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4 Steps to Improve Your People-Reading Skills


Socially intelligent leaders know how to read the body language and emotions of their people. They are highly aware of social environments and highly attuned to the language used by people. They are curious about people and are great observes of human behavior.

I love to watch people. Maybe that’s why I love to face the door when eating out at a restaurant. It always seems uncomfortable facing the wall.

A number of years ago, I did a stress management workshop in Paris. After the workshop, I had dinner at a delightful French Restaurant. I observed that couples would sit for hours talking and savoring themselves and their meal. They appeared to be fully engaged in their conversation and happy. It made me reflect on our culture where we are less present and more distracted.

4 Steps for Better People-Reading Skills

The following steps can help you improve your ability to observe and read people and situations. Practice at least one over the next seven days, and notice any changes in the way you perceive and experience others. You will likely be more present, and your experiences will become richer.

1. Start using your senses instead of going through the day on autopilot. Sit in an airport, a restaurant or a mall and watch people. Try to figure out their relationships in couples or groups. Notice their moods, clothing and the ways they position themselves with others.

2. Observe the spaces in which you find yourself. Who sits where in meetings? How are offices or work spaces laid out? How does this communicate status or authority?

3. Listen for the various ways people use language to signal their social status and authority. How do people use slang, figures of speech, specialized vocabularies and clich├ęs?

4. Observe the nonverbal signals people use to define and reinforce their relationships. How does the boss convey approachability? How do others do this?

The more you consciously use your senses and observe people, the more situational awareness you will gain. After a while, you’ll pick up on things you never before noticed. You’ll begin to incorporate new sensitivity into your communications and most certainly raise your level of executive presence.

Are you working in a professional services firm or other organization where executive coaches provide leadership development for emotionally intelligent leaders? Does your organization provide executive coaching to help leaders develop a high performance business environment?  Inspiring leaders tap into their emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills to fully engage employees.

One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself is “Do I have good people-reading skills?” Emotionally intelligent and socially intelligent organizations provide executive coaching for collaborative leaders who create sustainable businesses.

Working with a seasoned executive coach and leadership consultant trained in emotional intelligence and incorporating assessments such as the Bar-On EQ-I, CPI 260 and Denison Culture Survey can help you create a culture where all employees are intrinsically motivated and fully engaged. You can become a leader who models emotional intelligence and social intelligence, and who inspires people to become fully engaged with the vision, mission and strategy of your company or law firm.

About Dr. Maynard Brusman

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist, executive coach and trusted advisor to senior leadership teams.He is the president of Working Resources, a leadership consulting and executive coaching firm. We specialize in helping San Francisco Bay Area companies and law firms assess, select, coach, and retain emotionally intelligent leaders.  Maynard is a highly sought-after speaker and workshop leader. He facilitates leadership retreats in Northern California and Costa Rica. The Society for Advancement of Consulting (SAC) awarded Dr. Maynard Brusman "Board Approved" designations in the specialties of Executive Coaching and Leadership Development.

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