4 Ways to Read a Room

I walked into the room at work, laughing and joking and expecting an easy conversation. I should have taken a moment to read the room because it could have prevented a difficult follow-up meeting. The follow-up meeting turned out to be one of the most painful meetings of my life. By the end of the meeting, I had been chastised, and my future in the organization was jeopardized. The first conversation could have gone easier if I had known how to read a room. Instead, I missed an opportunity, and it cost me.

Reading a room can be the difference between making a costly mistake or landing that next promotion. It’s also a great skill to help you pay attention to how your children are doing. It could help you to speak up on their behalf, or it could help you to decide not to interrupt a learning opportunity. Here are 4 ways to read a room.

1. Avoid being the first person to talk.

You can’t learn if you’re doing all the talking. By listening first, you can get a feel for the emotional temperature of the room. When you don’t talk first, you send a message that you’re interested in what others have to say. You also display humility and express that you don’t have all the answers.

If you make assumptions, you’re closed off to who people really are and what they’re really communicating.

2. Avoid making assumptions.

It’s easy to jump to conclusions and make assumptions when you’re not paying attention to what others are saying and doing. By not making assumptions about a person or situation, you are free to be curious and ask questions. If you make assumptions, you’re closed off to who people really are and what they’re really communicating.

3. Pay attention to body language.

People’s body language often reflects their feelings. You can tell how people feel by observing how they’re sitting or carrying themselves. If their arms are crossed, there’s a good chance they’re closed off to what is being said. If their posture is open and they’re relaxed, they’re usually engaged and paying attention to what is being said. Noticing a person’s body language gives you information that allows you to respond appropriately to the people around you.

4. Pay attention to facial expressions.

What’s on the inside spills out through the face. You can often tell how people feel by their expressions. A smile may indicate peace and joy, while a frown can indicate frustration or fear. An expressionless face can indicate that a person is processing what’s being said, or it can mean a feeling of indifference. By paying close attention to facial expressions, you can quickly gauge people’s feelings in the moment. When you understand people’s feelings, you can shape conversations to better accommodate where they are emotionally.

Sound off: Do your kids know how to read a room? What else would you add to this list?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How would learning to read a room help your relationships?”