11 traits of people who are exceptional at reading others

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Ever met someone who seems to understand you better than you understand yourself?

They can pick up on the subtlest cues in your behavior and emotions, often before you even realize what you’re feeling. It’s like they have a sixth sense.

These people are gifted with an extraordinary ability to read others.

But what is it that makes them so good at it?

Let’s dive into the 11 traits that these exceptional individuals commonly share.

1. They’re total emotion experts

Picture this. You’re at a party, trying to keep a smile on your face. But deep down, you’re worried about a big presentation at work tomorrow.

Most people just see your smile. But these folks? They see what’s hidden behind it.

How, you ask? It’s because they’ve spent a lot of time understanding their own emotions. They know that feelings aren’t always black and white.

Sometimes they’re a complicated mix of joy, worry, excitement, and a hundred other things all at once.

This emotional expertise helps them understand how you might be feeling in any given moment.

They can tell when your laugh is genuine or when it’s hiding something else.

So even when you say you’re fine, they know when there’s more to the story.

It’s like having a friend who always knows when you need to talk, even when you don’t say a word.

But remember, becoming an emotion expert takes time and practice.

So why not start with understanding your own feelings first? It might just be the first step to understanding others too. 

2. They’re big-hearted

Ever had that friend who just seems to feel everything you do?

If you’re upset, they’re upset. If you’re bouncing off the walls with excitement, they are too.

It’s like they’re living your emotions with you.

It’s because these people are super empathetic. They don’t just understand your feelings, they feel them too.

Let’s say you’re sad about messing up a project at work. They can put themselves in your shoes and feel that disappointment.

It’s as if they’ve also messed up a project and are feeling bummed about it.

This deep connection helps them know what you’re going through.

They can provide comfort or share in your joy because they genuinely feel what you’re feeling.

Being big-hearted doesn’t mean they ignore their own emotions. They know when to step back and care for their own feelings too.

When you’re feeling down or super excited, look for that friend who really ‘feels’ with you. And who knows, you might learn a thing or two about empathy from them!

3. They’ve got eagle eyes

I’ll never forget this one time when I was hanging out with my friend, Sam.

Now, Sam is one of those people who’s fantastic at understanding others. We were at a café and our mutual friend, Jake, walked in. Now Jake is usually the life of the party, but that day, something seemed off.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but Sam noticed it right away. He leaned over to me and said, “Jake’s not his usual self today, is he?” I looked at Jake again.

He was smiling and chatting like always, but Sam was right. There was a certain heaviness about him.

Turns out, Sam had picked up on subtle changes in Jake’s body language and tone of voice.

Even in a crowded café, he’d noticed that Jake wasn’t as lively as he usually was. He had picked up on the sigh that Jake tried to hide, the slight slump of his shoulders.

Sam asked Jake if he was okay. At first, Jake brushed it off saying he was just tired. But after a bit more gentle prodding from Sam, he admitted that he was worried about some family issues.

That’s when I truly understood what being observant meant. It’s about noticing the little things – a change in tone, a shift in demeanor – that most people overlook.

4. They’re all ears

People who are really good at understanding others? They’re fantastic listeners. They don’t just hear the words you’re saying, they listen to understand.

Interestingly, a study by Dr. Ralph Nichols from the University of Minnesota quantified that individuals retain just 25% of what they hear

But these folks? They’re different. When they listen, they absorb much more than that average 25%.

They pay attention to not only what you’re saying but also what you’re not saying. They notice when your words don’t quite match your tone or body language.

They can pick up on the hesitation in your voice or the concern hidden behind your nonchalant shrug.

Next time you’re in a conversation, try to really listen. Don’t just wait for your turn to speak. Pay attention to the other person’s words, their tone of voice, and their body language.

You might just uncover a whole new level of understanding!

5. They trust their gut

Isn’t it amazing when someone just knows what you’re feeling without you saying a word?

It’s like they’ve read your mind or your heart. This is because these people trust their intuition, their gut feelings.

Their intuition is like an internal compass, guiding them to understand things that aren’t always visible to the naked eye.

It’s that inexplicable feeling they get when something isn’t quite right, or when someone is genuinely happy.

