Mastering the art of speed reading people will forever change the way you look at and relate to people. This skill will help you to size people up and speak their language. This can help you communicate more effectively, improve your relationships with friends and families and improve your ability to get along with most people. You can be a rockstar!
However, to know others, you must first know yourself. Therefore, your first objective in trying to master the art of speedreading is to understand the “Personality Type” concept and to be able to accurately identify your type.
There is a whole combination of factors that influence your behavior: genes, innate talents, upbringing, cultural background, location, religion, etc. For example, the way you act during a project presentation is different compared to how wild you get at a rock concert. You behave differently when socializing with your best friend compared to when socializing at a professional networking event. This is of course, normal because these various situations call for different behaviors, although this doesn’t mean that your personality changes with each new situation, you simply just approach most of these situations with a set of automatic responses, acting in ways that you are most comfortable.
Your personality is the combination of behavior, emotion, motivation and thought patterns that define you. Your personality drives you to consistently think, feel, and behave in specific ways; in essence, it is what makes you unique. Over time, these patterns strongly influence your expectations, perceptions, values, and attitudes.
The Myers-Briggs personality type indicator (MBTI) is a very powerful model when it comes to understanding the psychology of personalities, this psychological instrument reliably identifies 16 distinctly different personality types. They act as useful reference points to explain how and why you are the way you are. Now let’s break down the four type dimensions.
How are you energized? — Extroversion (E) or Introversion (I)
This pair is concerned with the direction of your energy, if you prefer to direct your energy to deal with people, things or situations or the “outer world”, then your preference is extroversion. If you prefer to direct your energy to deal with ideas, information, explanations or beliefs or the “inner world”, then your preference is introversion.
What kind of information do you naturally pay attention to? — Sensing (S) or Intuition (I)
This pair concerns the type of information or things you process. If you prefer to deal with facts, what you know and what your five senses can interpret (what you can see, hear, smell, taste or touch) then your preference is sensing. If you prefer to deal with ideas, look into the unknown, to generate new possibilities or to anticipate patterns or things that aren’t obvious, then your preference is for intuition.
How do you make decisions? — Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
This pair reflects your decision-making style. If you prefer to decide based on objective logic, using an analytic and detached approach, then your preference is for thinking. If you prefer to decide using values or what you believe is important, then your preference is feeling.
How do you like to organize your world? — Judging (J) or Perception (P)
This final pair describes the type of lifestyle you adopt. If you prefer to be planned and well structured then your preference is for judging (not to be confused with judgemental). If you prefer to go with the flow, to maintain flexibility and respond to things as they arise and evolve, then your preference is for perception.
Putting it all together
When you put these four letters together, you get a personality type code. You can take a free personality test here. I tested as an ENFP, this means that I am extroverted (E) and most of the time like to focus my attention on what is happening in the world around me. I am also intuitive (N) which means I naturally try to understand the connections and underlying meaning of things around me which probably explains my interest in the subject of speedreading people. I am also a feeler (F) which means that I make most of my decisions based on my internal value system rooted in how I feel about issues and how I and others will be affected by it. Finally, I am a perceiver (P) which means that I like to be able to leave my options open just in case something unexpected comes up.
Now it is important to note that no one is a pure extrovert or pure introvert any more than a person is a pure feeler or thinker. You can use both sensing and intuition, or judging and prospecting and you most likely use both every day for different tasks and situations. However, you have a natural, inborn preference for one over the other and the combination of these preferences is what makes you and everyone else around you unique, hence the usefulness of speedreading.
How do you speedread?
Speedreading is a matter of keen observation, asking the right questions and trying your best to find the most likely answer based on the available information. Sometimes the information you have about your subject is substantial, for example, a family member. It could also be very little, for example, a new acquaintance. Speedreading is using a combination of the available information and your knowledge of type dimensions to try and piece together the likeliest MBTI four-letter combinations and then taking it from there. Let’s pretend that I am your subject, your new acquaintance and you are trying to speedread me, the following questions will help you to piece together my most likely type combinations:
Introvert or extrovert:
- What energizes David the most? — interacting with other people? or just being by himself?
- Where does David like to focus his energy? — in the outer world of people and things? or in the inner world of his ideas and thoughts?
- Does David appear more likely to act first then think about his action or think things through before acting on them?
- Is David most likely to be at the center-stage of conversations or does he appear to be more comfortable backstage?
- Does David prefer to work on several projects at the same time or prefers to focus his attention on one task at a time?
