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How to Read Social Cues

Pay close attention to nonverbal communication: learning how to interpret gestures is critical to understanding the meanings behind human interactions.


  • Step 1: Notice the distance Notice the distance away from you at which a person is standing. The closer someone stands to you, the more comfortable they feel with you.
  • Step 2: Read body signals Read body signals. Notice hand gestures, stance, and movement. Crossed arms indicate defensiveness, while open arms and hands suggest a feeling of openness.
  • Step 3: Make eye contact Make eye contact. If someone you are talking to is not looking you in the eye or consistently breaks eye contact, it is usually a sign that they are disinterested in you, or at least in the conversation. Conversely, maintaining prolonged eye contact can mean that someone is attracted to you.
  • TIP: In some cultures it is a sign of respect to maintain eye contact, but no romantic inference is intended.
  • Step 4: Avoid long stares Look out for long stares, especially from a person in a position of authority. It usually means they are angry or are looking for an answer.
  • Step 5: Don't ignore vocal inflection Don't ignore vocal inflection. Catching the tone in someone's voice is important to detect sarcasm as well as humor. Keep in mind that electronic communication erases such signals, so most e-mails and text messages are taken literally.
  • Step 6: Teach social cues Take the time and effort to learn and teach social cues so that you are clearly understood in your day-to-day interactions with people.
  • FACT: A person suffering from Asperger's syndrome -- a form of autism -- has an inability or great difficulty grasping social cues.

You Will Need

  • Face-to-face interaction

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