When I finally resolved to bring that focus and clarity to my personal life, it made sense to start by comparing the courthouse with the world outside. I was determined to figure out what I was doing in the courtroom that enabled me to read people in that setting with such consistent accuracy. I thought I should be able to distill that information into a set of people-reading basics that would work anywhere.
When I told my colleagues about the great difference between my people-reading successes on and off the job, I found I wasn't alone. Many of the best attorneys I knew confessed that, while they enjoyed great success reading people in court, the rest of the time they didn't do much better than anyone else. Why?
The conclusions I eventually reached led me to the keys of "reading readiness"—the foundation of understanding people and predicting their behavior. The first thing I discovered was that attitude is critical. In a courtroom, I was ready to focus fully on the people I encountered, to listen to them closely, to observe the way they looked and acted, and to carefully think about what I was hearing and seeing. I had a very different attitude in my private life. I rarely did any of those things. The fact is, you have to be ready to read people, or all the clues in the world won't do you any good. In this chapter, you'll learn how to bring a courtroom state of mind—clear-eyed, observant, careful, and objective—into the emotional, subjective drama that is everyday life. Master the following skills, and you'll be ready to read people.
1. Spend more time with people. That's the best way to learn to understand them.
2. Stop, look, and listen. There's no substitute for patience and attentiveness.
3. Learn to reveal something of yourself. To get others to open up, you must first open up to them.
4. Know what you're looking for. Unless you know what you want in another person, there's a good chance you'll be disappointed.
5. Train yourself to be objective. Objectivity is essential to reading people, but it's the hardest of these seven skills for most of us to master.
6. Start from scratch, without biases and prejudices.
7. Make a decision, then act on it.
Unless you've been stranded on a desert island for the past fifty years, you've noticed that the world has changed. Understanding people has always been one of life's biggest challenges, but the social changes and technological explosion of recent decades have made it even more difficult. Today, many of us don't enjoy close bonds or daily contact even with the most important people in our lives. We're out of touch and out of practice.