Read Someone Better, or, Help I Have to Talk to People!

Introvert? Habitually avoid social situations? If there was a room with a sign saying, “ENTER HERE, all who dare, for social interaction,” I would sneak right by that room! Unfortunately, it’s impossible to avoid social situations! I live in a small town, and socializing is exasperating because most people already know each other! I have lived here 15 years, but because I am not “from here”, or married to someone “from here” or related to someone “from here”, I may as well be Barney the purple dinosaur! I function with an awkward, sometimes annoying, existence. During countless work meetings, I stand in the back of the room observing chatter. Worse, are the work parties. I never know where to sit, who to sit by, or what to talk about. My solution? Opt for an empty table; interact with my phone and finish eating in record time.

Below are strategies I use to read people. Each point serves as a metaphorical page, while the list forms a “person pamphlet”.


Knowing the “behavior norms” of the people in the social situation you are in.  As a former fast- talking Californian transforming into a rural Oregonian, I learned to shift down to a slower talking speed. Different groups of the population will have different signals to read. For example, in my local area there is a diverse range of signals among farmers, teachers, and moms. Identifying and having a general understanding of the lifestyles of the people you meet, gives useful details for reading someone. Knowing the social landscape helps read the “signs” of a person you encounter.


Observation can be tricky because “first impressions matter” so we are all trying to put our best face on, but; “you can’t read a book by its cover.” Observe the forest, not the trees! Be careful about getting caught up in one obvious detail. Focusing on a “tree”, may cause that single detail to stand out and interfere with correct overall assessment.


Stereotypes are useful because there are truths in each. However, if you use a stereotype or past experience to read another person, errors will occur.  Reading others through a colored lens taints a picture. Practice erasing your mental white board before social occasions.


Clothing is a useful indicator. The style more than the value of clothing, gives clues about the wearer. At a recent wedding, I noticed an extroverted guest. In her 40’s, she wore a long white skirt, a turquoise shirt, a turquoise-and-bone choker, makeup, and her hair was long with grey streaks. Reading two clues, I recognized her identification with her Native American culture. A bone choker and the color turquoise in combination are usually only worn by Native Americans where I live. Although not clothing, hairstyle was the final clue.  Locally, traditional tribal members wear long hair. Remember to read clothing within a local social context.


Shoes can be their own language! Is a person meticulous? Is she practical? Does his job require physical movement? Is that person outdoorsy? Does he care about fashion? For example: Female office employees often wear heels or ballet flats. A fashion forward individual will wear Thom’s or another popular shoe type. Those wearing generic shoes may be busy or fashion ignorant. I know someone who wears dresses with her Sketcher’s. My reading was correct in that she wanted to look professional but needed to be practical.  Conversation revealed she works as a preschool teacher. Remember to read shoe details within  background knowledge and social context.


Carefully assess eye contact, mentally browsing a checklist of possible meanings. When eye contact is present, its a strong indicator that a person is socially comfortable, or interested in the conversation. Cultural practice also determines eye contact. In some cultures, direct eye contact is rude. People within the autism spectrum feel uncomfortable with direct eye contact. Someone easily distracted may not make eye contact, but she is still listening. When I am intently listening, I focus on an object to tune out visual stimuli. Eye contact or lack of it, gives valuable clues when reading someone.


Draw a general outline of the person by combining details you have observed and noted. The same process can be used for filling in details to metaphorically color in a person’s portrait. This combination will aid in an initial encounter and builds a foundation for getting to know someone.


How to Read People – The Secrets of Body Language and Keen Observation

Former CIA Officer Will Teach You How to Spot a Lie l Digiday

How to Read ANYONE
charismaoncommand –

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  1. This is a very informative article! I feel like this is especially great for people with social anxiety, and others that need some tips and reassurance with reading people. When you’re able to understand people better, it can help make you more comfortable in the situation.
    I really like that this article included examples of each technique. And the intro paragraph made it very relatable! I think that the titled could be reworded though because I was a little confused about what the article was going to be about. The intro paragraph also has a lot of exclamation points, I totally get it because I use them a lot, too. I think it would flow a little better though if there were less. Over all, a great article and very informative! Everyone could benefit from reading this.

      1. Thank you for your feedback! I probably should not have so many exclamations but this is how I talk, also!! I will try to restrain myself in future! I didn’t know what to do about the title. There was someone who published an article with the assigned title i was given, so I had to change mine. Thank you for commenting!!

