Subtext. Insinuation. Implicature. Reading between the lines.
Whatever you want to call it, some people have an incredible talent in this area, and others can barely catch anything.
Being able to read between the lines means you can pick up on what’s not directly said when someone is talking. You can glean information from gestures and body language even when they’re silent.
These are also the people who always seem to know what’s happening in movies and can reliably guess the culprit in whodunnits.
Is this a superpower?
Maybe. Any way you slice it, this is a great ability to have and one that’s a tremendous asset that helps people navigate social situations.
So here are ten traits of people who are exceptional at reading between the lines that you might recognize in yourself or people you know.
1) They’re curious about others.
One of the most diagnostic traits of people who are great at picking up on subtext is that they’re genuinely curious about other people.
This sincere interest helps them pay attention to what others are saying and doing. And since they do this a lot, they get good at it.
Practice makes perfect.
Without even intentionally doing it, they learn to look at little things like tone, word choice, facial expression, and even posture.
They learn to trust their ears a bit less and their other senses a lot more when they’re picking up what other people are saying and doing.
In other words, they’re really students of the human condition, and after years of study, they find themselves with tons of expertise. But they never stop learning.
2) They’re incredibly observant.
If you want to pick up what’s going on between the lines, you have to be a great observer.
In a conversation, you have to go beyond the surface meanings of what a person is saying and pick up what they are implying through their tone, pronunciation, and expressions.
They could be saying one thing but implying the total opposite!
Likewise, if you want to read situations, you need to go beyond surfaces.
People who are great at this ask themselves lots of questions.
“Why are they standing so far apart?”
“Why does she look away every time he speaks?”
“Who’s here with whom?”
“What’s missing or not being said?”
Then, they look around for clues to help them answer these questions.
They’re detectives, really.
3) They’re sensitive.
People who are great at reading between the lines are usually sensitive souls.
They don’t necessarily have to have the traits of highly sensitive people or HSPs, but they do have to be more attuned to input from their environments than the norm.
These are people whose eyes see more, whose ears hear more, and who feel more when they touch another person.
One of my father’s friends is a prime example.
I met her for the first time when I went to visit him a couple of years ago.
She gave me a big hug that lasted a lot longer than what I’m normally used to, and then she released me and looked me in the eye.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” she said, and I was stunned.
See, a good friend of mine had passed away earlier that month. But the thing was, I hadn’t talked to my dad about it at all yet as I was waiting for this visit, so he couldn’t have told her.
She just knew, by being a sensitive person, what was going on under the surface.
4) They’ve got lots of social experience.
I’m not sure about causality on this one, but people who are exceptional at reading between the lines usually also have tons of social experience.
I don’t know if they get the experience because of their ability or if the ability grows from the experience, but I suspect it goes both ways.
These are people who haven’t spent their whole lives just keeping with their own peer groups.
Instead, they talk to people of all ages and from really diverse groups. They may also travel extensively and gain intercultural experiences that help them gain even more insight into how people communicate.
They’re also used to meeting people with very different personalities. They’ve had encounters with aggressive, angry, peaceful, passive, exciting, clever, sly, depressed, positive, and negative people and many more.
And because they have all this experience, they’re great at interpreting insinuations and subtexts coming from any kind of person you can imagine.
5) They can read faces.
I can’t even read lips, but people who are exceptional at reading between the lines can read just about everything that crosses a person’s face!
That makes me more than a little jealous, I have to tell you.
I mean, sure, if someone smiles or laughs, frowns or cries, I can easily pick up on their mood.
But these deep-reading geniuses can pull important information out of a glance, a blink, or just the tweak of an eyebrow.
They even see microexpressions that are normally so quick and fleeting that most of us need to rewind and slow down the video to catch them. These microexpressions might reveal to them hidden emotions or secret thoughts that “leak” out of the other person’s subconscious.
Being able to read facial expressions is key to being able to interpret what’s going on between the lines.
6) They’re great listeners.
Most people only half listen when we’re chatting with others. I mean, there’s always the draw of playing with your phone and the distraction of your mind wandering to pull your attention away.
But people who are exceptional at reading between the lines have a great focus on what people are saying.
They’re able to stay engaged, and their attention doesn’t go elsewhere.
These are people who look you in the eye when you’re talking to them. They give you lots of ohs, yeahs, and uh-huhs in the feedback channel and ask relevant questions at all the right times in the conversation.
In other words, they listen actively and show you that they’re really paying attention.
And it pays off.
While so many of us miss the subtext behind things people say, these people are able to read between the lines and pick up on feelings and situations most others just don’t get.
7) They’re deeply empathetic.
Empathy is hugely important in human interactions in so many ways. It can help you build connections, relate to and understand others, and also understand and regulate your own emotions.
Of course, empathy also helps you read what other people are thinking and feeling, even when they don’t explicitly express these things.
People are not always very good at talking about their emotions, but they still spill out and can be read by empaths.
So when someone says they’re fine and everything’s OK, these people will be able to tell if this is the truth or if something else is actually going on.
8) Their advice is spot on…
Do you know someone who everyone goes to for advice?
It’s probably because their advice is so apt and really on the money every time.
How do they do it?
They’re great at reading other people and knowing what’s really going on, even if it goes unspoken.
They can tell when something is really bothering someone or when they’re out of their minds with excitement.
So when they give others advice, they’re able to leverage this superpower to get the best reading of the situation and recommend something that’s really going to work out.
9) …so are their presents.
People who can read between the lines, like pros, are great at picking presents.
They don’t have to ask you what you want – they already know from listening to what you say and observing how you act.
“Wow! How did you know?!” is basically what they hear all the time when people open up their gifts, and you can be sure they get a kick out of using their powers for good and not for evil.
10) They have incredible intuition.
Reading between the lines pretty much is intuition.
So, people who have this skill to an exceptional level will also find that their little hunches and premonitions are correct more often than not.
There isn’t anything magical at work here.
They simply have an incredible ability to read people and situations and gain insights into what’s going on and what’s likely to happen next.
Are you one of these people?
If you share many of these ten traits of people who are exceptional at reading between the lines, you may very well have a superpower.
You know what people are thinking without them having to tell you outright, and this might be a real bonus that can help you in all of your social interactions.
So good luck, and remember to use your powers to be a force for good!