Have you ever wanted to be able to read people without them having to say a word? If you are thinking that the only way that’s possible is by being telepathic, you’re in luck. Reading people is a learnable skill that you can use to better communicate with others.
You can learn to interpret other people’s nonverbal cues, so that you can adjust your communication style so that the other person better understands you. Nonverbal cues include the famous body language, but that isn’t the only thing you should watch for. Things like tone, speed of speech, and facial expressions all give you clues how a person is actually feeling – even if they won’t tell you.
Even better, you can improve both your personal and professional life using these skills. It may take a while before you will feel comfortable with these skills – detective and nonverbal experts spend years learning how to do these – but in the end it is well-worth the time you spend learning how to pick up on those little cues.
Here’s What You Need to Do to Read Anyone
Before getting into it, keep in mind that everyone is different, so these are more guidelines.
1. Establish a baseline
Every person has their own unique habits. For example, they might blink regularly, wiggle their feet, pout, cross their arms, scratch their head, massage their neck, or look down when they speak. When others do these things, we may not notice them at first. Over time, these little idiosyncrasies become more obvious, and in some cases, we start to adopt them without realizing it.
People engage in certain habits for a variety of reasons. These habits may simply be a sign of etiquette, but they may also be a sign of dishonesty, anger, or fearfulness. It can be very helpful to be aware of what is typical behavior for others.
2. Examine the person’s general behavior
We often think that certain behaviors, such as looking down while speaking, indicate nervousness or anxiety.
However, if you already know a person, you can tell if they are avoiding eye contact with you or just trying to relax by staring at the floor.
People have different mannerisms and behaviors, says LaRae Quy, who was a counterintelligence agent at the FBI.
It’s always helpful to get an idea of what’s typical about others. You can spot changes in a person’s typical behavior by trying to understand if they are just relaxing or hiding their feelings. Only when you notice a change in tone, pace, and body language can you easily conclude that something is gone wrong.
3. Recognize variations
As you become more familiar with a person’s little ticks and habits, you will start to notice when they are acting a little off. This can say a lot about what they are feeling, but more importantly what they are doing. Look for discrepancies between the person’s expressions and body language and the baseline you have established.
For example, you may have noticed that one of your key suppliers frequently clears his throat when he is upset. He does this whenever he makes minor changes to business arrangements. Could he be hiding something? It’s very possible, so you may want to ask a few follow up questions to see if there is something questionable behind their behavior.
4. Maintain an unbiased mindset
Before you try to read others, you need to try to remove any bias. Do not allow your feelings or past experiences to influence your perceptions or judgments.
If you judge hastily, you will misjudge people. Approach every contact and circumstance with objectivity.
According to Judith Orloff M.D. in Psychology Today, you must remain impartial and not distort information if you want to read someone correctly.
5. Examine their appearance
Pay attention to people’s appearance while you read them. What are they wearing? Are they wearing business casual clothes? That suggests they are ambitious. Or perhaps they are dressed comfortably in a T-shirt and jeans.
Are they wearing a pendant that represents their spiritual beliefs, such as a crucifix? Whatever they have on, you can find out something about them.
Many people want to express their personality and beliefs through their appearance. That’s why they wear t-shirts with slogans, have tattoos, or wear jewelry. Of course, you need to find out the meaning of the different clothes and inscriptions or symbols before you assume anything.
You can also pay attention to other aspects of their appearance. How is their hair styled? If they have done something intricate, that often means they want to be presentable or make a statement. Are they wearing makeup? Do they have signs of fatigue, stress, or anxiety, seen by bags under the eyes or paler skin than usual? These are all typical indicators of their current emotional state.
6. Pay attention to posture
Posture refers to how people walk and the way they hold their head.
A lot can be deduced about a person’s attitude from their posture. For example, when a person holds their head high, it is a sign of confidence or determination. If a person moves hesitantly or ducks their head, this could be an indication of low self-esteem.
7. Pay attention to movements
People communicate their feelings more with their bodies than with words. We tend to gravitate toward people we like and avoid people who rub us the wrong way.
If someone leans in and has their hands open, it’s a good sign that they like you. If someone leans away, it means that the person you are talking to is putting up a wall between you and them.
If someone crosses their arms or legs while talking to you, it could be a sign of self-defense or anger. For example, if someone leaned down to you and you said something, after which they crossed their arms, this is a clear sign that they do not like what you said.
Covering a hand could indicate that the person you are talking to has something to hide.
8. Consider gestures
One action or phrase by itself may have no meaning, but when several changes in behavior are grouped together, you should look closely.
For example, your supplier is constantly clearing his throat and making that head-scratching motion while shuffling his feet. This could be an indication that he is hiding something, or at the very least is uncomfortable speaking with you.
9. Check your reflection
Mirror neurons act like internal sensors reflecting back to us what other people might think. We can interpret another person’s body language by looking at ourselves. The grin muscles of our face are triggered by a smile, while the frown muscles are activated when we see someone else frown.
When seeing a person we like, our lips widen and our eyebrows arch, while the muscles of our face relax and our head tilts.
If your conversation partner does not exhibit this behavior, they may tell you directly that they do not like who you are or disagree with what you did or said.
10. Recognize when someone is using an assertive voice
The person who takes the most important seat at the table is not necessarily the strongest.
For example, a strong voice is a characteristic often used by assertive people. At a conference, the most powerful person has an upright posture and a powerful voice.
However, do not confuse loud with powerful, because loudness could just be a sign of a weak personality. It is a way to get attention, and not a sign that they are able to control a situation.
Recognizing a powerful voice may be difficult, but it greatly improves your chances of success when reading people because it can help you identify people who like to be in control or who know how to lead.
11. Ask direct questions
Avoid asking ambiguous questions if you want a direct answer. A direct answer can tell you a lot about a person.
When your interviewer answers one of your questions, do not interrupt. Instead, pay attention to what he says and look for action words.
Action words are always purposeful, such as a boss saying he “”chose brand X for the campaign.”” They tell you that the other person is probably not impulsive, but has considered and thought through their decisions.
12. Observe their language used
Pay attention to the person’s word choice. For example, if someone says, “”I am on my second promotion,”” they are letting know that they are steadily advancing in their career.
Language like this shows that a person relies on the opinions of others to improve their self-perception. To feel good about themselves, they want others to compliment them.
13. Observe what happens to the eyes.
Pay attention to how others’ eyes move when they speak. After all, those are the window to their soul – or in this case, it could be a window into their thoughts.
Do you notice a friendly energy? Or do the eyes radiate a hostile, angry, or distrustful energy?
The eyes can also indicate whether someone is lying or telling the truth, depending on the size of the pupil, which becomes larger when lying.
14. Determine if the person is talking more than listening
If a person talks more than they listen, it could be a sign that the person is self-centered. Many people find it difficult to display qualities such as empathy if they do not take the time to listen.
This does not necessarily mean they are a bad person, but it does show that they tend to be preoccupied with themselves. People with narcissistic personalities are not interested in learning more about you, so they won’t listen while you speak
On the other hand, they may be nervous, so don’t jump to conclusions until you have been talking for a bit. If they start asking questions, then they are just shy and need a little push to become more conversational.