its organisation. There are seven steps that a firm needs to take to achieve this goal–the so-called “seven pillars of wisdom”. The first is to decide which values the firm wants to champion, and the second is to find out whether, and in what ways, the new values conform or clash with the firm’s existing ones.  The third step is to articulate the practices that are linked to the selected values–in other words, to connect words to deeds.  The next step is to create a storyline that persuades the firm’s workforce to adopt the new values, as well as the practices that express those values, and following that to get the workforce to buy into the scheme. In the process it’s important to recognise that there are bound to be pockets of resistance and to deal with these with openness and understanding. Once a new regime of values takes root it’s essential to spread the good word, so that everyone knows what the firm has achieved and the workforce can feel justifiably proud.

Deep Psychology of Wealth 

This seminar introduces a novel way of thinking about the psychology of the wealthy–one that explores the “deeper”, inaccessible motives that encourage people to accumulate and display wealth and to surround themselves with luxury. We begin by looking at the principles that underpin displays of evolutionary fitness in the animal world and how they can help us to understand displays of wealth. We then go on to examine how wealth is linked to wellbeing and reproductive success, and why people try to get rich so that they can avoid the horrendous consequences of poverty. We look at how luxury is defined by rarity, at the overwhelming power of conspicuous waste, the natural processes that lead displays of wealth to become ever more extravagant, and the way that wealth encourages resentment and envy, against which the wealthy often feel the need to defend themselves. We explore how the rich use their wealth to elicit favourable responses from others, and how they then utilise these reactions to construct a positive view of themselves and to reinforce their feelings of entitlement.  Knowing their deep, often unexpressed desires enables us to understand wealthy people better, to communicate with them more effectively and to design financial products and services that meet their psychological needs.

Global Effectiveness

Do you want to be a truly global manager–someone who understands the hidden codes in different business cultures and who can move effortlessly from one international business meeting to another?  How can you expand your mental horizons and learn how to interpret foreign business practices while projecting an image of confidence and calm authority?  

This seminar helps you to see the world through the eyes of foreign businessmen and women. You’ll learn how to interpret their conventions, actions and body language so that you can understand what they think and feel and what they’re trying to achieve. In the process you’ll acquire a new pair of “cultural spectacles” that enable you to understand the strategies and responses of the foreigners you meet, and to read them like an open book.  You’ll discover which behaviours to look out for, what these behaviours mean, what offends other people and which behaviours you should therefore avoid.  We also focus attention on the subject of interpersonal skills, enabling participants to develop their own personal skills, to become more relaxed and confident, and to convey essential business messages about openness and trust in different cultural contexts. This sets participants on the road to becoming truly global managers.

Videos

Resources

Books

Testimonials

“It was a real honor and pleasure working with Peter and the event was a real success. After the conference we have received very good feedback and this is a sign that Peter is very welcome in Romania and the topics discussed during the conference were extremely appreciated by the audience…He was absolutely fantastic during the conference and as you mentioned, I also believe that he has a lot of other interesting subjects to present.” –  Cristine Costin, Exective Partner, Twelve Corporate

“Many thanks for your excellent presentation at our London Conference last week. It was delivered with great style and we received very favorable feedback. Of course, you have made us all very self conscious of our stance, method of walking, tilt of head etc. It is a fascinating topic and I will now try to pay more attention to the signals I receive when talking to people.” – Martin Barnes, Chief Economist BCA Research

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