Jill Glenn meets Tracey Yuille – graphologist, and decipherer of secrets…
Who would have though that an A4 page of handwriting could reveal so much? Tracey Yuille, newly qualified as a graphologist after several years of study, calls it body language on paper. I call it witchcraft.
It’s hard to explain how bizarre it is to talk to someone you’ve never met before, but who already knows the innermost secrets of your soul. It’s like meeting a cross between a private detective, a father confessor and a counsellor. When someone can tell you so accurately how you feel about certain things, how you behave in certain situations, all conversational barriers are down. Less than 24 hours after seeing my writing for the first time, it seemed that Tracey knew everything about me. At one point I even began a sentence with the words “I’m the sort of person that likes to…” before tailing off with “…but you know that already, don’t you?”
There are some things that graphology can’t tell you, of course. It won’t reveal whether you’re married, single, divorced or gay, for example – but it will show how you feel about the situation you’re in, and it can be surprisingly accurate. A graphologist can get under someone’s skin, and find out what is going on in their mind, in their life, on a conscious and/or a deeper subconscious level. And the writer doesn’t even need to be present.
Sceptics would say that’s impossible, that handwriting changes all the time. To an extent that’s true. It fluctuates on a daily basis, according to mood (or stress levels), but there’s an underlying pattern that can reveal aptitude, temperament and so on. It’s a way of understanding behaviour, finding out what makes people tick, and it’s been around, in some form, for centuries.
The UK lags far behind the rest of the world in its use and practice of graphology. In France, for example, almost 75 per cent of companies use it as part of the recruitment process (of which more later). It’s popular – and respected – in Germany and in Israel, and very popular in the United States. Most of the hits on Tracey’s website so far have been from the US. That’s not as much of a problem as it might appear, though, because one of the natural advantages of graphology is that it can be practised internationally. There’s an issue over the language in which you first learned to write (the French, for example, use the ‘upper zone’ much more than the British, so a graphologist needs to know that in order not to misinterpret the emphasis), but realistically, all you need is an airmail letter from the subject and you’re away. The topic doesn’t matter, but, as with all graphology samples it’s important not to copy… it affects the speed and pressure, and inhibits the natural characteristics.
The study of handwriting is a very serious business indeed. Membership of the British Institute of Graphologists is achieved by examination after the completion of three years of study. The course, undertaken ironically by correspondence (although not handwritten), is thorough. Year One covers all the basics: measure, speed, form level, originality, plus dominant and secondary movements; Year Two focuses on psychology as applied to graphology – Adler, Freud, Fromm, Jung and Maslow; Year Three puts into practice everything you’ve learned. Tracey has volume upon volume of worksheets, with graphs, and equations, and observations of the minutest detail.
For something so insightful, it’s surprisingly technical, and mathematical. You’d imagine it to be creative and intuitive, but it’s highly disciplined; translating the curves and swoops into personal characteristics requires as much precision and diligence and following of rules as translating Arabic or Latin or French. Tracey begins by scanning a handwriting sample and magnifying it by several hundred per cent… it shows her the tiny details that might be overlooked on a preliminary glance. It’s not essential to do this – graphology is one of the few jobs that can be carried out with nothing more than a ruler, protractor and calculator – but it does help. Then she can start the precise process of measuring and analysing, looking out for ‘diligence loops’ and ‘arrogance arcades’ and other tell-tale signs.
There are three ‘zones’ to be assessed. The middle (the ‘a’s and ‘e’s, for example) links to daily life and behaviour; the upper zone (the tops of ‘t’s and ‘f’s, say) reveals hopes and dreams and aspirations; the lower zone (everything below the line) hints at the unconscious. Effectively it’s upper zone: superego; middle zone: ego; lower zone: id.
It would be easy to dismiss graphology as a magic trick, but it does have some really practical applications. In the recruitment process, for example, if you’re looking for a certain type of person to complement an existing team you can describe the desired characteristics you need to a graphologist who will work backwards, as it were, to identify how these will appear on the page. Provide a sample of writing from each of your shortlist, and the graphologist will work out the correlation between need and actual, with a percentage ‘satisfaction level’ – an indication of who’s going to do the job best (not necessarily the person you like the most!). If you want to develop or challenge existing staff, simply ask for a few lines of original writing and your graphologist can advise on the best approach, and tell you who will, or won’t, be suitable for that next promotion. Similarly, youngsters leaving school or university can use the services of a graphologist for career guidance.
Graphology can tell you whether you and your partner (or your new date) are suited, and how to behave in order to extract the best from each other. It can betray what you think you’re hiding, and it can answer questions such as Why won't he talk to me and why does he always have to shout? or How are we going to get on once the initial attraction has worn off? It sounds very invasive, but handwriting analysis can be most beneficial when there are specific and pertinent questions to be answered.
The tempation to interpret every piece of writing that comes your way must be overwhelming – notes from the milkman, memos from a colleague... Tracey agrees; she finds herself doing it almost unintentionally, in the way in which psychologists must always be decoding the hidden messages in other people’s conversations.
A handwritten note from a rock star with a reputation came Tracey’s way recently. It was only a few lines, but it was enough, and the tempation to analyse it was irresistible. Professional integrity prevents her from revealing his name – but she was able to ascertain that his bad boy image is all a front. ‘He’s a really nice man…”. Now that’s a piece of information to dine out on.
Handwriting doesn’t lie. We may all learn the same rote form at eight or nine years of age, but our life experience, and personal preferences will gradually erode the ‘right’ way we were originally taught, and evolve into our natural style. Graphology has an underlying structure and fixed principles that can’t be evaded or eluded. We are what we write.
Tracey’s keen to stress that handwriting analysis is meant to be helpful; its purpose is for the graphologist to give clarity and insight, whether on a personal and emotional level, or within a professional setting. It’s not a comic turn, or something to be taken lightly.
I can tell you this, though: if I was one of Tracey Yuille’s friends I’d never handwrite a note or card to her again. Especially if I had secrets to keep.