Sensing or Intuition:
- Is David more likely to pay attention to the facts and details or more likely to try and understand the connections, underlying meaning, and implications of things around him?
- Is David best described as a down-to-earth and practical person or an imaginative and creative character?
- Is David more likely to trust his direct experience or trust his gut instinct?
- Is David more tuned in to the here and now or often imagine how things will affect future events?
- Is David more likely to prefer clear, tangible proof to draw a conclusion or is more open to plausible hypotheses to draw a conclusion?
Thinking or Feeling:
- Is David more likely to make decisions objectively, weighing the pros and cons or is more likely to be subjective weighing how his actions will affect himself and others?
- How would you describe David; logical and analytical or sensitive and empathetic?
- What type of argument usually persuades David? A good logical argument or a strong emotional appeal?
- What is a greater compliment to David? To be tough or tender?
- Is David more likely to be described as passionate or stoical?
Judging or Perception:
- Does David tend to make most decisions quickly and easily or does he prefer to take his time?
- Would David rather have things settled and decided or does he like to leave his options open?
- Does David prefer to be in control of most situations or is he comfortable letting others call the shots sometimes?
- Is David conscious of time and almost always punctual or is he frequently running behind schedule?
- Is David’s work station typically very organized or does he have trouble finding things and keeping organized?
Extroversion (E) or Introversion (I):
If you’ve spent some time with me you will quickly notice that most times I am lively around people and enjoy interacting with them. I am typically energetic and at the center of conversations and usually, have multiple things or projects going on at once. It is fair to assume that I am extroverted — E
Sensing (S) or Intuition (I):
On a good day, you will typically find me thinking or talking about the underlying connection and patterns in various subjects, most recently I have been interested in understanding the connections between the first and second world wars, I am intrigued by history. I have been told that I sometimes have my head in the cloud and lose sight of the simple, everyday things which is quite frustrating. I am known to be imaginative and creative, this is usually reflected by my improvisation when I play the piano. It is pretty obvious that I am an intuitive — N
Thinking (T) or Feeling (F):
If you observe my decision-making process, you will observe that I usually go out of my way to consider others’ points of view which usually impacts how I make decisions. I have learned to appreciate logical arguments, but my friends know that I give strong consideration to emotional appeal. My friends will also be quick to describe me as passionate and expressive about most things. I am likely a feeler — F
Judging (J) or Perception (P):
My desk can be described as organized chaos, at least that’s what I tell myself. There is a running joke in my friend group about the number of flights I have missed over the years, I know! and If you ask me to decide on something I care about, you will observe that I don’t like to feel rushed, I mean why rush to make a decision when an unexpected or better option could be right ahead. It is very safe to conclude that I am a perceiver — P
And just like that, you have successfully been able to speedread me. Now speedreading me doesn’t mean that you know everything about me, it means that you have a good idea of my natural preferences which can help you and me to have a pleasant interaction and hopefully become better friends. There are more complexities to each four-letter combination which you can learn more about here.
Speedreading people is an art form and a sophisticated life skill and like most new skills, the more frequently you use it, the better you become at it. However, speedreading people is different from learning how to ride a bike or learning a foreign language, because it involves understanding, anticipating and interpreting the human behavior which has of course been the subject of intense study and research for thousands of years and one that is very complex to fully understand.
Not everyone likes to feel like they are being figured out and if speedreading is not done properly, you can easily be perceived as offensive. Here are 4 tips to minimize the risk of offending people:
- Be respectful: Resist the urge to show people how smart you are, simply put, don’t turn to speedreading into a loungeroom game, it may temporarily soothe your ego but it might also come back to haunt you.
- You are not Professor X: Do not portray yourself as some kind of mind reader, being able to speedread people doesn’t make you a psychic.
- Play safe: Practice your newly developing skill in a safe environment where the stakes are not too high. A job interview is not an environment to try out your developing skills.
- Be open to being wrong: Always allow for the possibility that your guess about a person’s type could be wrong.
Following these suggestions will help you to be able to use your speedreading people skills effectively, in a respectful way and to everyone’s advantage.
Break a leg!
Hi, I’m David and I coach professionals to upgrade their resume, improve their emotional intelligence and earn more money. I am a professional recruiter and work as a consultant for a world-class recruiting firm. You can learn more about me at davidowasi.com. Also, feel free to check out my Ultimate Career Guide Course on Udemy.