Now, don’t get freaked out.
This article is not about reading minds like Edward Cullen of Twilight. Only vampires can do that (if they exist).
It’s about knowing, beyond words, what other people want to say. It’s about sensing what they truly mean, even when they say otherwise.
The ability to read people properly will significantly affect your social, personal, and work life.
When you understand how another person is feeling, you can then adapt your message and communication style to make sure it is received in the best way possible.
It’s not that hard. This may sound cliche, but you don’t need any special powers to know how to read people.
So, here are 17 tips for reading people like a pro:
1. Be objective and open-minded
Before you attempt to read people, you must first practice having an open mind. Do not let your emotions and past experiences influence your impressions and opinions.
If you judge people easily, it will cause you to misread people. Be objective in approaching every interaction and situation.
2. Pay attention to appearance
When reading others, try to notice people’s appearance. What are they wearing?
Are they dressed for success, which indicates they are ambitious? Or they are wearing jeans and a t-shirt, which means comfort?
Do they have a pendant such as a cross or Buddha which indicates their spiritual values? Whatever they wear, you can sense something from it.
3. Pay attention to people’s posture
A person’s posture says a lot about his or her attitude. If they hold their head high, it means they are confident.
If they walk indecisively or cower, it may be a sign of low self-esteem.
4. Watch their physical movements
More than words, people express their feelings through movements.
For example, we lean toward those we like and away from those we don’t. If you have observed that the person is leaning away, it means he or she is putting up a wall.
Another movement to notice is the crossing of arms or legs. If you see a person doing this, it suggests defensiveness, anger, or self-protection.
On the other hand, hiding one’s hands means that they are hiding something. But if you see them lip biting or cuticle picking, it means they are trying to soothe themselves under pressure or in an awkward situation.
5. Try to interpret facial expressions
Unless you are a master of the poker face, your emotions will be etched on your face.
When you see deep frown lines forming, it may suggest the person is worried or overthinking.
On the contrary, a person who is truly laughing will show crow’s feet – the smile lines of joy.
Another thing to watch out for are pursed lips which can signal anger, contempt, or bitterness. Additionally, a clenched jaw and teeth grinding are signs of tension.
6. Don’t run away from small talk.
Maybe you feel unease with small talk. However, it can give you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the other person.
Small talk helps you observe how a person behaves in normal situations. You can then use it as a benchmark to accurately spot any behavior that is out of the ordinary.
7. Scan the person’s overall behavior.
We sometimes assume that if a particular action is done, like looking down at the floor during a conversation, it means the person is nervous or anxious.
But if you are already familiar with a person, you will know whether the person avoids eye contact or is just relaxing when he or she looks down the floor.
Learn how to identify any deviation from a person’s usual behavior. You will know something is wrong when you notice a change in their tone, pace or body language.
8. Ask direct questions to get a straight answer
To get a straight answer, you have to stay away from vague questions. Always ask questions that require a straight answer.
Remember not to interrupt when the person is answering your question. Instead, you can observe the person’s mannerisms as they talk.
9. Create a baseline for their behavior.
A baseline acts as a reference for what is a person’s normal behavior and what is not. It is knowing how the person acts in the absence of any external factors that could change their behavior.
However, you should get to know a person really well before you try to create a benchmark for his or her behavior. Doing so will help you get to know their usual and normal mannerisms.
For example, a crossed arm, head-scratching, or looking at the floor while talking does not always mean that the person is nervous.
It may simply mean the person feels hot or it’s just be something they do out of habit. Once you are acquainted with a person’s behavior, it will be easier for you to notice if their behavior changes.
10. Notice the words/language used
When you talk to someone, try to notice the words they use. When they say “This is my second promotion,” they want you to know that they also earned a promotion previously.
Guess what? These type of people rely on others to boost their self-image. They want you to praise them so they will feel good about themselves.
11. Listen to what your gut says
Listen to your gut especially when you first meet a person. It will give you a visceral reaction before you have a chance to think.
Your gut will relay whether you’re at ease or not with the person. Think of it as your internal truth meter telling you if you can trust a person or not.
12. Feel the goosebumps, if any
Goosebumps happen when we resonate with people who move or inspire us. It can also happen when a person is saying something that strikes a chord within us.
Additionally, we feel it when we experience deja-vu, a recognition that you’ve known someone before, though you’ve actually never met.
13. Pay attention to flashes of insight
Sometimes, you may get an “ah-ha” moment about people. But stay alert because these insights come in a flash.
We tend to miss it because we go onto the next thought so rapidly that these critical insights get lost.
14. Sense the person’s presence
This means that we have to feel the overall emotional atmosphere surrounding us.
When you read people, try to notice if the person has a friendly presence that attracts you or you face a wall, making you back off.
15. Watch people’s eyes
They say our eyes are the doorway to our souls – they transmit powerful energies. So take the time to observe people’s eyes.
When you look, can you see a caring soul? Are they mean, angry, or guarded?
16. Don’t make assumptions.
Assumptions result in misunderstandings. When you easily make assumptions without even knowing the person, it brings more trouble.
For example, if you assume that your friend is angry, then whatever they say or do will seem like concealed anger to you.
Do not jump into conclusion when your wife goes to bed early rather than watching your favorite TV show with you. Maybe she’s just tired – don’t think she is not interested in spending time with you.
The key to reading people like a pro is to relax and keep your mind open and positive.
17. Practice watching people.
Practice makes perfect so the more you study people, the more you can read them accurately.
As an exercise, try to practice watching talk shows on mute. Watching their facial expressions and actions will help you see what people are feeling when they are talking, without hearing any words.
Then, watch again with the volume on and see if you are right with your observation.
One of the most important things you can know is how to read people.
It makes you sensitive to the struggles and needs of the people around you. It is a skill that you can learn to further boost your EQ.
The good news is that anyone (that includes you!) has the ability to read people.
The thing is, you just need to know what to look for.
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