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Why you need to have a happy workforce

5th September 2023

Handwriting expert Emma Bache on Shakespeare, Rishi Sunak – and Obama’s unexpected trait

Christopher Jackson


Emma Bache is one of the leading graphologists in the UK, but she didn’t have an early interest in handwriting. “I’ll be honest – I’m interested in people and in their personalities. Handwriting is merely a vehicle to find out something about someone you wouldn’t normally know if you met them.”

So how did she come to make it her profession? “I fell into this by accident. I was working for a financial institution in my very early twenties. A friend of mine said she was going to do a graphology workshop in Wapping. I knew what it was, but I had a very limited amount of knowledge. I went along with her.”

After that she joined the British Institute of Graphology. “I was married to a photographer at the time who worked with a lot of events agencies so I joined with them and began doing events. In the late eighties, I got picked up and began writing for them and I’ve always worked for banks in terms of recruitment.”

Bache says that graphology was widely accepted in Europe long before it was accepted in the UK. “The Europeans have always been into graphology – they’re more interested in people and psychology. The Germans, Austrians, Italians and French – even the Americans. We’re sceptical as a nation. We see analysis as criticism.”

So what role does graphology play in recruitment? “In this era, it’s becoming more and more important to make the right choice, especially in finance and the legal profession. It’s costly to make a mistake. You’ve spent money needlessly and may have to pay money out to get rid of someone. What I do is merely another tool in the toolbox to make sure you make the right decision. It’s not just about employing the right person to do a job, it’s about thinking about the team. Often I’m asked to analyse the whole team; otherwise I’d be analysing individual handwriting when that individual invariably won’t be working alone.”

Banks remain a core client basis, but Bache also does a lot of forensic work which she didn’t do initially. “That will include analysis in relation to criminality. But I also look at forgeries of signatures where I’m often asked for my professional opinion.”

Bache’s career has straddled the increased use of laptops, but it hasn’t impacted on her workflow. “Funnily enough, in the younger generation, journaling is very much on the increase. The younger generation are writing more and more. Especially in the creative industries they know the correlation between holding a pen and putting your thoughts on paper. That’s more creative than typing.”

So how does her workload stack up today? “I’m probably doing some helping with recruitment every day as I’m on retainers with various companies so that’s a certainty. I would also expect to get two or three forensic jobs per week, and then media work whether it’s King Charles or whoever it might be. Events are back on the scene too; Zoom events really didn’t work during the pandemic. It’s a bit quieter now due to the economic issues.”

Bache is often asked about historical figures or celebrities. “I do a lot of historical documents. A new documentary came out recently called Becoming Ian Brady, and I am in that as he was a prolific letter writer. He committed his murders in the 1960s. We have a preset opinion of what we think he’s like – he’s horrific. I saw the original letters. It was quite chilling. He was highly intelligent and quite philosophical. I saw obsessive-compulsive disorder, and narcissism. I didn’t actually see a psychopath tendency. He was a deeply unpleasant man, who did have empathy for some things in his life.”

And people in power? “I do prime ministers and presidents all the time. We think of Trump as a psychopath and maybe Boris Johnson; neither are. Trump is a control freak and a narcissist but not a psychopath. Boris Johnson is a more complex character; he’s just careless and spoilt. He also has no filter.”

Then Bache says something astonishing: “Certainly Obama is a psychopath. That’s not to say he does evil acts, but he has a lack of empathy and a lot of charm. He’s not exactly dangerous but scores highly when it comes to psychopathy.” Bache explains she’s not being anti-Democratic in saying this: “He has an enormous amount of superficial charm, which Trump doesn’t have. If you study Obama talking to people, from a body language point of view he doesn’t go onto his next soundbite without checking that he has won everybody over.”

This makes me want to know more about historical figures. What about Abraham Lincoln? Bache looks up his handwriting on her phone as she’s talking to me. “A very strong right hand and a lot of charm – a lot of needing to be liked by other people. It’s incredibly regular; the filled-in ovals suggest someone very sensual. Very well-balanced, determined, and ambitious and takes his time over things. All this has to be balanced with the fashions of the time.”

And what about the current PM, Rishi Sunak? “Bit of a loner, very heavy pressure, gets quite stressed about things, a little bit of a temper there which he probably keeps under control. Not really a team player.”

I try to press Bache to Shakespeare, who I’ve always been interested in. “Unlike Rishi, all his words are really close together so very much a team-player and so needed the approval and interest of other people, which you’d expect as a playwright. Very long loopy lower zone so very creative but also caring about other people. He’s not very well-organised so I don’t know how practical he would have been.”

Mention of Shakespeare leads us onto a contemporary equivalent who many find mysterious: Bob Dylan. She looks at some handwritten lyrics written in 1962, when Dylan would have been 22: “He’d be on drugs or alcohol then – which makes it difficult.” But the typical signature on his artworks leads to some interesting reflections: “He has really long ‘y’ stroke, meaning he’s quite aggressive. There’s heavy pressure, but there’s charm there and he’s very stubborn and quite difficult – quite money-oriented.” This last point is interesting. It was recently revealed that Dylan hadn’t in fact personally signed copies of his most recent book The Philosophy of Modern Song, instead getting a machine to do it for him – but still charging loyal fans as if they had been signed.

Another interesting subject, Bache says, is Rupert Murdoch: “We all think we have a view about Murdoch, whether you like his political views. You have to remember his father was a newspaper magnate as well. Actually he’s a very nice man. Very intelligent an strong-willed but he’s not psychopathic – he has all these failed marriages. It’s interesting that someone so determined and successful falls in love very easily.”



Reading Between the Lines: What Your Handwriting Says About You is published by Quercus Books, priced £18.99

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