9 Tips To Build The Skill Of Reading People

We all know that reading people is a skill many of us have — maybe even you.

Have you ever met someone new and gotten a distinct feeling from them? Either something didn't seem right, or you got a really good vibe from the person.

That awareness is partially due to your intuition, but it also comes from your skill at reading people.

Having the ability to know how to read people's body language not only saves you from potential danger, but it also gives you clues about whether or not you want to spend time with someone.

When you know how to read people like a book, you have the ability to know if this person may turn out to be your new best friend.

Reading someone is a talent you can develop, so let's go over how to read people's eyes and faces and understand other nonverbal cues that can indicate what type of person they really are.

Knowing how to read people may take some practice, but if you follow the tips below, you'll be a master in no time.

But first, let's explore why you should develop this valuable skill.

Why Reading People is a Good Skill

In any relationship, it's important to know someone thoroughly before you trust him or her. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen.

Some of us trust first only to get hurt or disappointed later. But if you develop the skill of reading people, you can avoid this disappointment — or at least notice potential red flags with a new person.

When was the last time you thought someone was friendly and nice only to discover they were dishonest or had questionable character (such as lying, cheating or stealing from others)?

People aren't always how they appear on the surface. That's why it's so important to understand how to read body language, learn how to read people faces and watch out for other nonverbal cues.

Did you know that only a small percent of human communication is verbal? Most of our communication involves body language and expressions.

For your own self-awareness and self-protection, it's essential you know how to read people by paying more attention to those nonverbal signals.

headshot woman in dress how to read people

Here are a few other reasons why you should build this people-reading skill:

  • It can warn you of impending danger.
  • It helps you in understanding people.
  • You can feel more empathy toward someone.
  • You can better discern if you can befriend and bond with a new person.
  • You're better able to ascertain if this person is trustworthy.

For those of you struggling to follow your intuition or better understand it (and don't feel bad because that's another unique skill), it's valuable to learn how to read people's eyes and body language and pay attention to the dozens of nonverbal clues that reveal who they are and how they feel about themselves.

With practice and awareness, you can learn to be a better “people reader” and improve the quality of all of your relationships.

How to Read People: 9 Tips To Understand People's Behaviour And Minds

Learning the skill of reading people will definitely take some practice. Try some of these tips the next time you meet someone new or test them out on someone you've known for a brief period.

1. Pay attention to the first meeting and handshake.

When you first meet someone, you generally reach out your hand for a friendly handshake. Next time you do this notice whether you're offered a weak handshake or a firm grip.

  • If it's weak, it might indicate this new person is shy, but it also could reflect a lack of self-confidence or self-esteem.
  • If the grip is firm, this person is confident and sincerely happy to meet you. It also signifies strength and self-assuredness.

Also, notice if this person looks away from you when they shake your hand.

Related: Are You An Introverted Intuitive? 11 Sure Signs You Are

If so, this could mean one of two things: either this person is extremely shy, or he or she is dishonest. When you know how to read people's body language, you will then be able to discern between the two.

What's your handshake like? Have you paid any attention to it? You'd be surprised how frequently people get profiled from this one gesture, which is really important. For some, this could make or break a business deal or a potential friendship.

2. Notice if someone crosses their arms.

Does the person you are talking to have their arms folded firmly across their chest?

Though many of us are pretty comfortable in this position, it can have a couple of meanings. This person is showing that they might not be so comfortable — either with the conversation or with you.

man looking surprised how to read people

Crossing your arms is a symbol of protection.

We are guarding ourselves against something we don't want to partake in, like the conversation or the potential for forming a bond with the person we are talking to.

When we learn how to read body language, we can learn to respect the other person's privacy and know when to back off.

3. Observe if someone looks away during a conversation.

Is the person you are talking to avoiding eye contact? This can mean a few things. They are disinterested in you or the conversation, they are shy, or they are especially nervous.

Once you talk to them a bit more, you'll figure out which one of these reactions it is.

  • If you find the person looking around at other people or his/her watch, then it's clear they are not interested in your conversation.
  • If the person is looking down at the ground or at other inanimate objects, they may be shy or nervous.

Knowing these clues helps you gauge whether or not you want to carry on with this person or cut the time short.

4. Notice if the person is fidgeting constantly.

Do you ever talk to people who fidget endlessly?

They are picking things off their clothes that aren't there, twirling their hair, picking their hands or fingernails, or just can't stay still. This behavior is one of the least understood nonverbal clues.

headshot man outside at fence how to read people

Though you may assume fidgeting reflects disinterest in the conversation or you, that's not always the case. Some people fidget because of nervousness and general social discomfort.

If someone is doing this while you're conversing, it can also reveal they are uncomfortable with the conversation or something you said.

You may have shared something they disagree with, but they're uncertain about how to address it. Fidgeting can be a defense mechanism for those who aren't confident enough to speak up.

