How to Read People Like a Book: Understand People Beyond Words: A Complete Guide to Accurately Reading Intentions, Body Language, Thoughts and Emotions

How to Read People Like a Book: Understand People Beyond Words: A Complete Guide to Accurately Reading Intentions, Body Language, Thoughts and Emotions

by Ian Tuhovsky

The art of reading people entails more than just interpreting their body language. You need to know, observe, and understand in order to decipher these closely guarded secrets. You have to polish your intuitive powers to draw accurate conclusions. Most of all, you need the right direction to get started!

How to Read People is what it’s all about. It breaks down the science in the most interesting and easiest ways to sieve out the information required to read minds.  

Summary Notes

Lay the Groundwork

“Accurately reading people could help you combat these assumptions and allow you to understand your relationships better, regardless of how well the other person is able to communicate their feelings. “

The art of reading people in today’s world is as new as the technologies. Since we no longer write letters to our friends or significant others, we don’t weigh much of our words and think carefully about what we mean. We simply deliver. Emails, instant messages, and phone calls are only the tip of the iceberg into which we crash whenever we express ourselves. 

There are other aspects that are increasingly important in the globalized world to truly understand an individual: their personality, culture, past relationships, friendships, or even personal values. The problem is that we don’t put much pressure on how we connect and tend to leave things just as they are. So, how can we read people better?

First, we must identify the other person’s communication style. It might sound weird or exhausting to analyze every person you encounter, but once you master reading one’s personality, they’ll make more sense to you. There are four types of communication styles:

  1. Assertive Communication Style (the most effective one)
    People with this style tend to express themselves clearly without belittling someone’s views and beliefs. They have high self-esteem and often seek a solution or compromise in their conflict. They maintain eye contact and allow others to speak. They don’t hesitate to say “no” and use “I” instead of “you” in their statements. Instead of saying, “You should listen to her,” they say: “I believe we should listen to her.” See the difference?

  2. Aggressive Communication Style  (the easiest one to detect)
    Their goal is to win. They are generally threatening and hostile and use an intimidating tone. They talk over others, point fingers and frown a lot. They are demeaning and controlling. Usually, the topic of the discussion is lost due to their delivery style. Statements like: “Because I said so!” are a mark of this style.

  3. Passive Communication Style (the submissive one)
    People with this style like to please others. They are focused on avoiding conflicts and keeping the conversation positive. They hate confrontations and usually say “yes” to others. They lack the ability to express themselves, leading to resentment. They don’t keep eye contact during conflicts and have bad posture. They often use statements like “Whatever you say!” or “You are right” to settle confrontations.

  4. Passive Aggressive Communication Style (the amalgamation of styles)
    They have more layers than the others: passive on the surface and aggressive beneath. They show their frustration through indirect comments and sarcasm. They have some unresolved problems, and their actions don’t match their words. They have difficulty acknowledging emotions while being mean and indirect in their communication. They use phrases like: “Why are you upset? It was just a joke!” and “Whatever, do what you want.”

  5. Manipulative Communication Style (the hardest one to read)
    The ones that deceit and influence rule the conversation. They want to control the outcome and actions of others. Every word they speak is influenced by what they’re trying to achieve. They hardly mean what they say and don’t respond well to conflicting views. They hold eye contact and use a lot of hand gestures when speaking. They will push you until you agree with them, but keep your patience and mask your response by staying assertive

Culture is another important factor in understanding someone's communication style. This isn’t limited to geographic points. Culture is a mix of many factors – from traditions and language to beliefs and lifestyles. Even couples can develop their culture over time, from how they communicate to their rituals. When learning to read people, you need to be mindful of someone’s cultural background too.

Actions to take

The Psychology of People Reading

“Deciphering the motivations behind their actions and relating them to their personality gives you a deeper insight into how a human mind works and how you can untangle it. “

The art of reading people is a lifelong process of cultivating experience. 

The first step you need to take into understanding people is finding out what motivates them. To do that, you need to know them. This isn’t the easiest task as all individuals are unique, but there are a few techniques you can look into.

To better understand the human mind and emotions, Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, presented a theory that reflects people’s basic needs and motivations. 

