Reading Other People

Dear Paulo, I would very much like to improve my ability to read other people. To quickly find/understand their motivations, desires, and weaknesses. The solution may or may not be spiritual, but I’m willing to try anything..”
-– Sam, 27, in Seattle

Sam, the ability to read others is a sublime and powerful skill. It is innate in humans and other mammals. Babies begin interpreting facial expressions and sounds almost from birth — but, yes, this skill can also be further developed and cultivated.

Whole books are written on how to read people’s body language. The piece I would suggest that you focus on is to develop empathy — the power of being able to understand and consider another’s feelings even when they seem foreign to you. (This is different than sympathy, which is simply to resonate with another’s feelings or feel sorry for someone.) How to develop empathy? Well, there is one simple way – use your intuition to guess what people are thinking or feeling … and then ask them!

I have found that most people will answer just about any question, including what is going on for them internally, if they are asked in the right way (sometimes indirectly), and always in a non-threatening tone. People love to talk about themselves (if you let them), especially if they sense you are open and you ask in an open way. So, practie the art of social interviewing … it’s highly educational! Learn to tune in and listen, and you will be practicing good social skills at the same time you are developing a stronger intuitive sense for reading people.