Wouldn’t it be great if you had the magic formula for figuring people out? 


We humans are wired to read each other, but let’s face it, we sometimes have a hard time getting it right. Do you ever wonder why? It’s because we often overlook the simple signs that reveal more than what is being said.


When it comes to reading people, paying attention to their body language, facial expressions, nonverbal cues, and other factors is key. Surprisingly, these nonverbal cues account for up to 90% of the message being conveyed – UTPB


Why is that?


From the slightest facial twitch to the tone of our voice and how we position ourselves, it all adds to the narrative. When interpreted correctly, these cues can reveal many things about our feelings, behaviors, intentions, and more without needing spoken words.  

Table of Contents

Understanding the Basics of Reading People

Understanding body language is like deciphering a secret code. It’s complex, and sometimes it can be a bit ambiguous. A raised eyebrow and a shift in posture convey something.


Learning how to read people is an accessible skill, as emphasized by James W. Williams in his book “How to Read People Like A Book.” With the right guidance, this skill becomes remarkably powerful. 


Ian Tuhovsky further stresses that delving into this skill goes beyond simply interpreting body language. It entails keen observation and genuine understanding, enabling us to decode the hidden nuances in people’s behavior.


Initially, it may appear daunting, but once you grasp what to observe, it all becomes surprisingly manageable. As former FBI Counterintelligence Agent LaRae Quy noted in an Inc. article, you don’t have to be a seasoned interrogator to gain insights into someone’s mindset. The signs are always present—you just need to know where to direct your attention!


Context Matters in Nonverbal Communication

Context is like the backdrop where communication happens.


 It’s all the elements that come together to help us understand the true meaning of a message. Context can alter the flow of communication and how a message is conveyed and interpreted likewise.


Let’s say you’re hanging out with friends casually, where things are relaxed and informal. If someone tells you ‘don’t be silly’ in a light-hearted, friendly manner, you’d probably take it with a grain of salt. 


In contrast, if you are in a formal environment, your boss says the same thing to you, it could indicate that your boss isn’t pleased with your work or something you’ve done.


This article outlines three key components of communication: constitutive, contextual, and cultural. “Communication is constitutive as it creates meaning and has the power to shape reality. It occurs within a specific place and time, making it inherently contextual. Additionally, communication is deeply intertwined with culture, encompassing language, values, beliefs, knowledge, rituals, and attitudes shared amongst a group of people. It’s important to note that communication is never neutral, as the process continually involves the negotiation of meaning.”


In learning how to read people, understanding that communication styles vary significantly from person to person is key. One person may communicate in a plain and direct manner, while another may choose a more subtle and indirect approach. 


Recognizing these individual differences is key to effective communication. It ensures that our message is received and understood as intended. 


How to Read People – The 15 subtle signs you need to know

Understanding how to read people might not be that straightforward initially.


As a result. you become puzzled and confused, trying to decipher their non-verbal cues.


To avoid this, you’ll have to start recognizing patterns in body language, eye movement, and more.


Let’s dive into the key signals you should look at when learning how to read people effectively:


1. Pay attention to eye contact

According to Forbes, Cornell University researchers demonstrated through an experiment that eye contact causes a powerful, subconscious sense of connection that extends even to sketched or photographed eyes.


Eye contact is like a secret language all on its own. The saying goes, “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” 


When someone looks directly at you, it might be a sign of interest or attraction. However, and this is a significant “but,” context is everything! The intensity of the stare you receive depends on who is staring at you and where you are. 


If it’s your partner or someone you’re crushing on, that lingering eye contact could be a sweet sign of affection or interest. Yet, if you’re in a meeting and your boss is giving you the serious eyeball, that might signal something entirely different – maybe they’re not thrilled with something.


2. Pay attention to posture

couple sitting on bench with straight posture

Have you seen someone carry themselves with grace and elegance?


From how they stand to how they walk, their gestures, mannerisms, etc. Their every movement seems deliberate yet effortless as if they’ve mastered the art of elegance.


When a person strolls in with their head held high, shoulders back, eyes fixed forward. What does that say? Confidence. They’re saying, “I’m owning this moment.” But if you see someone slouched over, eyes downcast, it’s a whole different message. 


It might not mean they lack self-esteem overall, but it’s like confidence took a back seat in that moment.


These little cues tell a lot about their personality, whether in how someone stands or their expressions. Confident people tend to have open and assertive postures. Meanwhile, those unsure of themselves could show more closed or guarded stances. 


According to Betteryou.ai, posture is important as it is the foundation for all other forms of body language. It frames your words, directs the flow of the conversation, and effectively conveys its intended meaning.


3. Paralanguage

Paralanguage isn’t just about the words someone uses; it’s about how they say them. Take sarcasm, for example. It’s when someone says the opposite of what they actually mean.