  2. Thank you for sharing aspects of you personal life that you’ve dealt with. Figuring out how to use backgrounds of individuals can be crucial. Eye-contact is one of my favorite things to acknowledge about an individual, to judge how invested they are in the conversation. Usually, when I start making new connections, I can see whether or not a person is interested in the topic I brought up. I enjoy that you pointed out the cultural aspect involved with eye contact.
    Your article was personal, and empathetic towards the anxiety associated with creating friendships and relationships. It was a wonderful read and I can empathize with the eating at record times. I’m wondering if you’d be able to venture further into the safety that a phone provides when faced with these anxiety moments? Do you find that having an escape by using your phone makes you feel more comfortable?

    1. Thank you for your question! Honestly, before we had phones I always brought a book to read. Haha. Eye contact is a great indicator bit can’t be counted on any more on our age of distraction. Thank you for your feedback as this is my first article!!

  3. Thank you for this article, it has been a good read for me.

    On an editor point of view, however, the almost-excessive use of your punctuation– exclamation marks made your introduction paragraph somewhat too informal tiring to read. (But perhaps being a little informal was your intention although a bit too overdone?) Some of the exclamation points were placed redundantly, and it might cause some readers to be confused as to what they are going to read or get from the article. Questions like, “is this an informative submission or a very personal submission from the author?”, and hence can mislead and turn off a reader who might have clicked on the title, expecting for a more-professional layout or format piece as your title gave it off. It’d be better if people could relate easily to your experiences in a way the focus doesn’t only revolve around you too much.

    Also, it might have been better if you gave a more thorough elaboration to your first point, “background knowledge” rather than just skipping it entirely and jumping headfirst. Background context could be very ambiguous! It would have been easily comprehended if you rephrased some of your sentences so the perceived different ideas don’t accumulate together and make a mess out of your paragraph. For me, personally, it took me quite awhile to figure you were still summarizing the same point.

    I think the remaining points, 4 to 6 were clearly elaborated, so thumbs up for that! I quite like how you provided readers a more-thorough picture and explanations of the three points. On the contrary, as these are based on your own experiences– do know that some of those you’ve observed and analysed such as the clothes or shoes they wear may just be a general stereotype. (A person might wear a specific attire to conform to a professionalism such as an office-job of front line service for consumer’s neat impressions of them.) It is purely human to categorize people in different groups quickly by attributing their outward features to their dispositions. Be careful about doing these as you might just offend someone if you are vocal about your relatively biased prejudgement. Points 2, 3 and 7 however were intended to be more of Youtube-based explanation. I guess that could do for readers who’d like a combination of visual learning. For me, I’d prefer you summarizing them in your own way to make your experience and “teaching” more unique.

    All in all, this article was a good read although it could be better in my honest opinion. To the extreme, just do take note of how you may want to begin your articles or submission in the near future! The intro paragraph speaks volume to readers– it also, at times acts a determinant to whether it might or might not be the right piece a reader intended to delve upon or not, so be careful about leading them on with intriguing titles but lacking areas to relate or professional insights in your introduction paragraph. As these are based on your personal observations and conclusions, I apologize if I might come off a little “professionally” critical. It might have been my own flaw to think otherwise of your informal intention to writing this piece. But thank you once again!

    1. Thank you for your point of view! What do you edit I would love to read some of that work!
      This is my 1st article for this site, the directions stayed to make the introductory paragraph personal. Also for writing for millenials, several articles states that millenials want to hear a personal perspective! I use exclamation points because that is how I talk!
      From what you wrote, it appears to me that we agree on forming bias based on appearance. I discussed how clothes may be an indicator of an action. Not a judgement or stereotype of who the person is.

      I intended to write an informal,piece, to equip others with a hands on practical application. Its not a technical piece. Thanks for reading and your perspective , I’m always interested!!

  4. Thanks for the information! I think it’s very relatable, because you put your own experience in it.
    Talking about stereotypes, i used to be agreed that stereotypes are useful when we just about to get to know someone. i thought stereotypes are such ‘a general manual’ of people. Then i started to stop involving stereotypes in getting to know someone since a year ago, surprisingly it makes me think that stereotypes might become boundaries in someone’s social life (by limiting the possibility of types of people). But in reality, people tend to ‘grouping’ things, including ‘grouping’ other people, so here comes the stereotypes. Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience!


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