5 Tricks to Reading People

Who knew that your date would turn out to be a jerk? And that the assistant you hired is actually terrible under pressure? These experts. Let our whizzes, including a jury consultant and a waiter who became a tell-all author, help you improve your people-reading skills.

1

Take Them Out to Dinner.

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Photo by Ben Wiseman

As a waiter, I always watch to see if, and how, customers’ demeanors change when they talk to me as opposed to the person they’re eating with. If they’re engaged and personable with the people at the table but then don’t look me in the eye or say “please” and “thank you,” I think that reveals a lot. I’ve heard of people taking job candidates to restaurants to see how they interact with the servers, because it’s a good indicator of how they will treat their coworkers. It’s also telling for me to see how people react to bad news. When I say we’re out of a dish or the food is going to take longer than normal, do they let it roll off their backs? Or do they ask how that could possibly happen and say it’s unacceptable? In most cases—in restaurants and in life—there is a reasonable explanation. When people get upset, it tells me that they sweat the small stuff.
—Darron Cardosa is a blogger and the author of The Bitchy Waiter. He lives in New York City.

2

Watch for “Actually.…”

There are telltale words that show a person is the type who likes to bait you into an argument—especially online. If someone starts a comment with “Actually,” he is trying to correct you. Or ending a comment with “Right?” He wants you to engage. Another common indicator is chiming in with an anecdote to shut you down. For example, you write, “X percent of baby boys don’t get this vaccine.” And he writes, “My brother got that. You’re wrong.” OK, you have a personal story that you think negates all other information. What I tell people, especially female writers I work with, is that when a person comes back more than once with an “actually” or a “Right?” or an anecdote, that person is trying to cause trouble.
—Annemarie Dooling is the head of growth and audience correspondence at Vocativ.com, a news website. She lives in New York City.

3

Have Them Tell a Story Twice.

With all of our electronic communication these days—and even more so with dating apps—everyone has the chance to fabricate. Maybe they tell one person one thing and another person something else, just to get what they want out of situations. I’m newly single for the first time in seven years, and one of the things I look for is consistency when someone tells me a story. I’ll say, “Hey, remember that story you told me? What happened at the end?” Getting the same response—or not—says something about his honesty.
—Jessie Kay is the founder of the Real Matchmaker. She lives in Los Angeles.



4

Listen for a Straight Answer.

How directly someone speaks to you can be a big indicator of how forthright she is overall. This is something we look for when we’re working with witnesses but also when we’re looking at jurors. When someone immediately answers the question, we usually feel she is being honest with us. When someone talks and talks in a roundabout way, giving 15 explanations for what she’s about to say, and then gives you the answer at the very end, she might be telling the truth, or she might be wrestling with it. It hurts your credibility if you’re not immediately direct.
—Leslie Ellis, Ph.D., is a jury consultant at DecisionQuest, a national litigation consulting firm. She lives in Washington, D.C.

5

Ask if They’ve Broken a Bone.

This is strictly observational; there’s no data out there on this. But I have seven children, and I’ve noticed a definite bimodal distribution when it comes to broken bones. Three of them have had multiple broken bones—arms, shoulders, whatever. Four of them have never broken a bone. The ones that break bones tend to be more aggressive and daring. They’re also risk-takers, which can be a good thing. The others are more cautious and deliberate. It’s the same with my grandchildren. I have one who will jump off a couch and assume Grandpa will catch her. Her brother will climb up and down the stairs of the slide until he finally goes down slowly.
—Stephen Camarata, Ph.D., is the author of The Intuitive Parent and a professor of hearing and speech sciences and psychiatry at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He lives in Nashville.