Pay close attention to which words they emphasize and the tone they use. These little details give us clues about what’s really going on in their minds.


This article shows that when people speak to us, we absorb a mere 7% of what they say through their words. We derive 55% of the meaning from their body gestures, posture, and physical cues and 38% from the tone and inflections of the words they present.


So, paralanguage isn’t only about tone of voice, emotional cues, and breathing patterns. It’s about uncovering the hidden message and intentions behind these cues. It’s like peeling back the layers to reveal the real story.


4. Touch

Touch can mean a lot of things. It can be flirtatious and romantic or aggressive and controlling. How and where someone touches another person has much to do with who they are. 


Observing how someone engages in physical contact can give deeper insight into their communication style and behavior. You can understand their personality traits, intimacy comfort, and social status. 


Moreover, touch can strongly indicate a person’s emotional state, revealing their genuine feelings or masking them behind a facade.


5. Appearance

How someone dresses and carries themselves can say a lot about them. 


If you come across someone rocking a bunch of piercings and a bold purple mohawk, they are clearly not one to follow the crowd. Those daring style choices could tell you more about their potential non-conformist spirit. 


Paying attention to how someone presents themselves can give you an idea of what makes them tick. Combining appearance with careful observation of other nonverbal behaviors and considering factors like cultural background and social dynamics provides a more complete story into who they truly are.


6. Tone Shifts

When chatting with someone, you notice a change in their voice—maybe it gets higher, lower, or even shifts in another way. These shifts are like the spice of a conversation, adding flavor and depth to how we communicate.


These elements are not just random quirks; they give hints about what’s happening beneath the surface. For example, if the pitch shoots up suddenly, they might be excited or nervous. Conversely, a lower tone might signal they’re getting serious or feeling a bit uneasy.


According to Tony Robbins, tone of voice can serve as an indicator of relationship success. He says, “for a long time, psychological practitioners and researchers have recognized that how partners communicate about and address issues has significant implications for the well-being of their relationships.” However, the need for more reliable and effective instruments for assessing these critical features in discussions has limited their therapeutic application. 


7. Speech Patterns

Understanding speech patterns is not just about what someone says but also about how they say it—the rhythm, the speed, and even how they pronounce words, also known as intonation.


Consider moments when you were angry and observe how the way you questioned, “What is wrong with you?” Now compare to what you would say now that you’re calm and concerned about someone in distress.


if someone’s talking a mile a minute, it might mean they’re feeling a tad anxious or trying to hide something. Or if they’re taking it slow and carefully choosing their words, it could mean they’re really mulling things over or being extra thoughtful.


So, next time you’re having a chat, pay attention not just to the words but also to the beat and style of the conversation.


8. Blushing or Paleness

blushing woman looking sideways while smiling


Think back to moments when you’ve blushed. It could be a sweet comment from a friend or partner or something silly you witnessed or heard someone say.


Blushing, that reddening of the skin, usually on the face, happens when emotions like embarrassment, shyness, or excitement kick in, increasing blood flow. Contrary, you might turn white in other situations. Paleness, a reduction in skin color when blood flow decreases, is associated with feelings of fear, shock, or anxiety.


These facial expressions are part of our nonverbal cues and can tell much about a person’s emotional state. 


Blushing might reveal attraction or embarrassment, while paleness could signify discomfort, fear, or stress.


9. Environment

Let’s talk about the spaces people create around them, like their homes or cars. How someone decorates or maintains their environment is a bit like their canvas for self-expression.


A house with walls adorned with family photos gives you a peek into what matters most to them, right? Or if someone keeps their car spick and span, it shows a certain level of care and attention to detail.


This article highlights 3 ways your environment can impact you, which also tell how people can read you given the way you manage your space:


  • It can either stimulate or hinder interpersonal contacts (and the accompanying benefits of social support). For example, a welcoming environment with comfy chairs and solitude can entice a family to stay and chat with a patient.

  • Environments can have an impact on people’s behavior and motivation to act. A dirty corridor, for example, with excess hospital equipment, will entice employees to leave another item in the hall. On the other hand, a clean corridor and adequate storage will motivate personnel to take the time to put the items away.

  • The surroundings might have an impact on one’s mood. Several studies, for example, show that bright light, both natural and artificial, can improve healing from sadness, agitation, and sleep deprivation.


Keep in mind that many people will pick up certain behaviors or coping mechanisms due to their environment, which takes some consideration from your side. However, these little cues might seem subtle, but they tell you a lot about a person. 


10. Use of Time

This is one of the most commonly overlooked channels of nonverbal communication. The way we manage our time can tell us a whole bunch about ourselves or people. 


