14 habits of people who are masters at reading others

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Have you noticed how some people seem to have an almost superhuman ability to read others?

While some people can’t seem to pick up on the most obvious social cues, these masters of reading others can tell how someone is feeling, what they’re thinking, and even guess their intentions without the other person having to say anything. 

So, what’s their secret? Are they mind readers?

No, they’re not!

In fact, by picking up a few habits, you too could become a master reader!

From being observant to being skilled at reading non-verbal cues, we’re gonna take a look at 14 habits people who are masters at reading others have.

Let’s dive right in!

1) They are observant

The first habit I need to point out about master readers is just how observant they are. That means that they don’t walk around glued to their phone screens – texting their friends or constantly checking their social media.

They also don’t have headphones blasting away, leaving them oblivious to the sounds surrounding them.

Instead, they pay close attention to their surroundings and the people they’re interacting with. They notice everything from what someone is wearing to their facial expressions and their body language.

So if you want to learn to read others, start by being present and aware of what’s going on around you. That brings me to my next point…

2) They actively listen

People who excel at reading others are active listeners.

Active listening means really hearing what is being said so that you can understand where the other person is coming from.

This is super important if you want to understand someone’s motives, beliefs, and general attitude to life.

But active listening isn’t just about hearing what is being said. It’s also about trying to figure out the real and often hidden meaning behind what is being said. 

For example, by paying close attention you can tell when someone is avoiding a certain topic or when they say one thing when they mean the complete opposite. 

When it comes to active listening, it’s important to ask questions and clarify anything that doesn’t make sense, as well as to know how to read nonverbal cues…

3) They read body language

Speaking of nonverbal cues, did you know that there are dozens if not hundreds of books out there on understanding body language? 

Body language reveals so much about a person’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions that it’s no wonder there are classes teaching everyone from businessmen to politicians (even presidents) about nonverbal communication!

So, if you want to become a master at reading others, you need to pay attention to nonverbal cues and learn to decipher them.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Pay attention to posture: Look at the person’s chest and shoulders. When the chest is full and the shoulders are back (think of a rooster), it’s a sign of confidence! But, when the chest and shoulders are pulled back causing the back to arch, it means that they’re not sure of themselves..  
  • Look at facial expressions: From a smile to a frown and everything in between, facial expressions reveal a lot about a person.
  • Don’t forget gestures: For example, folded arms usually aren’t a very welcoming gesture. Just picture someone you’ve crossed waiting for you to explain yourself. Well, what do you have to say for yourself? Another gesture would be one arm across the other. While resembling the first gesture, the meaning is quite different as it reveals insecurity and lack of confidence.
  • Handshakes: A firm handshake is a confident and assertive way of greeting someone. It involves grasping the other person’s hand firmly and shaking it up and down a few times. It conveys a sense of strength, confidence, and respect. A weak handshake, often referred to as a “limp fish”, is the opposite of a firm handshake and can be perceived as lacking in confidence or enthusiasm. Basically, it involves a limp grip (if any) and minimal shaking. A double handshake involves using the other hand to grip the other person’s forearm or elbow while shaking their hand. This can be a sign of respect, affection, or camaraderie, and is often used in formal or ceremonial situations. A dominant handshake involves positioning the hand on top of the other person’s hand, which can be seen as a sign of dominance or superiority. This type of handshake is generally not recommended, as it can be perceived as aggressive or confrontational.

If you want to see some examples, just google world leaders shaking hands.

4) They are empathetic

Did you know that being empathetic can really come in handy when trying to read others?

You see, empathy is all about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes with the goal of seeing things from their perspective.

If you want to read someone, you need to be able to put aside your own views and opinions and try to see things from another point of view. If you can’t, if you’re close-minded and unable to feel the joys and sorrows of other people, you’re gonna have a hard time reading them.

In short, if you’re an empathetic person, you’re going to have a much easier time getting insight into another person’s feelings, motives, and opinions.

5) They pay attention to tone

Master readers know that they should pay attention to the tone of voice in order to pick up on what isn’t being said out loud.

Turns out that tone of voice can convey a lot of information about how someone feels as well as whether their intentions are good or bad.

If you want to understand what the other person is really saying, you have to listen.

