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Reading People

There are people who are good at “reading” those around them – I am not one of them. I’ve had jobs where I’ve been around sales  people and was able to watch them in action. They take note of body language; trust their gut feelings; and correctly interpret social behavior (avoiding eye contact, strong handshake, etc.). They seem to possess the ability to go beyond the words actually being spoken, using intuition and deductive reasoning to make snap decisions or assessments that will eventually lead them to finalizing the sale.

I don’t consider myself overly trusting or too gullible, but I do tend to take people at their word until it’s proven otherwise.  I listen carefully; look for signs that might tell me if someone is fibbing or pulling my leg; and then try to respond appropriately. I still manage to walk away from many encounters feeling like I’ve missed some vital clue as to what just occurred.

In the past I have acknowledged that it’s not one of my strengths, and left it at that, not seeing a need to investigate further. But lately I’ve been wondering if my inability to successfully read people isn’t actually holding me back. Occurrences and situations in these last few weeks have me convinced that not reading people correctly is definitely reducing my overall quality of life. Several recent encounters left me feeling very stupid – which I know I’m not. Perhaps, in this instance, being a fiction writer is a disadvantage – I don’t have to actually read people to understand they’re motivation or behavior; I can just make it up.

Maybe it’s time to take a course in reading people – watch all three seasons of Lie to Me, a TV series where Tim Roth played Dr. Cal Lightman, as expert on facial expressions, used applied psychology to arrive at the truth. I could get so good at reading people that after a job interview I would be able to celebrate or drown my sorrows (with ice cream) on my way home rather than having to wait several days to be notified one way or the other.

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