A very good exercise for increasing one's mental capabilities is to learn how to read people accurately. Reading people and sizing them up is essential in every walk of life, and one who can make a good read has a built in edge in everything. I like to do a lot of people watching, constantly making a read, and have found the exercise to be very stimulating and illuminating. One starts a read by looking at a person's outward appearance, dress, the condition of their shoes, hands, and what kind of haircut they have.

Moving along, one notices things like posture, gestures, and facial expressions. Do they have a smile, a twinkle in their eye, or do they have dour personalities? Do they speak softly, or loud? Are they well spoken or not? What kind of affectations do they have? I like to observe exactly what people are doing, and the body motions they use, comparing the data to past observations of other people.

People readers get an added bonus is when a person is interacting with another, or in a group. Interactions between two or more people can give volumes of information regarding things like temper, character, and and general mental state. Subtle, nonverbal clues can let you know if the person is a dominant person or a follower, information which can prove to be valuable.

A good reader can tell you the socioeconomic status of the man by sight, can tell you if he has kids, and get a good estimate of what his spouse is like. An experienced reader can make a good estimate of one's income, marital status, level of either happiness or desperation.

The best place to start learning how to make a read is by going to a mall and watching the men sitting by while waiting for their wives who are shopping Practice on men at the mall allows you to size them up, and then check the accuracy of your observations when the wife shows up. This allows one to hone their skills in reading people.

I attempt to read people as a mental exercise, everywhere I go from a restaurant to an airport. Recently, I was at a very nice restaurant and startled my companion with the accuracy of my reads of the various patrons. I learned to read people from too many hours at the poker tables and the wheat pit. In today's electronic markets, reading people might not be as important, but the same thought process and mind set is a very valuable tool in the arsenal of the speculator. Incidentally, some of the best readers are car salesmen, and people in retail.

Reading skills can be learned, although it takes great self discipline and an open mind. Beginning readers will get things wrong but as their skill level increases, their accuracy will approach 80% or more. Learning to read people is a very fun exercise, and will develop critical thinking skills that will ennoble your mind.

Steve Ellison writes:

 Paul Ekman has studied the movements of every facial muscle and what thoughts these movements convey…here he is as described by Malcolm Gladwell in a wonderful article.

Ekman recalls the first time he saw Bill Clinton, during the 1992 Democratic primaries. "I was watching his facial expressions, and I said to my wife, 'This is Peck's Bad Boy,' " Ekman says. "This is a guy who wants to be caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and have us love him for it anyway. There was this expression that's one of his favorites. It's that hand-in-the-cookie-jar, love-me-Mommy-because-I'm-a-rascal look. It's A.U. twelve, fifteen, seventeen, and twenty-four, with an eye roll." Ekman paused, then reconstructed that particular sequence of expressions on his face. He contracted his zygomatic major, A.U. twelve, in a classic smile, then tugged the corners of his lips down with his triangularis, A.U. fifteen. He flexed the mentalis, A.U. seventeen, which raises the chin, slightly pressed his lips together in A.U. twenty-four, and finally rolled his eyes–and it was as if Slick Willie himself were suddenly in the room. 

Jordan Low comments:

 It is interesting how we can get different views over different topics from books. Almost similar to how movies come in pairs — Deep Impact and Armageddon, for example. In Gladwell's book The Tipping Point, the NYC crime rate decrease from a host of factors that tipped the scale contrasts with Freakonomics explanation of legalization of abortion lagged 16 or so years. In What Every Body Is Saying by Navarro, he claims that facial movements are the least accurate. The most accurate body part is the feet and as we move up, the conscious brain can fake responses.

Sushil Kedia adds:

 Desmond Morris. I urge everyone interested in the subject of watching, understanding non verbal behavior, deception & an endless array of related subjects to search this name on google. He is a maestro at this social science.

