How to read the room and have engaging conversations
Reading a room is a handy skill whether it’s a boardroom, industry conference hall, or the holiday party. Social intelligence involves taking the temperature of the crowd and understanding:
- Why are people gathered?
- Who is present?
- What are the expectations?
- What common interests are shared by the room?
Some of this will be easily detectable, but other parts will require flexing your social intelligence and understanding what’s not said. Pay attention to the room’s non-verbal cues.
Non-verbal communication accounts for up to 93% of human communication. Are people raising their eyebrows? They are likely interested in what you’re saying. Are they rolling their eyes or letting them wander? They are probably less interested. Understanding the things people don’t say informs what you should say next.
In addition to non-verbal communication, there is paraverbal communication, consisting of 3 areas: pitch, tone, and speed of speech. Tune your ear to the sound, not the words, and you’ll gain greater insight into what’s being said, which allows you to connect and establish rapport.
For most people, when they think of a conversation, they think of talking, but a conversationalist knows it’s about listening and observing. To improve your conversational skills, observe verbal and non-verbal cues. Look at their body language. Do they appear annoyed or bored? Are they maintaining eye contact or nodding? Listen to their words, notice their tone, and be aware of their body language. People like it when we actively listen.
According to Psychology Today, a good listener gives their conversation partner a ‘feeling as if they had a good “connection” with him or her.’ Conversations are opportunities for connecting and building social relationships. Our successes and failures in business ventures can sometimes come down to a single conversation.
Before you speak, think about what you’ve observed. What makes this person tick? Be tactful of how they speak. Are they formal? Do they use slang? Practice the science of human relationships. Be emotionally intelligent. Each conversation is its own game with unique rules about what’s expected and what you cannot say. The more you observe, the more people will think you are a good listener, and thus, the more they feel they’ve connected with you.
Social intelligence is putting your interpersonal skills to use for connecting with and inspiring others. There are those who effortlessly connect and inspire, but you may need to work your social brain. Self-awareness, empathy, and communication are people skills that grow the more we focus on them and apply them. If you’d like to learn more about connecting with and influencing people, take a look at our course Social Intelligence: Grow Your Confidence.