The most effective way to “read a room” — no matter what the venue is — is paying close attention to others by taking notice of what they’re saying and doing.
You should also take notice of people’s body language, mannerisms, behaviors and personality traits.
Reading a room is a critical career and workplace skill, according to experts.
“You read the room by scanning it,” said Blanca Cobb, a body language expert with TruthBlazer in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“You look at the people and assess what’s happening. You look to see if anything doesn’t fit the context or stands out.”
Assessing the people in the room can lead to greater success on the job.
Here’s a deeper dive.
Individuals can assess people by observing their mannerisms, their behaviors and the ways that they’re interacting with others in the room, Cobb told FOX Business.
“Look for positive, neutral and negative body language, which indicates their current emotional state,” Cobb said. “Use their body language cues to direct your interactions with them.”
In addition to their body language, hone in on their mannerisms, gestures, facial expressions and proximity to others as well as listen to their tone of voice, rate of speech and the way they talk.
“Also, consider the context in which all of this is happening. All of this information gives you a sense of their baseline behavior,” said Cobb.
“In the workplace, knowing your co-workers’ baseline lets you know when it’s a good time to talk to them or when they’re thinking of something else and not the topic at hand.”
To stay professional, you want to maintain a physical distance of two to four feet from others, Cobb recommended — and you should keep physical touch to a minimum.
“Handshakes are appropriate within the workplace, but touching someone on their back, arm or hand, or standing too close to them, can be considered inappropriate and make someone feel uncomfortable,” said Cobb.
Test an observation to see if you’re right.
“For example, if you think that a co-worker is distracted, you could ask a question about something said earlier in the conversation,” said Cobb.
“If they answer the question correctly, then your observation is wrong, but if they don’t remember or aren’t sure, then your observation is spot-on.”
It’s important to be mindful of your conclusions.
“Instead of immediately thinking you know why someone is acting in a certain way, challenge your thinking,” said Cobb. “Ask yourself what you’re basing your decision on.”
There is both verbal and non-verbal communication, of course.
“Both are critical to understanding how to be effective in the workplace,” said Jonathan Alpert, a psychotherapist and executive performance coach with practices in Manhattan and Washington, D.C.
He is also the author of the book, “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.”
“Being able to read your colleagues, or not, can be the difference between staying stagnant in a career or advancing,” he said.
“To know what someone might be thinking or feeling simply by studying and observing their body language can give you the edge that often is needed in today’s hyper-competitive workforce,” Alpert also said.
Ruth Sherman, a communications expert and CEO with Ruth Sherman Associates in Greenwich, Connecticut, said it’s nearly impossible to read a room in a virtual situation, since essentially there is no room.
“Add to this the requirement that you look into the camera lens because that is what creates the illusion of eye contact, and it complicates things even more,” she said.
“I advise clients to be selective about how much they want to meet on camera. This is because it is very taxing — much more so than meeting in person.”
Not every meeting has to be a video meeting, said Sherman.
“I make a concerted effort to save video for client calls,” said Sherman. “For other calls, phone is more than enough.”