They might not be able to explain why or how they know, but they just do.

This doesn’t mean they’re psychic or have magical powers. It’s about being in tune with their feelings and the world around them.

It’s about trusting that inner voice that whispers, “Hey, something’s up.”

When you get that gut feeling about someone or something, don’t ignore it. Trust it, explore it.

Because more often than not, our intuition is our heart and soul’s way of guiding us towards understanding.

6. They’re chameleons

I remember when I first started working at this big corporate company straight out of college. I was used to the laid-back environment of my university, and suddenly, I found myself in this formal, fast-paced world. I felt like a fish out of water.

That’s when I met my mentor, Lisa. She was a pro at understanding others, and one of the reasons was her ability to adapt.

Lisa could fit in anywhere – in board meetings with higher-ups, casual lunches with colleagues, or brainstorming sessions with us newbies.

She changed her approach based on who she was dealing with.

When talking to the bosses, she was formal and to the point. With us new recruits, she was relaxed and friendly, always ready to guide us.

She understood that everyone is different and adjusted her behavior accordingly.

Seeing Lisa adapt so effortlessly taught me a valuable lesson – understanding others is also about meeting them where they are, not where you want them to be.

It’s about blending in with their world and seeing things from their perspective.

7. They’re curious cats

We all have that one friend who asks a million questions. You know who I’m talking about. Every story you tell, every comment you make, they’ve got a question about it.

At first, it might seem like they’re just being nosy or annoying. But here’s the raw truth: those seemingly endless questions are their way of understanding you better.

People who are really good at reading others aren’t satisfied with just the surface level stuff. They want to dig deeper.

They want to know why you think the way you do, why you feel the way you feel.

And to do that, they need to ask questions – a lot of them.

When that friend starts firing off questions, don’t roll your eyes in annoyance. Instead, appreciate their curiosity. They’re not trying to invade your privacy; they’re trying to understand you better.

And who knows? Their questions might just help you understand yourself better too.

8. They keep an open mind

It’s easy to judge a book by its cover, or in this case, a person by their actions. But those who are really good at understanding others? They put their judgment on hold and keep an open mind.

People who excel at understanding others resist the natural instinct to immediately judge others.

Instead of jumping to conclusions based on first impressions or preconceived notions, they take the time to get to know the person behind the actions.

They’re open to changing their initial assumptions as they learn more about a person.

When you meet someone new, try to put your initial judgments on hold. Give them a chance to show you who they really are. 

9. They’ve got patience in spades

I remember when my younger sister was going through a rough patch. She was dealing with some heavy stuff and wasn’t ready to talk about it. I desperately wanted to help her, but I didn’t know how because she wouldn’t let me in.

That’s when I learned a valuable lesson about patience from my grandmother.

She told me, “Understanding someone isn’t always about getting answers right away.

Sometimes, it’s about waiting patiently until they’re ready to open up.”

I took her advice to heart. Instead of pushing my sister to talk, I simply let her know that I was there for her whenever she wanted to share. It wasn’t easy waiting, but eventually, she did open up to me.

People who are really good at understanding others know that it’s not an instant process. They are patient and give people the time and space they need to express their thoughts and feelings.

Patience isn’t just a virtue; it’s also a key to understanding others better.

10. They’re respectful

Respect. It’s a simple word, but it carries a lot of weight. People who are really good at understanding others know this all too well.

They respect people’s feelings, thoughts, and personal space. And let’s be brutally honest here – without respect, understanding others is simply not possible.

Think about it. If someone continually disrespects your boundaries, do you feel understood?

Probably not. You likely feel dismissed or ignored. That’s why respect is so important. It shows that you value the other person and their experiences.

Remember to show respect in all your interactions. It’s a simple act that can go a long way in helping you understand others better.

11. They’re self-aware

Understanding others starts with understanding yourself. People who are exceptional at reading others spend a lot of time reflecting on their own thoughts and feelings.

They know their strengths and weaknesses, their biases and assumptions. This self-awareness helps them avoid misjudging others based on their own experiences or emotions.

Take some time to get to know yourself better. Reflect on your thoughts and feelings, question your assumptions and biases.

Because the more you understand yourself, the better you’ll be at understanding others.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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