Wouldn’t it be great if you had the magic formula for figuring any person out? Well, it’s not too difficult, actually. Here’s how to read people.
People are mysterious creatures. While it’s human instinct to figure others out, we are not always accurate with our judgments. So how can we improve upon that? Well, it starts with understanding how to read people.
Most of what you need to consider when you are trying to figure out how to read people is their body language. Believe it or not, people’s nonverbal communication contributes to somewhere between 80-90% of the meaning of any message.
Why is that? Well, think about it. Are you always aware of your body language? Most of us are not. That is because it happens at the unconscious level. While we are deliberate with the words we choose to use *usually*, we are often unaware of what messages our body is sending. So, if you want to know how to read people, you need to start with looking at not what they say, but how they say it.
How to read people – The subtle signs you need to keep an eye on
Body language is complex. And what makes it even more difficult is that it’s often ambiguous. Someone may have given you “a look,” but what does that look really mean? It could mean many different things.
But, have no fear. All we need to do is to break it down for you just a bit so you can look at someone’s body language in parts. So, here are some major parts of the body that you should pay attention to if you want to know how to read people. [Read: 15 body language cues a girl gives away if she likes you]
#1 Eye contact. They often say that the eyes are the window to the soul. Eye contact can be intimate, but it can also be intimidating as well. The key to knowing which kind of eye contact someone is giving you is to consider the context.
Is it your romantic partner… or a cute person across from the bar? Well, maybe they think you’re cute. But if you’re in a business meeting and suddenly your boss glares at you from across the table, that might not be a good sign. Sometimes you have to look to cues in your environment, not just for eye contact, but really, for all the areas of body language. [Read: Does he like me? 18 Signs to decode his body language]
#2 Posture. How someone carries themselves can give you some indications about their self-confidence. For example, if someone is walking upright with their shoulders back and looking straight ahead, that gives the indication that they feel good about themselves and have confidence.
However, if someone is slouching over and looking at the ground when they walk, that gives a much different impression. It may not necessarily mean that they have low self-esteem, but that’s the message it gives off. [Read: 10 subtle body language moves to appear more confident]
#3 Paralanguage. Paralanguage is a fancy way of saying that you need to pay attention to how someone says something. For instance, the use of sarcasm is a good example.
When someone uses sarcasm, what the person means is actually the opposite of what the words say. So, pay attention to the emphasis they put on words and how they say it. It gives you a big clue as to what their true intentions are.
#4 Touch. Touch can mean a lot of different things. It can be anything from romantic and flirty to domineering and threatening. How and where someone touches another person has a lot to do with who they are. So, pay attention to people’s patterns of touching others. [Read: 20 types of physical touches and what each one means]
#5 Appearance. How someone dresses and presents themselves can say volumes about them. At one extreme, if they have tons of piercings and a purple mohawk, well, they are probably the kind of person who doesn’t care much about social norms.
And if they look unkempt and smelly, then they just might be a really lazy person. This is a huge clue as to what kind of person they are. So take a good look at them, and you might be able to figure out more about who they are.
#6 Environment. How someone decorates or keeps their environment is a form of self-expression. If they don’t put anything on their walls at their house, or maybe it’s filled with family photos everywhere… whatever it is, it says lot about who they are. Even how well they take care of the inside of their car can really give some indications about their personality. [Read: 10 clearly noticeable body language signs of attraction]
#7 Use of time. This is one of the most commonly overlooked channel of nonverbal communication. Sorry for all you “running late all the time” people out there, but it says a lot about you. Whether it’s that you just don’t have a good sense of time, or maybe it’s a power play to keep people waiting… it says something.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if someone is always on time or early, then that says something totally different.
Signs someone is lying
Another huge part of learning how to read people is to spot when someone is lying to you. You may think you know, but there are some sneaky cues that you may not know to look for. Here are some signs that someone is lying.
#1 Lack of eye contact. I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “Look me in the eye and tell me the truth!” Well, there’s a reason for that. It is much more difficult for people to lie when they are making eye contact. That’s because looking into someone’s eyes is quite intimate… it’s like the window to their souls. Liars don’t want the other person to see through them, so they look away.
On the contrary, however, perhaps if a liar knows that lack of eye contact is a huge giveaway of lying, maybe they will overcompensate and have too much eye contact… almost like staring. If their eye contact is awkward in any way, then you have a huge sign that someone is telling you a fib. [Read: 13 giveaways to tell if someone is lying to your face]
#2 Putting an object between you and them. It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be a coffee cup, a book, a chair, a desk, or pretty much anything else. If you notice that a person is putting an object between you and them, it is a subconscious move on their part to protect themselves.
It creates a barrier or sorts, so they feel like you can’t “attack” them. Of course, this is all happening at the subconscious level, so the liar probably doesn’t even know they’re doing it.
#3 Too many details. Sometimes liars will overcompensate with a story that has way too many details. For example, maybe your boyfriend said he was going out with the boys, but he is really cheating on you and was with another woman.
#4 Words and body language don’t match. If someone is lying, they know they have to control their body language. But let’s face it – it’s very difficult to do that.
So, when you suspect someone is lying to you, look to see if their words and actions seem to match or not. If they seem out of sync – you know, just not natural for some reason – then there is definitely something up. Don’t ignore it.
#5 Verbal or nonverbal behavioral pauses. Liars also have to do a lot of thinking sometimes to make their stories sound believable. In order to do so, they might take a lot of verbal pauses, or do something with their body that indicates that they are uncomfortable and searching for words.
This mental act of trying to make what you say sound believable creates a lot of unnatural speech patterns and body movements.
Learning how to read people can be tricky. Everyone is different, so interpreting their words and actions may or may not always be accurate. But hopefully with these tips, you’ll be well on your way to being a master at reading people.
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Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...