Many of the things humans do send messages that you can read if you learn how spot simple signals and changes in body language or facial expression. Once you develop skills to read human behavior, you can better understand your impact on other people and how they feel about you or your ideas. Reading human behavior also enables you to acquire information about others, which helps you be more empathetic and responsive to their needs.
Be attentive. You will not succeed in reading human behavior if you aren't aware of the behaviors exhibited by other people. Instead of moving through life too rushed to notice what goes on around you, pause and pay attention to how your conversations or interactions with others lead to certain behaviors. By paying attention to subtle signals, you can acquire information that helps you identify the resulting behavior.
Look for sudden changes. The most telling human behaviors are the ones that differ from the norm. For example, if your friend is constantly laughing and happy and suddenly appears chagrined, there is likely something at the root of this change. When you first begin reading human behaviors, these changes are helpful cues.
Monitor the amount of physical distance a person puts between himself and you, as physical distance may indicate the person is less than happy about something. For example, if you are on a date and the other person sits a distance away from you or turns away, this is likely a sign that your date isn't keen on you.
Watch facial expressions. Many human emotions are evidenced if you are attentive to subtle changes. A furrowed brow, for example, may indicate upset or confusion while a beaming smile almost certainly signifies happiness. Allow these facial expressions to tell you what others are feeling or alert you to changes in their emotions.
Build your knowledge about each individual's unique behavior signals. No two individuals are exactly alike, so to read human behavior you must be aware of an individual's unique tells. Pay particular attention to signs that your closest friends and family members give off and create a mental catalog of their tells. For example, you may notice that your son is unable to look you in the eye when he is telling you something that isn't quite true. By remembering this, you can prepare yourself to read him more effectively.
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Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.