Stil jete

Why we get it wrong when we try to read people

Why we get it wrong when we try to read people

"Many people believe they are 'good at reading people.'

It's all too easy to pretend you understand another person's motivations without ever stopping to check if you're right. Confirmation bias, unfortunately, is a more likely explanation—that is, you remember all the times your estimates were right and ignore or underestimate the times you were wrong. Or you just never question whether you're right in the first place. How many times have you heard: "I thought so-and-so was like that, but once I got to know him, I realized I was completely wrong"?

"The fact is that people are often far less accurate judges of character than they like to believe. But what are the obstacles to becoming great at reading people?”

"First, the main thing to remember is the effect of context. Maybe you saw an article on one of those online lists titled "5 Signs Someone Is Lying" and read on to see if you could spot one in real life. The problem is: is the person looking up and to the left because they are telling a lie, or is it just that something up on the roof caught their attention?”

In the same way, a person who makes an interesting 'Freudian blunder' in conversation may be telling you a secret about themselves - or they may simply be sleep-deprived and simply made a mistake. Context matters.

In the same way, we cannot take a single statement, facial expression, behavior or moment as telling us something definitive about the person. Didn't you do something today that, if analyzed in isolation, would lead to some completely meaningless conclusions about your character? Analysis can only happen with data – not a single piece of data – and it can only happen when we are able to see broader trends.

These broader trends must also be placed in the cultural context of where the person you are analyzing comes from. Some signs are universal, while others may vary. For example, talking with your hands in your pockets is looked down upon in most cultures. Eye contact, on the other hand, can be a tricky issue. In America, eye contact is generally encouraged because it is considered a sign of honesty and intelligence. However, in countries like Japan, eye contact is not encouraged because it is thought to be disrespectful. Likewise, one set of signals may mean one thing in your culture, and something completely different in another. It can be a little difficult to remember these different interpretation patterns, but as you practice, it will start to come naturally.

If a person does the same unusual thing five times in a short conversation, then this is something to pay attention to. If someone simply claims, “I know that woman. She is an introvert. I once saw him reading a book", this guy cannot be called a master in revealing the human psyche! So, it is worth remembering another important principle: in our analysis, we look for patterns.

Another way that smart people can come to less-than-smart conclusions about others is if they fail to establish a foundation. The guy in front of you might make a lot of eye contact, smile often, give you compliments, nod, and even touch your arm occasionally. You might conclude that this guy really likes you, until you realize that he is like this with every person he meets. He doesn't really show interest above his normal self, so all your observations lead you nowhere.

In the end, there is something to consider when you are studying other human beings: yourself. You may decide that someone is trying to trick you, but you don't fully consider your paranoid and overly cautious nature, and the fact that you've been lied to recently and haven't gotten over it yet.

This last point may, ironically, be the real key to dissecting other people—making sure we at least understand ourselves before turning our analytical gaze outward. If you are not aware of how you may be projecting your needs, fears, assumptions, and prejudices onto others, your observations and conclusions about them will not be very accurate. In fact, you may have just discovered a roundabout way of learning about yourself and the cognitive and emotional baggage you're offering. / Excerpted from "How to read people like a book"

*This article was published by and reposted by