How to Read People

By Don Swinney | October 1, 2013

I know how to not only read an individual, but also a crowd. Some people are harder than others, admittedly, but this generally holds true. One of the easiest ways to “read” a person is by voice inflection. At age 67, our financial world came tumbling down. When that happens that late in life, it robs you of time and will to recuperate.At one point, we asked a friend to borrow $1,000 for a short period of time. At the time it was due we couldn’t re-pay it in full. We said we couldn’t pay it all, and lacking in money said, “We’ll have to finish repaying in one or two weeks.” The person replied, “It’s no biggie,” but her voice inflection said it was a biggie. Similar incidents have happened in succeeding years, making it one of my easiest to read. {{more}}Having been a teacher and preacher for fifty years, I’ve made a serious study to read my students and parishioners. I could tell when I “had” them and when I was “losing” them. For many, many years before, I heard a student and grown-ups attention span was approximately 10 minutes. I’d tell my students, “If you’ll listen to me for 10 to 12 minutes, I won’t bug you anymore.”One time a teacher from 3 doors down the hall knocked on my door, she asked, “Do you have Johnny as a student?” “Yes,” I responded. “Do you have trouble keeping his attention?” she asked. “No.” She said she did and he said he had that trouble in his classes, except Mr. Swinney’s. “I want to know what you’re doing that the rest of us aren’t,” she requested. Bingo! I not only asked for it, but I put them on show to merit it. I read once, “Good teaching is one-fourth preparation, three-fourths theatre.”Guess who violently disagrees with this? One speaker said, “I go by the oilfield principle: If I don’t strike oil in three minutes, I quit boring.” I’ve also read speakers to help myself become a better speaker. They are all:1. Humorous2. At ease with themselves and can put their listeners at ease.3. Are brief and to the point.4. Know their subject well.