  • A raised voice, sharp tone, and fast pace could mean the person is angry or frustrated.
  • A high-pitched, upbeat tone, and fast pace could mean they’re happy.
  • On the other hand, a quiet, low-pitched tone, and slow pace could mean they’re sad.
  • A low-pitched tone and slow pace with an emphasis on certain words could be a hint that they’re being sarcastic or ironic.
  • A firm and confident tone means they’re in charge because it signals authority.
  • A warm and friendly tone generally means they’re being sincere.
  • A high-pitched, soft tone, with a slow pace could be a plea for help or understanding.
  • A hesitant tone with pauses and stammering could mean that they’re uncertain or confused.
  • A sneering tone (together with a raised eyebrow or curled lip) is probably a sign of contempt.
  • And finally, a high-pitched, fast-paced, energetic tone means that they’re enthusiastic and eager.

6) They make eye contact

Did you know that making eye contact is very important when it comes to building trust?

It’s true. That’s why people who are masters at reading others have the habit of making eye contact when they speak to someone – it helps them figure out whether or not they can trust the person.

Here are some examples: Say you want to find out if your boyfriend is telling the truth, you’ll ask him “So, who were you with last night?”, and you’ll make sure to look into his eyes.

You see, if he can hold your gaze, it’s usually a good sign and means you can trust him (either that or he knows all the tricks in the book).

But if he can’t make eye contact or maintain it for long, it’s clearly because he’s uncomfortable. It means that he’s embarrassed or hiding something and thinks you’ll somehow spot it if he makes eye contact (interestingly enough, it’s the opposite).

The same thing applies if you want to go into business with someone but you’re not sure they’re trustworthy – watch if they make eye contact!

7) They are patient

When you’re rash to form an opinion about someone, you risk making a huge mistake.

If you base your opinion on first impressions – you can miss out on meeting a great person (maybe even the love of your life) because you didn’t take the time to get to know them, or, you could end up being duped by someone who seemed trustworthy.

That’s why master readers take the time to listen and observe, to try to understand the other person’s motives and where they’re coming from.

They also like to ask questions, listen carefully, and take the time to process the information they are receiving.

It’s no wonder they say that patience is a virtue.

8) They take note of patterns

Identifying patterns in a person’s behavior to understand them better is what psychologists do. Psychologists and master readers that is!

Basically, they look for patterns in behavior or speech and pay attention to recurring themes or topics that could reveal underlying emotions or motivations.

I know it sounds complicated but with time, you get the gist of it.

9) They use their intuition

There’s a lot to be said for intuition!

A lot of us tend to ignore our intuition or that gut feeling, preferring to listen to concrete facts.

But even though we don’t exactly understand how intuition works (is it instinct or psychic ability?), it turns out that it’s often spot-on.

That’s why people who are masters at reading others aren’t quick to dismiss their intuition. If their gut is telling them not to trust someone, they listen to the warning and take a closer look at the person.

So, why not give your gut a chance and see what it has to say?

10) They pay attention to the context

I can’t stress enough how important context is.

People who are masters at reading others know that context is an important factor when it comes to interpreting someone’s behavior and emotions.

Think about it: Context provides the information that determines how a message is received and interpreted.

That’s why you need to pay attention to the situational factors that are likely to influence a person’s mood or behavior – such as the environment, the people around them, and any recent experiences they might have had.

Everything needs to be taken into account.

11) They don’t judge

Instead of passing judgment, master readers approach interactions with an open mind, seeking to understand the other person’s point of view and the reasons behind their behavior.

They ask questions, listen carefully, and observe nonverbal cues to gain insight into the person’s thoughts and feelings.

You see, by maintaining a non-judgmental attitude, people who are masters at reading others can establish trust and build a positive rapport with the people around them.

They know that everyone is different, and instead of judging or trying to change people, they strive to work with these differences.

And the best part?

They’re open-minded and respectful, yes, EVEN  when they disagree with the other person’s opinion.

12) They are objective

Look, if you’re trying to read someone, it’s important to put your opinions and feelings aside. Otherwise, you could end up being influenced by your biases and emotions.

Master readers like to focus on what is being communicated through words, actions, and nonverbal cues.

By being objective, they avoid making assumptions or jumping to conclusions.

Do you think you could be objective?

13) They have emotional intelligence

Did you know that there are different types of intelligence?

It’s not all about being good at maths or logic, you can also have linguistic intelligence, musical intelligence, and even emotional intelligence!

