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How to Read People Like a Book: A Guide to Speed-Reading People, Understand Body Language and Emotions, Decode Intentions, and Connect Effortlessly

By “reading people”, the book means understanding a person’s personality and intentions primarily based on their expression and body language.

Reading people is a valuable skill that helps one in connecting with them better, helps in business, employment, and in preventing conflict. Reading people also improves one’s own impression and helps to become a better communicator.

Nonetheless, at its very start, the book is quick to point out that there are challenges and biases that arise while trying to understand a person. Some of them are cultural differences, over-reliance on body language, change in people’s personality when they are in groups, reading bias based on physical attractiveness, and the reader’s mood.

How I Approached the Book

Trying to understand the personality types explained by the book and memorizing them like from a textbook is almost impossible. I felt it was more practical to try to associate a real person in my life with a personality type as I read the book. This makes it all the more fun, keeps me engaged, and is also a lot easier to store the information in my long-term memory.

Reading a person and benefitting from the task involves three steps:

1) Perceive the personality type of a person.
2) Determine ways to communicate and connect with the particular personality type.
3) Determine the motivation of people with the personality type in hand.

The most important idea is that the energy of introverts gets drained from social interaction. While extroverts gain their energy from a social setting itself, introverts need alone time to recharge their energy. As expected, introverts perform better alone while extroverts need to work in a group.

Characteristics of an introvert:

1) They zone out between social interactions.
2) Introverts are the ones who leave early from a social setting, party, or meetup.
3) Introverts tend to “disappear” during parties, often gravitating towards the quieter parts of the house.
4) Introverts get attracted to the books, art, or animals in a room.
5) They need to recharge their social battery after socializing, and too much social activity irritates them.
6) In order to stay away from the central zone, introverts often offer help in things that ensure they can be alone, albeit for a short period of time. This includes offering to help in the kitchen, taking food to a non-participant of a party, or taking photographs.

Characteristics of an extrovert:

1) Extroverts have broad, numerous interests: surfing, biking, team games.
2) Expressive gestures during communication. Touchy-feely in public.
3) Extroverts have no problem being the center of attraction. They love attention.
4) Nights out and drinks are a routine job, they blend well with any group.
5) Extroverts have no problem seeking out inspiration and advice from people they believe are capable.

An introverted person may not always be sitting in the corner of the room. They may be at the center, doing their best-extroverted act. Thus, reading a person may involve seeing through the mask they have put on.

Communication Styles

Passive Communication

This type of communicator doesn’t directly say something, but rather gives a hint. They expect their vaguely phrased information to be decoded accurately by the receiver, often resulting in misunderstanding, conflict, or resentment.

Passive communicators lack eye contact, or have more of it, drop their shoulders, hunch back, keep their head down, keep a low voice, emphasize certain words, and repeat sentences. They say phrases like “It really doesn’t matter” or “As long as everyone is happy.” They often tend to go with the flow.

Aggressive Communication

They don’t tell, they order. Aggressive communicators use a loud voice, aggressive posture, and threats, criticisms, blame, or intimidation to compel people to do what they want. A sign of leadership, they can confront or tell people what they think regardless of circumstances, reactions, or feelings.


It’s a frustrating manner of communication where the person hides aggressiveness under a layer of passiveness.

They mutter under their breath instead of confronting directly. They prefer silent treatment and denial of a problem upfront despite body language showing opposition or reluctance. These kinds of people agree verbally but do something else, and are likely to talk behind the back.

Passive-aggressive people are powerless and stuck in their situation, and it is likely that they might have morphed into this style of communication from a total passive style, perhaps for the same reason.


Assertive people communicate what they want to do without hurting anyone’s feelings. The word choice and tone reveal that they want to have open communication, allowing both to express thoughts, ideas, feelings, desires, and needs without causing friction.

They maintain appropriate eye contact or physical contact, and they use the word “I” to say something that they feel while accepting that it may not always be the case that they are right or wise.

The assertive style is the most efficient one. To be assertive, the communicator should address objections on a point-by-point basis and only then present their own ideas, provide benefits, and bring forward a call to action to encourage participation.

Keeping a calm and low tone also helps, as people resist ideas simply because of the speaker or the way an idea is introduced.

How to Detect Lies

1) Understand the person’s baseline state

To find out if a person is lying, you’ll have to see how they behave when they are not, so you can tell the two states apart.

2) Watch their hand movement

When a person is telling the truth, the hands move with the speech, a normal process for effective communication. However, when somebody is making a lie up, the hand fails to catch up, and you’ll notice that the hand gestures follow the speech.

Liers also use both hands compared to truthful speakers who use only one.

People may also restrict hand movement while lying. They keep their palms facing away from you as if to hide some secret. They tend to keep their hands close to their body or inside pockets.

3) Itching and fidgeting

When a person lies, he gets an uncomfortable feeling inside that causes him to itch, fidget on their seat, or twitch. The body wants to distract itself from the lie.

When they are lying, people scratch their noses, play with their hair, fingers, their phone, and scribble in a notebook.

4) Facial expressions (eye contact), change in complexion, sweat in T zone, change in tone of voice, hiding the lips, and use of obvious words (honestly, let me tell you the truth, . . .)

What Motivates People?

Maslow’s theory: Physiological needs, Safety needs, Social belongingness, Self-Esteem, Self-actualization, Transcendence

Understanding which hierarchy of needs a person wants to fulfill is a crucial step toward reading a person. What does this person want from me? What need is the person trying to fulfill through me? What need can I fill for this person?

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