For over two decades I have been searching to obtain his lost title Ape Watching. One of my most revered teachers during my school days had shown me his copy and it was etched deeply in my mind. Resplendent pictures of apes capturing tell-tale nuances. Each picture therein is a unique shade of primal emotions. Just a glimpse through this tome, a flip across the hundreds of pictures taken by Morris was breathtaking. Based on a twenty year old memory, I reccomend you grab howsoever old and tattered a copy of this particular title if you see it. Amazon, google books, many other usual hunting pots in cyberia for books do not even mention it. Wonder if someone who has a serious interest in behavior studies has ensured that this title just vanishes. His numerous other works are fascinating as well, but Ape Watching would stand above any other book on any other subject I have ever seen. 





Speak your mind

12 Comments so far

  1. Ken Drees on April 9, 2009 8:55 am

    Jeff, you may like Eyes for Lies.

  2. jeff watson on April 9, 2009 5:51 pm

    Ken, the poker table provides a ready forum for reading the eyes to detect deception. While many eye movements indicate deception, such as movement of the eyes to an upward right hand direction, a true expert in deception will keep his eyes in check. The way you detect this is by looking at the movement of irises of the eye, which can be a give away. The eyes are truly the window to the soul.

    I will check out that book, as it looks like it has positive value.


  3. Masteroftheuniverse’s Weblog on April 9, 2009 10:28 pm

    […] leave a comment » With my dad in the hospital and being moved to intensive care, things here have been disjointed. I’ve spent all of my energy trying to smooth over family issues, and make sure that things are in my best interest. All of this makes me want to get back to the sanity of Manhattan all that sooner. My positions are performing marginal at best, and the best performers are the cheap stocks I picked up awhile back. Gold/platinum has been cranking also, while the grains are confusing me. I re-bought sugar and made money there. I finally had the energy, plus something interesting to write, over at Daily Speculations. It’s been a couple of months since I’ve written over there, but there has been a lot of water under the dam since I last wrote. […]

  4. admin on April 10, 2009 12:26 am

    eyes for lies is a daily read for me. — victoria

  5. Mark Johnson/White Glove Moving on April 10, 2009 3:17 pm

    I was a top car sales rep for several years at one time in my life and was able to not only read people, but then know how to process the information properly so that it can be used effectively to enhance the sales process.
    Reading people always came naturally to me and I have no degrees and never studied psychology.
    Reading people is art and science and every situation and person is different and cannot be categorized. As an example some of my biggest sales came from people that were not dressed well and that other car reps did not want to handle. One day two rusty clunkers pulled into the parking lot and out come  down and out looking poorly dressed husband and wife team with 3 kids. Something told me that when this picture comes into a new car lot it is not for looks. The other sales reps of course waited for better prospects. Well these down and outters had won $200,000 the day before in a lottery and wanted to trade their 2 worthless clunkers for new cars. Three hours later they drove away with 2 sparkling new vehicles. Depending on the situation, never judge the book by the cover.
    I never new much about cars. It never interested me, however I was in the top 1% nationally for car sales. I am an expert however at reading people, human psychology and how to interact with them to maximize the goal. My first job in car sales was selling VW and Audi's. After the obligatory "you can make as much as you want" speech I asked the sales mgr if i could skip the training program and just start selling, I will learn on the job i said. So many folks studied every aspect of the car but just couldnt read people or deal with them and could not cut it. I knew that the people coming into the dealership did not know that i didnt know and i was good enough to read them and front run. I sold 32 cars my first month and collected $13,000 with bonuses and got fired. You're too good Mark and the others are complaining. I had another offer from another dealership within an hour and so it went.
    I went on to become the #1 rep for a fortune 500 petroleum company in the entire United States. I beat out around 100 candidates from what i was told. My resume was fabricated x 100 but i looked and acted the part. I was the number 1 territory rep in the entire United States and once a month my boss would fly in and ride with me. A really nice guy and great boss. He would say, I dont know how you do it, the plant mgr says you are disorganized, but it really doesnt matter you are great at what you do and you make all of us look good.
    I simply said i can read people Tom and im a great actor and quick on my feet. About a year later the auditors caught up with my resume and Tom flew in. Mark I have good news and bad news. I knew what the bad news was. You will never qualify to be CEO here but despite your outrageous resume all of us here right up to the very very top are glad you are here, now c'mon lets go get some lunch i wanna know how you did that.
    Being able to read people and front run them with reinforcing words can help you in endless situations. I lived in and traveled in central america for a few years and used these same techniques and human psychology in various situations with great results. It can save your life. I often thought about how these techniques and others (some simple props as an example) could assist business people and govt employees in the event that they were in danger in foreign countries ( kidnapping or other dangers). There are some simple, effective methods that shift the odds in your favor, even if slightly I believe.
    After seeing well educated people go by the wayside I am convinced that great sales reps are born and cannot be trained. You can teach someone how to read people, but at the end of the day you have to be able to process this information very fast, be a great actor, great talker, part gambler and be able to get inside their mind.
    I would have been a great cia agent or made a fortune as a wall street institutional sales rep.
    Here at white glove i handle the VIP sales and get to deal with wall streeters, professional athletes, actors and a lot of great folks. They let me fly here because I am the best at what i do. 2 years ago the sales mgr fired me over a foolish squabble they then fired him and brought me back.
    Reading people and human psychology is a fascinating subject and i have so many interesting experiences but i wrote too much already … LOL.