And guess what?

Master readers usually have emotional intelligence. That means they’re in tune with their emotions and know how to manage them. It also means that they’re good at recognizing other people’s emotions.

But not everyone has this type of intelligence, a lot of people seem to be oblivious to how others are feeling, and that’s certainly a drawback if you’re trying to read someone.

All in all, emotional intelligence is just another characteristic that comes in handy when reading others.

14) They practice

Practice makes perfect.

If you want to pick up some new skills or learn the habits of people who are masters of reading others, you have to practice. It takes time and practice to learn anything, so don’t worry if it doesn’t happen overnight.

I mean, how do you think that people who are masters at reading others became masters at reading others? By practicing and perfecting their skills over time of course!

What’s more, they believe in lifelong learning. That’s why they reflect on their experiences and are always looking for opportunities to improve their reading skills.

The benefits of reading people

So, what’s the big deal? Why is it so important to know how to read other people?

Let’s take a look:

Improved communication

It’s quite simple really, reading other people helps us understand what they want and need. That in turn helps us respond in the right way, which is a big plus when it comes to improving teamwork and building stronger relationships.

Improved decision-making

If you can’t tell what someone is thinking and what drives them, it’s going to be difficult to make any decisions regarding them.

But when you learn to read people effectively, you can make better decisions about how to interact with them. This can help you to avoid misunderstandings, conflicts, and other negative outcomes.

Based on this, I’d say that reading others is a very useful skill for teachers, doctors, employers, and even parents to have.

Improved leadership skills

By learning how to read people, you can become a greater leader and build stronger teams.

Increased sales effectiveness

If you work in sales, learning how to read people can help you understand your customers’ needs and help you tailor your approach accordingly.

And the result?

An increase in sales and customer satisfaction!

Improved conflict resolution

Knowing how to read people is useful when it comes to understanding the source of conflicts – and that in turn helps to resolve them.

And conflict resolution is a useful skill to have in both personal and professional relationships, creating a harmonious, stress-and-tension-free environment.

The challenges of reading people

Like most things worth learning, reading others isn’t without its challenges.

Here’s what you may encounter:

Bias

The truth is that we all have our own biases which can influence how we interpret other people’s behavior and emotions. It’s part of being human.

Overcoming bias requires self-awareness and a willingness to challenge our assumptions.

Cultural differences

Did you know that different cultures have different ways of expressing emotions? Yup, what’s more, they’re likely to interpret nonverbal cues differently.

That’s why it’s important to be aware of these differences and to avoid making assumptions based on your cultural norms.

Inaccuracy

Look, reading people is not an exact science. That means that it’s possible to misread a person

That’s why you need to be aware of the limitations of reading people and avoid jumping to conclusions without taking into consideration all the available information.

Emotional toll

Lastly, I want to mention that reading people can take an emotional toll on you.

I mean, it requires empathy and a willingness to connect with others on a deep level, and that can be emotionally draining.

Try to remember to practice self-care and to set boundaries.

All-in-all, while there are some challenges associated with reading people, the benefits are worth it.

By practicing self-awareness, being open to cultural differences, and taking the time to listen and observe carefully, you can improve your ability to read people.

Lost Your Sense of Purpose?

In this age of information overload and pressure to meet others’ expectations, many struggle to connect with their core purpose and values. It’s easy to lose your inner compass.

Jeanette Brown created this free values discovery PDF to help clarify your deepest motivations and beliefs. As an experienced life coach and self-improvement teacher, Jeanette guides people through major transitions by realigning them with their principles.

Her uniquely insightful values exercises will illuminate what inspires you, what you stand for, and how you aim to operate. This serves as a refreshing filter to tune out societal noise so you can make choices rooted in what matters most to you.

With your values clearly anchored, you’ll gain direction, motivation and the compass to navigate decisions from your best self – rather than fleeting emotion or outside influences.

Stop drifting without purpose. Rediscover what makes you come alive with Jeanette Brown’s values clarity guide.

 

Jelena Dincic

Jelena has a background in photography and film-making and has spent the last few years as a content editor and copywriter. Jelena is a citizen of the world who is passionate about travel and learning about new cultures. She’s a foodie who loves to cook. And, as an art lover, she is always experimenting with new art mediums. When she’s not at her computer, she’s usually out and about in some forest with her dogs.

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