There’s one skill that will stand you in good stead all your life, and that is the ability to read people using your intuition, your innate sixth sense, if you like. From deciding whether someone is genuinely friendly or is attempting to manipulate you, from dealing with a family member to assessing your new boss, being able to read people is a valuable and fascinating art.
Reading or Judging?
There’s a big difference between reading someone and judging them. Reading them is objective observation, whereas judgment is coming to a conclusion based on little or no factual evidence. Humans actually do both those things all the time, but you will find that developing your people reading skills is so much more rewarding than making ill-informed snap judgments.
While you may practice this art instinctively, your conscious mind may not be aware of the subtle signs of body language. Many books have been written about this, so it’s not possible to cover everything about body language in this short article. Here are some basic things to look out for:
Posture: Are they confident in the way they stand and move? Are their movements deliberate or hesitant?
Eyes: Do they hold your gaze just the right amount? Does their glance flit about uneasily or do they lock onto your eyes or face so long that you begin to feel uncomfortable.
Leaning: If they lean toward you, they find you interesting and likable. If they lean away, they are trying to put distance between you. You may notice that you do the same thing.
Smile: Do they smile easily, or not at all? Does the smile flit across their face momentarily or do they seem genuinely pleased o meet you? A person’s smile can tell you if they are focused on you or if they are distracted.
Of course, someone who is not confident may attract you more than someone who appears over-confident. Many people will gravitate towards another who seems out of place in order to join forces. A person who is constantly worrying at themselves, for example, biting their nails, chewing their lip, or picking at the skin on their fingers, is often way out of their comfort zone.
Observing someone’s body language is usually the first impression you receive. Don’t try to process the information, simply observe.