5. Watch for someone leaning in close.

If you're talking to someone, and he or she leaning in close to you, this can mean two things. This person feels comfortable with you and enjoys the conversation, or the person is affectionate and simply loves to be close to people.

For some of us, this kind of closeness makes us uncomfortable. We want to protect our personal space, and when someone steps into it, it feels invasive.

When you step back are they stepping in closer? This person means no harm — they just enjoy your company and like you. Unfortunately, he or she isn't paying attention to your nonverbal cues to give you some space.

6. Pay attention to the way the person walks.

Do they shuffle their feet and hang their head down low, or do they walk tall and proud with their head held high?

Those who shuffle and hold their heads down may be shy, lack self-esteem or confidence, or they might be lonely and need a good friend.

The ones who hold their heads high are more confident, proud and happy. Be careful though, as sometimes confidence can translate into arrogance or cockiness.

You'll know the difference when you begin talking to the person. When you know how to read body language better, even the way a person walks, you can discern the difference between confidence and cockiness.

7. Be aware of the person's posture.

Just like walking, posture can hold many clues about who someone is and what they're all about.

Remember the crossing arms tip? Well, there are a few other body positions to watch for, such as hands stuffed in pockets, slouched or straight shoulders, chest out, and head down or up.

To understand posture better, there are two things to remember: head up and shoulders back reflect confidence and pride (and it could signify this person is happy) and head down with shoulders slouched suggest low self-esteem or low confidence, nervousness, and shyness.

If you sense the latter, try to make the person feel more comfortable with a warm smile or a gentle touch to their arm.

8. Pay attention to facial expressions.

The sooner you learn how to read people's eyes, the sooner you'll understand if they are happy, sad, displeased or any other emotion.

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul and it's true. It's so important to make eye contact with someone to get a better look at his or her inner world.

  • Is the person smiling when they talk to you or does he have a totally disinterested look on his face?
  • Is she rolling her eyes, raising an eyebrow or maybe even smirking?
  • Is his forehead furrowed in irritation or concern?

Keep a close eye on facial expressions, and you will find many answers. Either this person is genuinely interested in you and the conversation, or he is completely bored and not that into it.

9. Notice if someone is always late or early.

Timeliness or the lack thereof isn't a body language clue, but it is an important element in reading someone's intentions, personality and feelings.

When you meet someone at a pre-determined time and location, does she show up in a timely way? Is he consistently late or usually a little early?

Though this may seem low on the scale of importance in reading people, it's actually a good sign of who this person is.

If he or she is always late, it can mean a few things. This person lacks time management skills, he is completely disorganized, or she simply doesn't want to be there and waits until the last minute to walk out the door.

headshot man with hood how to read people

On the other hand, if the person is always early, then punctuality is as important to them as the meeting is. It shows a certain level of integrity and confidence. It also shows that this person sincerely wants to attend.

Having a better understanding of nonverbal clues.

When you understand nonverbal cues and know how to read body language, interactions with others will be enlightening, and you will know better where you stand with those you meet.

You will also better understand and even empathize with the person you're engaging with.

In addition to the tips listed, be sure to pay attention to people's emotional and physical energy.

We all have our own energy and energy doesn't lie. Do you recall running into someone you know or meeting someone for the first time and feeling a dark or gloomy vibe from this person?

Did you feel like you wanted to get away from this person as soon as it was socially acceptable?

Your inner awareness is telling you something valuable, so remember to trust your intuition. It rarely lies.

If you feel something is amiss, it probably is. Also, if you feel something is positive and good about this person, it likely is.

Awaken your senses and perception.

Though learning how to read people's body language may seem difficult at first it really isn't. Pay attention to different shifts in their stance, their facial expressions, their eyes, and even their tone of voice.

All these little signs hold great meaning reflecting a person's character and sense of self.

Related: 6 Steps To Untangle Reality And Perception

Once you have built up the skill of reading people, you will be more aware of what to watch out for and what to avoid.

You will also know who to trust and who not to trust. This knowledge can protect you from potential harm or danger. Many people have lost money, jobs, and friendships (among many other things) by trusting the wrong people and not knowing how to read them.

Make use of the practical tips mentioned here but also tune into your gut. Reading people and trusting your intuition do go hand-in-hand.

There are some people who are harder to read than others, but if you practice these tips, you will have an easier time understanding them, as many nonverbal clues can't be hidden or disguised.

Did you find this post enlightening?

I hope these tips on reading people gave you some practical strategies to use for your future social interactions.

Most people don't take the time to learn these skills because they aren't aware of how necessary and useful they are in building healthy relationships.

Please do your part in helping others understand the value of reading people by sharing this post on your preferred social media platform.

Your good deed will spread a ripple of positive energy and understanding to people around the world.