10 unexpected habits of people who are masters at reading people

Highly perceptive people seem to have the ability to read through us like an open book. 

How do they do it?

I’m going to go through the most powerful, insight-providing ways in which people read others. 

We can all learn a lot from these techniques and skills and become much better at reading the emotions, motivations and thoughts of others. 

This has huge benefits personally, professionally and in other areas of life. 

Let’s get started: here’s what expert people readers are great at. 

1) Watching subtle body language

Body language is a powerful nonverbal indicator of what somebody is feeling and thinking. 

Those who are especially gifted at reading a person will not only watch for the obvious body language signs like eye contact, posture and how somebody positions their body.

They will also look out for:

  • Small tells like fidgeting, hair twirling and licking of lips.
  • Subtle body language cues like rocking back and forth slightly, crossing their legs or bobbing their head as if to music only they can hear.

2) Hearing subtext in what’s said

Subtext is everything that’s below the surface in what’s said verbally. 

The person who’s able to read others is adept at hearing the subtext in what others say. 

For example, if somebody says they’re planning to “take it easy tomorrow” when asked about what they’re up to, the subtext is that they don’t really want to go out anywhere or accept an invitation. 

The reader may also notice connotations, such as paying attention to the word choices somebody uses and what that says about who they are or who they want to appear to be.

3) Reading real motivations behind stated intentions 

This relates to the previous point and is crucial to understand. 

Those who read others accurately and quickly are able to suss out hidden motivations quite easily. 

They may not always be sure, but they can usually estimate quite accurately what somebody probably wants versus what they actually say. 

For example, a young man on a dating app may tell a young woman who is good at reading people that he’s “just looking for whatever” and “seeing what happens.”

Her read on his behavior and the words he’s saying? He’s looking for a hookup and trying to muddy the water to be less direct in hopes it will increase his chances of success. 

4) Listening to what’s not said

Those who are able to accurately read others don’t only hear what’s said. They can also read between the lines.

Rather than only hearing what’s said, they also hear what’s not said. 

For example, if a friend is talking to the people reader about her elaborate plans to start a new catering business and how amazing it’s going to be, the people reader listens attentively. 

Not only does the people reader hear the friend’s plans for logistics, marketing and the style of the catering business, the people reader also notices a specific and ongoing lack of any mention of finances and who exactly is going to fund the start of this business or how. 


5) Attention to vocal tone and mannerisms

What’s said and not said are both important to reading someone. 

The way they sound and the manner in which they react and respond to things is another. 

This can be listening through the words said to hear the actual underlying tone that it’s said in and the mood and real vibe of the voice itself. 

Even somebody who doesn’t respond will often have a very subtle or low-key instinctive reaction if you learn to look closely. 

Which brings me to the next point…

6) Skill at observing and reading faces

pic2008 10 unexpected habits of people who are masters at reading people

Reading microexpressions and reading facial characteristics is another extraordinary skill of the people reader. 

There are various approaches to reading microexpressions and faces, but they generally focus on reading what somebody’s face and expressions show whether or not they want to. 

In other words, these are the instinctive signs, expressions and reactions that people have which are written on their face or come up in conversation and during interactions. 

7) Reading people via their environs

The way somebody acts and talks is one thing. The truly next-level people reader doesn’t only look at the person they’re analyzing, however. 

They look at the environment that person is in. 

What does it say about the individual in question? Does the individual in question seem comfortable in that environment, stimulated by it, bored by it?

What’s the symbiosis or clash occurring between this individual and their environment?

From the style of furniture in their apartment to their attitude at their job or cafe they like to go to, what is said about this person? 

8) Giving themselves time to mull and reflect

Reading people isn’t always like picking up a glossy magazine at the dentist’s reception area and leafing through it. 

Some people take time to figure out and really get a fix on. 

Some people shift and move a lot between moods and states, so it’s not necessarily helpful to pigeonhole them into one category or “type.”

The people reader is able to resist snap judgments and just assigning a blanket “type” to somebody right away. 

While they are able to quickly intuit many things about somebody, reaching permanent conclusions is something they usually avoid, as they prefer to leave their full read on somebody with space to shift and evolve. 

9) Writing down thoughts and feelings

Part of the mulling over process can often involve keeping a journal and writing down their thoughts and feelings. 

The people reader tends to be highly self-aware, which is a crucial quality. 

They put their observations into words and give themselves time to really think over and give space to somebody and what that person is all about. 

They also give themselves space to think about their own impressions and judgments and what they might mean, as well as considering their own blind spots. 

10) Empathy and high emotional intelligence

The truly gifted people reader comes from a place of empathy.

They are able to read others so aptly and insightfully because they are so insightful about themselves and self-aware. 

They’re tackling their own blind spots and on a quest to become more self-aware. They’re aware of their own faults and not under any delusions of grandeur. 

As a result, they are able to see other people for who they truly are, because they have the honesty and bravery to see themselves for who they really are, too.

Paul Brian

Paul Brian

Paul R. Brian is a freelance journalist and writer who has reported from around the world, focusing on religion, culture and geopolitics. Follow him on www.twitter.com/paulrbrian and visit his website at www.paulrbrian.com

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