Understanding this gives us a peek into what matters most to us or others, their interests, and how they tackle life. If someone’s got their day meticulously planned out, sticking to schedules, it’s a good sign they’re organized and disciplined. But those who thrive on spontaneity often value adaptability and jump on exciting opportunities.


How we spend our time also says a lot about connecting with others. Those who dedicate much time to socializing and networking tell us that relationships are a big deal.


Signs Someone is Lying

Recognizing lying is an important component of learning how to read people and is extremely useful for navigating interpersonal relationships. 


Recognizing lies is a skill that will serve you well throughout your life. So, even if you assume you have some knowledge, subtle signs often go unnoticed.

black woman ignoring partner

1. Lack of eye contact

You know that saying, “Look me in the eye and tell me the truth?” Well, there’s some real wisdom in that. 


When we lock eyes with someone, it’s like getting a glimpse into their soul. It’s harder to fib when you’re making direct eye contact. But if someone knows that avoiding eye contact can give away their little white lie, they might swing to the opposite extreme and star at you down.


If their gaze feels a bit too intense or just downright awkward, it could be a sign that something’s not adding up. 


Trust those instincts!


2. Putting an object between you and them

Ever notice when someone casually places an object between you and them? It could be anything from a cup of coffee to a book or even a desk.


Surprisingly, it’s a little signal that speaks volumes. It’s like an instinctual move to create a tiny bit of personal space, a buffer zone.


This act gives off a subtle vibe of protection, like a shield against any potential “attacks” – not that you’d actually attack them, of course! 


It’s all happening beneath the surface, so the person might not even realize they’re doing it. Our brains are fascinating, aren’t they?


3. Too many details

Sometimes, liars overcompensate with a story that has way too many details. They will tell every layer of the story just to sound believable.


Like, when your boyfriend’s night out with the guys suddenly turns into a full-blown documentary complete with a beer count, brand names, and an hour-by-hour breakdown?


Now, that’s when the alarm bells start ringing! It’s like, hold up, this isn’t the usual script. Something’s fishy, right?


In moments like these, it’s all about tuning in.


Listen to what they’re saying, watch their expressions, and check out their body language. Are all these different channels on the same frequency, or is there some kind of static in the air? When words and non-verbal cues don’t sync up, that’s a big sign that there’s more to the story.


Giving details is not wrong; you only need to pay attention to details to uncover the true meaning of a person’s words and actions.


4. Words and body language don’t match

When someone isn’t telling the truth, they try to control their body language. Let’s be honest; this can be easier said than done!


So, here’s your insider tip: watch how their words and actions align. If there’s a mismatch, like they’re saying one thing but their vibe is telling a different story. That’s your cue that something might be happening. Don’t ignore it.


5. Verbal or nonverbal behavioral pauses


Liars must also think a lot for their claims to appear credible. They may use many verbal pauses or do something with their body that implies they are uncomfortable and looking for words. They can go as far as faking a smile.


It’s all part of the act to make what they’re saying sound legit, but it can make their speech and movements seem slightly off. Keep an eye out for those signs!



By now, you should have the fundamentals of understanding non-verbal cues in day-to-day situations. 


However, keep in mind that the meaning of non-verbal cues might alter based on the situation you’re in. Understanding the nuances of communication styles and behavior patterns takes time, experience, and effort. 


Everyone is different, so interpreting their words and actions may or may not always be accurate. But hopefully, with these tips, you’ll be well on your way to being a master at reading people.

Justicia Amedu

Justicia Amedu


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Carol Morgan

Carol Morgan

Meet Carol Morgan, a seasoned expert in the field of relationships. Carol has a Ph.D. in Journalism, Media Studies, and Communication from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (1993-1996). Her academic journey also includes a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Journalism, Media Studies, and Communication from Northern Illinois University (1991-1993) and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Advertising from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1986-1990). Her story of going from a failed marriage to finding true love online makes her a reliable person to talk to about relationships. Carol's trustworthiness comes from more than just her grades; it comes from things she has done in real life. Her experiences with ghosting and rejections for no reason during her time on online dating are typical of the problems many people face. She has done what she says she can do, not just said she could do it. Carol is a co-founder of the dating and relationship website Her Side His Side. She offers useful advice based on her own experiences, both good and bad. Because she knows how to spot red flags and get around the tricky parts of online dating, she is a good person to talk to if you want to make real connections. What makes Carol stand out is how easy it is to relate to her. She knows the ups and downs of looking for a serious relationship, which makes her a reliable person to go on this journey with you. You're not just getting advice from Carol; you're also getting insights from someone who talks from both academic knowledge and personal experience. You can trust Carol Morgan to be your practical guide. She combines academic knowledge with real-life experience to help you get through the complicated world of modern dating. To find love that lasts, you need someone who gets it. Carol is here to help you at your own pace.