  6. Ken Drees on April 10, 2009 4:36 pm

    On the “eyes for lies” link there is a special section where you can test yourself regarding the spotting of “micro-expressions”. These quick true expressions manifest themselves before the face puts on a mask or some sort of false front. Being able to catch micro-expressions is very important for some people who scout for terror suspects–you get that glimpse of real motive prior to person acting normal. I would imagine that in poker, that first micro-expression when the person looks at their hole cards or when the community cards come out would be a tell.

    Does the market give microexpressions? Does the stock or index in question give a quick opening flurry up or down and then act stone boring or normal all day, only to reveal those true motives at the close by acting like it did during the opening glimpse? Then on the next trading day gap open in that true direction? Are these micro-expressions that the market may give very difficult to spot for the average trader? Would it be only someone who is trained to spot such hidden emotions through outward signs that could decode the true feelings of the market?

  7. Gary Rogan on April 10, 2009 6:27 pm

    Mark@WhiteGlove, that was a highly entertaining post. One serious question: based on your $13,000 first month take with no experience and the description of your career, you should be selling small island nations by now for substantial commissions or at least retired to one of your own. So were you ever able to get much better at sales or with your natural-born salesman skills you were just as good back then as you are now?

  8. Mark Johnson/White Glove Moving on April 11, 2009 6:37 am

    Hi Gary Rogan,

    That is a good and very fair question. One I would ask myself.

