When you first get into real estate investing and landlording, people tell you all about how to find goods deal on properties, setting the proper rental rates, dealing with maintenance issues, etc. What they don’t tell you about is the importance of soft skills and interacting with people. But at the end of the day, a great deal of your success will be tied to how you relate to tenants, contractors, lenders, and other real estate professionals. And if you don’t how to “read” people, you’ll fail to realize your full potential.
The Benefits of Being Able to Read People
“Recognizing how other people feel serves as a major social asset,” psychotherapist Amy Morin writes. “Whether you accurately interpret a quick glance from a partner, or you notice your neighbor’s disinterest in hearing your story, perceiving other people’s emotions correctly improves communication. Reading subtle – and even disguised – emotions could also provide a great deal of leverage in business transactions.”
According to extensive research from MIT, it’s possible to predict the outcome of negotiations, sales calls, or business pitches with 87 percent accuracy simply by analyzing body language.
But for real estate investors and landlords, the real value in reading people is the capability it gives you to accurately screen tenants, see through lies, justify risks, and forge powerful connections with people of influence.
6 Tips and Techniques for Reading People
Most people think they’re pretty decent at reading people, but we often overestimate our own abilities. The good news, however, is that you can acquire people-reading skills through specific training and practice.
In order to help you become a better investor and landlord, here are a few tips and techniques that FBI agents, interrogators, and lawyers use to enhance their own people-reading skills. Take a look:
1. Create a Baseline
You’re probably aware that people act weird when they’re uncomfortable or being deceptive. However, it’s not enough to look at someone, identify an odd trait, and claim they’re lying. To properly read someone, you must create a baseline for their behavior.
“People have different quirks and patterns of behavior,” explains LaRae Quy, who spent 23 years as a counterintelligence agent for the FBI. “For example, they might clear their throat, look at the floor while talking, cross their arms, scratch their head, stroke their neck, squint, pout, or jiggle their feet frequently. Initially, we may not even notice when others do these things. If we do, we don’t give it much attention.”
You must spend some time developing a mental baseline for a person’s actions. Once you have this in place, you can then look for deviations and inconsistencies that indicate something is happening.
2. Context Matters
Context is vitally important when reading people. Without proper context, you’ll get mixed signals that aren’t accurate or helpful.
For example, basic behavior analysis shows that people fold their arms and hold them close to their body when they want to close themselves off from other people. But someone could also cross their arms if they’re cold, or if there aren’t armrests in the chair they’re sitting in.
3. Look for Clusters of Gestures
When reading people, you’re often told to keep an eye out for certain gestures – such as clearing the throat, scratching the face, shifting weight, or looking away. But the truth is that these are things we all do in the course of any given day. If you’re only looking for a single sign, you’ll eventually see it. What you should be looking for is a cluster of gestures – lots of throat clearing, scratching, etc. When you notice repetitive behaviors like these, it’s possible to make inferences.
4. Watch the Eyes
They say that our eyes are the windows to our souls. If you want to read people, watch their eyes.
“Our eyes transmit powerful energies,” Judith Orloff, M.D. explains. “Just as the brain has an electromagnetic signal extending beyond the body, studies indicate that the eyes project this too. Take time to observe people’s eyes. Are they caring? Sexy? Tranquil? Mean? Angry?”
5. Listen to Your Intuition
You can’t base everything on a feeling, but your intuition is often right. Combined with a practical understanding of how to read people, you should give some weight to what your gut tells you.
6. Use the Subtle Expression Training Tool (eSETT)
When it comes to reading emotions and facial expressions, nobody is better than Paul Ekman, Ph.D. He’s been called “the best human lie detector in the world” and can easily detect micro-expressions that correlate to our inner emotions.
For decades, Ekman has refined a set of training tools designed to help others learn how to do the same. You can access this training via his Subtle Expression Training Tools (eSETT). It provides training and tutorials that teach you how to recognize everything from anger, fear and disgust, to surprise, happiness, and shock.
As Morin explains, “[This course teaches how] subtle differences in the movement of the eyebrows and corners of the mouth reveal a lot about emotion. Anger and disgust are often easily confused and at times, fear and surprise look somewhat alike. But recognizing those slight yet distinguishable differences in facial expressions could change the way you communicate.”
If nothing else, learning how to identify micro-expressions will allow you to get a better feel for how people are feeling beneath the façade they put forth. As a real estate investor, this can help you with everything from negotiations to partnerships.
Green Residential: Professional Property Management
At Green Residential, we understand that property management is about more than drafting lease agreements and collecting rent. It’s our job to serve as a transparent liaison between the owner and the tenant.
In pursuit of this goal, we’re constantly committing to improve our soft skills so that we can provide the best possible service to all parties involved. For more information on how we can help you manage your Houston real estate, please contact us!