In 1972 my father came home with a book on handwriting analysis. Our family had fun back then studying each other’s handwriting to see what personality traits it could reveal. It all seemed pretty logical and real. However handwriting analysis, now known as graphology, has never been proven as a legitimate science.
Along the same lines that year, my dad blew $5000 on a network marketing scheme that effectively cost us our home. Those two experiences are permanently linked in my mind. One turned out to be harmless fun. The other was a lesson I’ve never forgotten. I’ve been wise enough to avoid invitations to get involved in network marketing or pyramid companies.
But something inside me believes there is still some shred of truth to the whole handwriting analysis thing.
Here’s my humble, possibly twisted reasoning: How can your personality not come out in your handwriting? Writing words on a page is one of the most personal acts a human being can do. The problem with handwriting analysis is that there is no effective way to connect handwriting to personality traits in a manner that can be consistently tested or applied. How do you judge qualities like relative happiness, pessimism or sex drive and come up with a system that is predictable? There are just too many variables.
I’m not that interested any more whether my handwriting tells something about my personality. I’m more worried that my handwriting has gotten so sloppy no one can read it. Not even me.
Recently I took notes during a phone conversation with an interview subject. The next day I returned to read my notes and could not decipher more than 25% of the conversation. That’s a problem.
If anything, my sloppy handwriting reveals a hurried existence. I can write legibly enough if I take the time. But when you are taking notes while someone speaks, there is not always time to slow down. That means the discipline to write well has to come from concentration, not pace.
My poor handwriting comes from bad habits and perhaps reflects a very human response to a series of stressful events in life. Over the last 5 years I’ve had to invest considerable emotional energy guiding my father through the effects of a severe stroke, watching my mother die of cancer and helping my wife through two rounds of treatment for ovarian cancer. We’ve also been through changes in employment and compensation as well. People ask me how I handle all that and I realize that on the surface, things have gotten done but underneath there is a lot of unfinished business swirling around.
There have been some very difficulty moments, for sure. Times when I was committed to prayer when nothing else worked. I think my handwriting reveals the struggle to process all these emotional challenges. Simply put, my handwriting is probably a cry for help.
I’m one of those people who don’t write cursive anymore. I spell everything out in capital letters. That is a habit I developed in 7th grade while taking an industrial drawing class. We were required to neatly label all our drawings in capital letters and were graded on our efforts. That exacting process of creating neatly lettered drawings on pale green paper appealed to me at a level I cannot describe. I am sure there were emotional components to the joy I felt at a job well done. Our home environment, while loving in many respects, was also somewhat critical much of the time. The process of exerting control over that one hour per day and earning approval was important at a time when I felt emotionally insecure.
I also enjoyed the disciplined environment of our 7th grade gym class. The class was directed by an almost militaristic PE instructor who had high expectations. He put us through a series of tests to earn different colored satin stripes that were then sewn on our gym shorts as a sign of our achievements. Motivation and peer pressure to earn the top-rated blue stripe was very high. And I ultimately achieved that.
Those experiences confirm for me the conservative ideal that young people really do crave challenges. These are rites of passage that make us feel whole. I came out of that year transformed in two ways. I dropped cursive handwriting for all caps and committed to being a distance runner after running two miles during a twelve minute time trial in gym class.
Those formative experiences stuck with me in many ways over the years. Sadly, my disciplined handwriting devolved into a messy contract of loops, swirls and strangled architecture that now defines my written words. My writing has a weird rhythm even I cannot explain these days. But it must reflect some part of me. That’s why I believe there may be some truth to graphology. I’d stop short of calling it a science, but 36 years after my dad brought home that book on handwriting analysis, I’m still convinced there is something to it.
As for the state of my current handwriting, I plan to do something about that. First: I’m going to change my approach to life and restore elements of that discipline and organization that I crave. My writing will be a reminder to reflect those changes, make the commitment to live better, think more and find ways to be in control of how I act and think.
That’s probably all the handwriting analysis anyone really needs.