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How to Read a Room

Whether you’re in the business industry or tech world, or anything in between, chances are you’ve heard the term, “reading the room.” This coined phrase refers to the idea that when people are together, there are messages, feelings, opinions, that are shared but without using verbal language. These messages can be shared through body language, emotional empathy, or recognizing a subtle change in behavior. Reading a room can be helpful in many situations, because it gives insight to how people are feeling in certain situations—but, doing it correctly can be really difficult. Here are a few ways to improve your room reading at your next meeting or business lunch:

Practice Observance

Next time you’re in a room full of people, try to remember to take a step back and reflect on what’s happening in the moment. Pay close attention to who’s in attendance, where people are sitting, and how they react to what people are saying. A lot of the insight gained through reading a room happens when you pay attention to people’s body language and not just what they are saying. Try noticing eyebrow raises, smirks, and when people cross their arms or shift their body weight.

Check Your Observations

What good is reading a room if you don’t use it to improve people’s experiences? If you notice something obvious, like if some disagrees with a decision that’s been made, or on a lighter note—maybe someone is cold, it’s important to bring your observations to the table and offer them up for a discussion piece. No one likes being called out, so make sure to be gentle in your candor and always use “I statements” when discussing what you’ve noticed. Using phrases like, “Before we continue, I think we should pause and check in.” If you’ve noticed something about one person in particular, it’s always best do your check-in when in a private setting.

Take Control

If things are starting to get tense and people are beginning to feel uncomfortable, you can always lighten things up. Consider suggesting a 5 minute break, or even acknowledge how people are feeling and ask for any specific needs. Using phrases like, “I know this has been a tough conversation, how is everyone feeling,” will give people the encouragement they need to speak up.

Make Notes for Next Time

Try to remember the way people react to each other both in times of stress and celebration. This will give insight to the best way to connect with people during difficult or stressful moments. When reading the room becomes second nature, you’ll find you can learn a lot about people when tuning into their reactions and responses even during a one hour meeting.

When it comes to reading a room, what helps you the best?

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