Most of us look at handwriting and see cursive or print, sloppy
or neat, round or angular. But Paula Sassi sees more. To her,
penmanship is the window to a person’s innermost thoughts and
Sassi, a San Diego, Calif., resident, helps companies pick
employees through careful observation of written samples, looking
at the arrangement, form and movement of a person’s script or
printed lettering in just a few paragraphs.
Most of us look at handwriting and see cursive or print, sloppy or neat, round or angular. But Paula Sassi sees more. To her, penmanship is the window to a person’s innermost thoughts and feelings.
Sassi, a San Diego, Calif., resident, helps companies pick employees through careful observation of written samples, looking at the arrangement, form and movement of a person’s script or printed lettering in just a few paragraphs.
“I can tell an employer anything they want to know,” said Sassi. “How a person thinks, if they’re intuitive, logical, analytical. I determine that. I talk about their intellect, their social skills and energies. I can tell them how they’ll need to work with that person and what they’ll need to do to encourage them.”
Handwriting analysts like Sassi form a small and specialized business community, but companies from doctor’s offices to insurance brokerage firms turn to these experts for more than help selecting employees. They can also be used to track down interoffice theft, to catch anonymous harassers and even to select juries or track down murderers.
But while handwriting analysis – also known as graphology – has become a popularly accepted method of research – analysts are often called to testify in criminal document trials – it still has a long way to go before it will be accepted as true science by academic sources, according to Tucson, Ariz.-based handwriting analyst Heidi Harralson.
“There have been studies that have shown graphologists could assess traits, but just like anything with science and research, you can find anything you want to,” said Harralson. “Graphology is where psychology was 100 years ago. It definitely needs rigorous study, but I think it has promise.”
As president of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation in San Jose, Harralson knows all about the specialty’s promise. She grew up loving to write and, in her teens, discovered that both her mother and grandmother practiced amateur graphology.
By high school, Harralson had studied graphology enough to gain a popular following interpreting the handwriting of her peers, and at the age of 17, she began studies with a mentor in the field. Now 34, she has been in business for herself as a handwriting expert since 1995.
The bulk of Harralson’s work load revolves around two specialties: personnel selection and forensic document research, which involves comparing documents to determine forgery and studying writing samples in order to create a suspect profile.
In one of her more public cases, Harralson was called to the Mexican subsidiary of an American manufacturing company, where anonymous notes had begun to appear in restricted employee areas.
The note writer had threatened to blow up day care centers in the area if the company did not fire all homosexuals from its staff, said Harralson.
“This company had 3,000 employees in Mexico, mainly factory workers, and they were focusing on factory workers as the suspects,” said Harralson. “We came up with someone who was educated, who had a degree, who was in an engineer-type field and who was probably in middle management. The Mexican police ended up stepping in, and their investigation led to someone who was educated – an engineer in middle management.”
The form of a person’s handwriting gives away telltale clues to his or her personality and frame of mind, said Harralson. In cases of employee theft or harassment through anonymous notes, she can help catch a perpetrator with as little as a simple questionnaire.
“It’s their anxiety,” said Harralson. “On words like money or steal, someone who is guilty will shift the slant of their writing or give away clues in other areas.”
In most hiring cases, Harralson collects information from prospective employers, including detailed job descriptions for the open position and handwriting samples from prospective supervisors and close colleagues. She then analyzes top applicants’ personal strengths and weaknesses against desired personality qualities, social standards and the company’s corporate culture.
“I do a more vocational approach,” said Harralson. “Everything I find can be used for good or bad depending on the description. You may have someone who tends to shade the truth or tell white lies, but if they’re in a sales position, that’s a valuable quality.”
And even the untrained eye can spot some of the personal undertones conveyed in script. For instance, the slant of a person’s script relates to his or her social type, said Sassi. If the print is slanted to the right, the person tends to be emotional and outgoing, versus a left-slanting introvert who happens to be more introspective. But extreme slants can be indicative of problems. Someone whose prose slants to the far right may be emotionally dependent, while someone who veers to the far left is usually resistant, she said.
The height and size of lettering can also be significant, said Sassi, who began her career in handwriting analysis after discovering the practice in a community college class 30 years ago.
“The larger the writing, the more ego-driven and active a person is, and the smaller the writing, the more concentrated and detailed,” said Sassi.
In cases where script and signature differ, pay attention. A person’s signature is his or her public self image, the face that person shows to the rest of the world, said Sassi. The person’s regular writing style reveals his or her true temperament, she said.
But any form of analysis is subject to change. In the case of handwriting, experts have had to come to terms with the increasing use of print over cursive as well as a decline in overall writing quality as more and more people turn to computers for their daily communication.
“I have a lot of people asking me about handwriting becoming obsolete, and my response to that is it’s not going away any time soon,” said Harralson. “The very act of handwriting stimulates the centers of the brain where control lies. That’s why it’s important for children to practice over and over. It’s teaching them self-control by the very act.”
Individual handwriting reports from either Harralson or Sassi can range from $50 for a one-page overview to $250 for an in-depth analysis. Sassi also offers a rough yes/no screening process for employers covering up to 25 applications for $25.
For complete novices who want to study the art themselves, Harralson recommends “Handwriting Analysis: The Complete Basic Book” by Karen Amend and Mary Ruiz or “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis” by Sheila Lowe.
If you’re mostly interested in the topic for fun, visit www.HandwritingInsights.com to purchase your own handwriting analysis kit, currently on sale for $10.95.
For more information on Harralson, visit her Web site at www.HandwritingServices.biz or call (520) 975-2275 the inquire about her services. Sassi can be reached at (858) 586-1511 or online at www.HandwritingConsultants.com