Between the Lines

A graphoanalyst sees personality writ largein the smallest of details.

You have a résumé that reads like Ross Perot’s, and you’ve just landed that long-sought-after interview with the richest, most benevolent company in the world. You think you’re in like Flynn until your potential employer hands you a pen and asks for a writing sample. Penmanship went out with the flivver, and you’re wondering, “What’s going on?” Well, says Dallas handwriting analyst Don Lehew, “everything you want to know about someone is in his handwriting.” Not just whether a person is reliable or not, but whether he’s harboring potential surprises like postnasal drip or weak ankles. Lately, Lehew has found his services in such demand that he wears a beeper as he nimbly whips in and out of North Dallas traffic in his mobile-phone-equipped Jeep, scurrying between consultations with corporate clients.

The 52-year-old Lehew used to own a large construction business in Dallas, and with his sturdy physique and excess nervous energy, he looks as if he just can’t wait to roll up his sleeves and tackle a tough physical job. So how did such a nuts-and-bolts guy as Lehew get interested in graphoanalysis, the study of handwriting and character? “I had my ex-wife’s handwriting analyzed for a Christmas present eleven years ago,” he says. “It was the shock of recognition. I had to know more.” What Lehew found out was so fascinating that he sold his construction business three years ago to devote all his time to studying how people cross their t’s and dot their i’s. His clients have included the Internal Revenue Service, the State Bar of Texas, the Dallas Morning News, Foley’s, the Aetna Life Insurance and Annuity Company, and numerous banks and law firms. Says Art Bissonnette, who runs Professional Management Consultants in Dallas: “At first I thought the stuff was for the birds.” But after working with Lehew, he has changed his opinion. “It's the finest tool we have for objectively analyzing people,” he says.

Says Lehew: “There are a lot more companies than you know using handwriting analysis. They want to find out if a prospective employee is mentally, physically, and psychologically capable of doing the job.” Or simply if he or she will be compatible with others already on the job. Someone who does not connect his letters is probably not suited to a conventional job; someone who peaks m’s like spires on a cathedral is more analytical. If it slips your mind to dot your i’s, don’t bother applying for detail-oriented jobs. Companies also want to know if a future worker might be chemically out of balance. “Flat-topped e’s could indicate medication,” Lehew tells me.

Clues can be blatant even to a novice. Lehew gives me a quick twenty-item test to see if I can discover from the handwriting samples who is drunk, who has more vitality, who is generous with time and energy. My score of 90 doesn’t mean I’m psychic, just observant. But there are subtleties, as he demonstrates when he makes some interesting deductions from my handwriting.

My three-sentence paragraph reveals to Lehew that I am so stubborn I would argue with a fence post, that I am apprehensive about an impending major change, that my left leg is a fraction of an inch shorter than my right, and that I have a bad right ankle.

I’m impressed. He’s on target on the stubbornness issue. How did he know? The disconnected, printed style of my handwriting gave it away, he says. My writing tends to fade away from the right margin, a clue to the apprehension. But what about that left leg? I have to admit that the unevenly worn heels on old shoes in my closet suggest that my right leg is slightly longer than the left. Lehew says he assumed it was my left leg because my descenders on words with double letters—such as “puppy”—were uneven. The first p (right leg) was longer than the second. Those p’s seem to be real tattletales—that’s how Lehew zeroed in on the bad right ankle: A minuscule dot clings to the very bottom of my p’s, which means something’s amiss on a lower extremity. “If you were applying for a job that required heavy lifting,” Lehew tells me, “I’d advise your future employer to ask about your ankle.” Lehew shows me his own handwriting—there, fused to the middle of every descender on every g, is a tiny dot (“It’s my vasectomy scar,” he says). Yet I have to disappoint Lehew—it’s not my right ankle that’s amiss but my right big toe, with an erratically throbbing bone spur.

Law firms often call upon Lehew to root out forgeries, and once he shows me how easy it is to spot the peculiarities in individual handwriting, forgery seems a pathetically futile pursuit. When enlarged with even a hand-held magnifying glass, a signature’s oddities take on topographical drama. In court, Lehew showcases each letter on a screen, separate from its neighbors. He shows me a case in which a lawyer forged his client’s signature on checks. In the original signature, the capital B resembles a bowling pin, narrow on top, bulbous on the bottom. The forged B looks like a profile of Ted Kennedy, with a pompadourlike flourish above the paunchy stomach of the lower part.

A forger would have a heck of a time duplicating Lehew’s own writing, since the graphoanalyst has always been a printer. He writes in a legible, idiosyncratic hand that broadcasts to those who can read between the lines that Lehew is a perfectionist who plays to win.

The next time you start to sign your name, fill out an application, or compose a letter, remember that the handwriting is on the wall—you are telling more than you think you are. My advice? Just be sure to watch those p’s and q’s.

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