Have you seen the TV series ‘Lie to Me’? Lie to Me is based on the work of Paul Ekman, a psychologist who has been a pioneer in the study of emotions and their relation to facial expressions. The show is compelling because the main character can read when people are lying and appears to have an almost supernatural ability to read minds.
If you are in any kind of relationship; whether it be work, social or romantic the ability to read the other person’s thoughts and emotions about a topic will improve communication providing the skill is used ethically.
I have previously written about psychometric tests which are used in a corporate setting to understand employees personalities and get the best from them, but what about being able to read people on the fly? It is certainly possible and I have taught this skill to managers, coaches, trainers and even intelligence services.
To read people you need to learn to listen with both your eyes and your ears. People are always transmitting what they think and feel, the same way a wireless network is always sending a signal so that you can connect – it’s just that some people are more encrypted than others!
Mastering the ability to decipher body language, speech patterns and micro expressions takes time but even the novice can get results by learning to notice what people are actually saying.
Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) provides an excellent framework for noticing and calibrating; eye movements, breathing, gestures and facial expressions. The language we use and how we use it gives clues to what’s important to us and topics we feel strongly about as well as our preferred way to process and respond to information.
Here are a couple of exercises to get you started:
Reading Yes / No
Ask a friend to not speak but respond to a series of questions with a definitive “Yes” or “No” in their mind. As you ask them questions that you know the answers such as; your name is, you are x years old, you like icecream – notice how they respond with their; eyes, face, mouth, breathing, jaw tension. When you are clear that you can read yes/no then ask them some questions to which you don’t know the answer and see if you can guess based on what you see. Once you have mastered this you can calibrate people in general conversation by noticing how they respond in the affirmative or negative. With this information you will never be left guessing about whether you have got the sales order or if they will call you again.
Values and beliefs drive behaviours and so if you can read someones values you can predict how they will behave. As you listen to someone notice what they talk about and particularly what they talk about with emphasis. Emphasis can be demonstrated by voice tonality, volume or non-verbal gesture. You can check your read by asking clarifying questions such as, “that seems important to you, can I ask what’s important about that?” This line of questioning delivered in a curious, non-threatening way will uncover values.
These exercise are just to whet your appetite and of course will improve with the right coaching from someone who knows what they are doing. If you would like to learn more then contact us at Self Leadership International.
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