Reading People: Pay Attention to Actions, not Words


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When we watch a film, we’re mostly aware that the people we are watching are actors playing
characters. That awareness is usually heightened when it’s a bad film filled with bad actors. In real life, we’re all guilty of doing the something similar. Very rarely do we let people see who we actually are – we put up a facade, acting in ways that society mostly expects us to act in. The trouble is, many of us are bad actors – especially when we get emotional.

This is why, when it comes to reading people, it always pays to pay attention to what people do, rather than what they say. Anyone can say they are the most fearless person on the planet, but very few can act that way – especially when they see a large hairy spider.

The Machiavellian Principle

How often do you hear unscrupulous politicians referred to as “Machiavellian” ? Do you know what that means? Well, it is named after the Italian historian and philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli, whose seminal work, The Prince, described how people and manipulate others for their own personal advantage. In all walks of life you will come across cunning and duplicitious people.

Perhaps it’s a saleman offering you whatever the modern equivalent of magic beans is, or a work colleague imploring you to cover from them so they can take their sick daughter to the doctors when in fact they want to get home early to catch their favourite baseball team’s game.

Once you learn to read people, you can turn it to your advantage. Perhaps you’re a poker fiend, and you’re using your “tell” skills when playing with your buddies and guessing what hand they have. If you notice Milk always folds his cards into a neat pile whenever he has a great hand it’ll give you a significant advantage.

Reading People – Some Tricks and Tips

• Establish a Baseline. Note how someone acts in common situations.

• Note Body Posture. If someone leans away from you, it can mean they’re feeling stressed. Forehead-touching and rubbing palms are other stress indicators.

• Note Facial Expressions. A “tightened” face denotes discomfort. Closing eyes or throat-
clearing means they are stalling. No eye contact, excessive blinking or fidgeting indicates lying, as does prolonged eye contact.

• Kids are Great, aren’t they? We learn deceit when we are children – but kids are terrible at lying. If you’ve children, watch how they behave when they’re telling a lie. Most of us can’t shake these deceit-indicators even when we reach adulthood.

Learning to read people will give you an advantage in many walks of life, and you should always remember not to believe everything you hear. The phrase “actions speak louder than words” really does exist for a very specific reason!

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