Estimated Lesson Time: 4 minutes
Ask any poker player and they will tell you the importance of reading people. People do not always say what they mean nor do they mean what they say. People’s actions and behaviors do not always reflect their true intentions. Your ability to read people will not only help you to be a better poker player, but it will help you in business and in virtually all aspects of your life.
The ability to read people is both a science and an art. First there is understanding how the human body responds to stimuli. For example, you are meeting with a client in your office, and the client’s stomach is making more noise than the construction workers with the jackhammers outside your window. This may be a good time to offer your client a snack, or perhaps lunch. Then there is interpreting their words and actions to best understand their true intentions. This is the artistic part.
Although being able to read people can be very beneficial in just about all areas of life, I believe it to be most useful in business, or in a professional situation. Here are what I consider to be the top three major benefits:
- To find out a person’s true needs or wants. Many people for one reason or another do not always express what they really want. Instead, they “beat around the bush” or ask for things they think they want or need. For example, an employee may ask for a raise, when, in fact, what they really want is more recognition at work. Understanding this can save an employer thousands of dollars per year.
- To be able to predict people’s actions. In any negotiation session, having the ability to read those with whom you are negotiating can make the difference between success and failure. Negotiation is an interactive game where your next move is based on the response or action of the person with whom you are negotiating. By predicting responses and actions, you can be better prepared for any outcome and have the edge in negotiations.
- To have a better rapport with people. When you can read people, you can cater to their needs and desires more effectively. This will certainly improve your personal and business relationships.
Learning to read a person is all about being observant. In general, the more you observe people, the better at reading people you will become. However, each has his or her own unique characteristics and responses. The more you know a person, the better you will become at reading that person.
Here are some suggestions on how you can enhance your “people-reading” skills.
- Ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” By knowing what a person stands to gain or lose, you can deduce what their true needs and wants are. Be empathetic.
- Learn to read body language. Body language, including facial expressions, is a direct result of feelings and emotions. Everyone can read body language to an extent, but it is those who learn to read what most others don’t who have the advantage.
- Listen for nuances in voice. If you hear the words themselves and fail to listen to how words are spoken, the odds are you are missing the real meaning behind the message. Become a keen observer of voice, and you will soon be able to detect when people say something other than what they really mean.
- Ask questions. Lawyers, psychologists, and clever business people know that asking the right questions can help them understand a person better. If an angry customer demands a refund, the right line of questioning could help you find out that it is not a refund the customer really wants, but a product that works the way they expected. This can lead to a satisfied customer as well as an upsell.
We can all read others to a certain degree. Generally, we can read those we know better than those we don’t know, and some people are more difficult to read than others. Pay attention to people—how they move, what they say, how they sound, and how they respond. By being a keen observer of people, you will enhance your people-reading abilities as well as your chances of success.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)