    Of course in a public forum like this it would take me many pages of writing to review my life. maybe not all things i would wish to write.
    I’ve experienced many interesting things.
    During my stint as a Territory sales rep for the Petroleum company I was very ambitious and decided with my x wife that we can make a killing by owning our own business. Why make money for someone else i said?
    I found a beautiful location for a fast food franchise in New England, obtained the franchise rights, hired beautiful college girls to prepare the food and the place was a real success. I hated it though. It was a money maker though and 6 months later an ibm engineer said he was interested in buying it, maybe.
    I really love the business i said (the place was full of people as a nice prop)Im not sure about this but let me check with my wife, she loves this business. OK have you’re accountant get the numbers to my accountant. Will do i said. My x wife and i had $62,000 into it. My accountant said it was worth no more than $90,000. Try for a $100,000 he said. Well to make a long story short, I read him, he wanted it, had money and my acting and gambling skills told me to go for it. Well I said I really love this business and with the potential it has being only open 6 months $152,000 cash no notes. I hated this business and would have sold it at a loss. Would you accept 148,000. so it was sold 2 weeks later.
    My x wife and small children and I had a great life as we went on to start a real estate company, made a lot of money, lived in a big home, nice cars, was elected city commisioner ousting a 20 year incumbant and was given 0 chance to win and then…….
    I had a personal catastrophe Gary and went thru a bad divorce that sent me reeling, the business went under.
    When you are at the very top and come down it is not an easy task. But i am happy for the experience, although i went on an inexorable journey of ruin somewhat.
    I used my natural God given talent for the wrong reasons and helped 2 big insurance companies find weaknesses in there policies after i collected my fee’s.
    It bothers me too that i dont own an island, yacht or am retired, but then again maybe this is where i am supposed to be for reasons unknown.
    it is never the money that gets my blood and adrenaline going Gary. It is the challenge and thrill of the big sale or big risk. The money is simply a byproduct. The bigger the challenge, the more excited i am. If given a situation as an example, I can devise a way to circumvent and or overcome and place the odds in the favor of person x.
    When i was in Central America
    just because it was interesting to me I came up with different ways to travel safely and effectively using human psychology, some props and a bit of sales. Just as an exercise, because kidnapping and terrorism is on the rise in various parts of the world, using what i know about human nature and front running i devised ways to counter an individuals risk of being kidnapped, but then god forbid you are in a situation what do you do? You’re initial reading of the kidnappers and what you say can possibly save you’re life, gain better treatment, shift the odds in you’re favor even if slightly. For every part of the world, there are ways to overcome the odds. Depending on what part of the world you would be kidnapped i came up with different deception techniques to throw of the terror or kidnappers at hand. I think they would work based on what ive seen. I’m certain they are not in use.
    The bigger the challenge the more thrilling it is for me.
    Gary I should not be a moving sales rep. I came to white glove slightly down but not out. I was there number 1 phone sales rep from my first month. If you were to ask the ceo how does Mark johnson do it Dan would say “we don’t know how the fuck he does it, something about getting into the peoples mind”
    I usually handle the larger relocations and they know that this is the only real challenge for me. Dan introduces me as the best moving sales rep in america but i will not get rich doing this. But they let me run my own show with no interference. When you click on the website is my site. They struck a deal with me and any clients that come to me from my site i recieve a much higher commision than thru the main white glove site.
    I should not be a moving salesman but i love white glove because they let me be me and they go with the flow. I am 100% loyal to them and no matter what amount of money i am offered, would never work for a competing moving company. white glove is the best and Dan is the best. one thing everyone should learn-never ever ever forget when someone does you a favor period.
    Gary today, to answer you’re question I am better than i ever was but i should probably not be a moving sales rep,although at least I am the vip sales division manager lol.
    Maybe today is not my day but there is always tomorrow…..

  9. Legacy Daily on April 12, 2009 7:43 am

    Gary asks a very difficult question.

  10. Gary Rogan on April 13, 2009 3:00 pm

    Mark, thanks for taking the time to answer! I’ve been fascinated with what makes people tick and what leads to to success all my life. I guess in your case you have some natural gifts but with a personal catastrophe, a little bit of a gambler-type personality, and relatively easily bored with things it just wasn’t a steady progression. Enjoyed both the original post and the answer. You should write a book, your style is entertaining, you’ve got a lot of potential content in your head, and you’ll know how to sell it to the publishers!

  11. Mark Johnson/White Glove Moving on April 15, 2009 9:17 am

    Hi Gary,

    Thank you for the kind words.

    I actually started the process of wanting to write a book however this was about 4 years ago.
    Between the info on literary agents, publishers, how to get published and speaking with a few ghostwriters I was left with conflicting info and who to trust.

    Is there anyone who knows of a reputable publisher that I could speak with so I can get pointed in the right direction?

    I recently wrote and submitted a TV reality script called CasinoVice-Confidential to Tricon films. They liked it however in the end decided not to produce it because funding is tight. I thought i had it LOL. This was 3 weeks ago

    Thank you in advance and with best regards,


  12. Gary Rogan on April 15, 2009 5:57 pm

    Mark, I sure don’t, why don’t you re-pose the question on your other thread, it seems like the action moved there. Perhaps someone will be able to answer it.

    Best of luck!



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