“The Maslow Hierarchy of Needs” has five categories:

  1. Physiological: water, food, clothing and shelter, and rest.

  2. Safety: health, financial stability, protection from injuries.

  3. Love: romantic relationships, friendships, social settings, community groups, religious organizations.

  4. Esteem: desire for respect and admiration.

  5. Self-Actualization: personal development.

A more in-depth perspective is that we respond to the four functions or modes of orientation based on our dominant personality attitude. These functions include thinking, sensation, intuition, and feeling. When reading other people, pay attention to whether they have introverted or extroverted tendencies. You would be able to detect which of these four functions they usually use when making decisions once you better understand their socializing preferences, social circles, and communication skills.

There are many other personality tests that can be done to get to know someone better or learn more about ourselves. But there are simpler ways to penetrate someone’s surface. 

One of the most important things people often overlook is listening to others. This simple act can give you all the information you’re looking for. You just have to pay more attention and practice active listening. Be present and practice the ability to hear without feeling the need to be heard. 

Body language is another way to learn how to read people correctly. So, the next time you interact with other people, pay attention to these signs:

  • Smiling eyes - focus on your interlocutor's eyes to detect a genuine smile.
  • Crossed legs and arms - act as a barrier between you and the person in front of you. If they do this, they are not open to your proposition.
  • Raised eyebrows - they are worried, afraid, or surprised.
  • Mirroring body language - the person is interested in what you have to say.
  • Exaggerated nodding - they disagree with you.

Reading people has many tricks – from personality traits to their interests and body language. The art of reading people is a lifelong learning process that only improves with practice.

Actions to take

What You Need to Bring to the Table

“The need to be “enough” as who you are is what drives humans to buy expensive things and dine at fancy eateries. Your ego takes over and tells you to be someone you are not to prove your self-worth to the world. But it’s not genuine self-worth. “

When we think about reading people, we often overlook aspects that can help us improve – such as knowing ourselves first. Before analyzing everyone you interact with, take a moment to “meet your true self.” Think about your values, interests, temperament, life goals, and skills

Trusting your intuition is another thing you must learn. This means practicing intuition,  reflecting, and seeking solitude from time to time. You should also nurture empathy. Having the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is important for understanding others’ motives.

Reading people implies connecting with them. To do this, you must present yourself as someone interesting and trustworthy. How can you do that? By being inclusive and trying to engage others in a pleasant conversation. Giving compliments, showing you care about others’ feelings, and asking questions about their interests can help you keep a conversation going. 

To be an empathetic person capable of connecting with others easily, you must be in touch with your emotions. Here are a few tricks to become emotionally smart:

  1. Be conscious of your reactions.

  2. Admit you have some work to do in some areas of your personality.

  3. Don’t seek validation for your accomplishments.

  4. Be accountable for your actions.

Actions to take

Master the Art of Getting into People’s Heads

“When speaking to someone, understand your goal, and focus on it when observing the other person’s responses. People reading isn’t about getting into unnecessary information about others.”

Interacting with someone we don’t know requires a whole different strategy when we try to read them. Things like a handshake or paying attention to their reactions when asking questions can tell us more about them. Did they clench their fist when someone disagreed with them? Or did they blush when you complimented them? Noticing these patterns alongside personal information can help you shape an overall baseline of the individual. 

Asking the right questions is also a vital element when you meet someone. Instead of asking vague questions that they can answer with a simple “Yes” or “No,” try to include some nuance so they can give you a brief answer. 

Another aspect people are very interested in is detecting lies. When you know a person well, you can instinctively tell if they’re being honest or not, just by their facial expressions or how they talk. But, how about others? 

Aside from body language, other factors such as voice tone, speed, and pauses in speech must be considered. Their confidence level is also a huge factor to look for. If they cannot reverse their speech or complete other details, you might say they are lying. Some people avoid eye contact.

Sometimes, our instinct is the only thing we can trust. If you know something is off because you feel the other person’s nervousness, you are likely to be right. But, try not to divert from your mission. 

It might seem harder these days to read someone as we are more prone to communicate virtually. However, you can still try to do this by looking for certain indicators: whether they share too much information or are too vague, or try to avoid conversations by pretending to be busy. 

The bottom line is that practice and observation are the keys to reading people correctly. Take control of your emotions and your own thoughts. Keep your perspective objective, and don’t rely solely on body language. There are many traits and signs people show, but we weren't aware of them until now.

Actions to take

Don’t just read. Act.
Read comprehensive summaries and discover carefully compiled action lists for active learning