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”.
1. READ SOMEONE BY USING BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE:
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.
2. READ SOMEONE BY OBSERVING “THE FOREST”:
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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCGL14gTteQ
3. READ SOMEONE BY MONITORING YOUR BIAS:
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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pni_kDv9BsU
4. READ SOMEONE BY NOTICING CLOTHING:
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.
5. READ SOMEONE BY NOTICING SHOES:
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.
6. READ SOMEONE BY MONITORING EYE CONTACT:
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.
7. READ SOMEONE BY COMBINING DETAILS:
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. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLr1FImQ-JM
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 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLr1FImQ-JM