“When you ‘read between the lines’, you understand better what someone means even when they may not be outright saying or expressing it.”

‘Reading Between the Lines’ is a popular expression or phrase that really holds a lot of weight to it when you think of the meaning. When you ‘read between the lines’, you understand better what someone means even when they may not be outright saying or expressing it. Beyond simply verbally conveying their thoughts or feelings, the key ability to perceive how someone really feels through other factors such as their tone, their body language, their interaction(s) with the environment around them, this can really make a difference in how well you read them and what they really mean.

Culturally, indirect speech, behavior, or communication is quite common and what is not said is as important or if not more so important than what is said. You can save yourself a lot of trouble in life by reading between the lines and inferring what is meant or indicated than what is vaguely said or stated to you directly. Maybe you will be able to grasp a basic idea of what someone means through their speech or their mannerisms, but you will often have to look at not just those factors but also the environment for which it was said, the context for which it was given, the body language of the person(s) involved, and the tone of voice that they used to convey the message.

Because of trying to protect sensitivities or not disrupt group harmony or not wanting to ‘rock the boat’, another similar expression, either professionally or personally, you will be asked to read between the lines of what is written and what is said throughout life. Knowing the difference and how to understand what is directly implied to you but indirectly stated will save you a lot of confusion, disappointment, and time above all else. I’ve written before about how important it is to mind your surroundings, and that ties into why it is key to notice the environment you’re in when the speech is given, or where the meeting happens.

Some factors that come into play when it comes to reading between the lines of a speech or a public discourse that is happening, the speaker(s) body language, tone, and whether they are really conveying their true feelings or beliefs in what they are saying. If they are masking what they truly believe or feel, you should be able to pick that up through steady practice. It is not just about the spoken word but also about the written word and this can be crucial when it comes to important legal, medical, or financial documents.

You should constantly be noting the who / when / where / what / why / how of the author and who is the audience they are addressing. It is also necessary to ask are they writing with a specific tone and do they have a personal bias or an agenda that shows through their written piece. It is much easier to read between the lines when you are with that person in the same room and they are speaking to you directly or indirectly in an audience because you can hear the tone, see the body language, and watch their emotional state. It is much harder yet no less important to be able to pick that up through writing whether it is a text message from a friend or a legal contract from a lawyer.

This kind of skill is not taught to many people, but it is a vital skill to have especially when you are trying to tell if someone is being truthful, if they have your best interests at heart, and if they really understand what you are telling them. If you are listening intently, absorbing what you are hearing or reading, and able to come to your own conclusions after putting some thought into it, you will be ahead of other people. Reading between the lines is a skill that takes not only additional concentration but patience as well. You should not be interrupting when you do this verbally, be distracted by another task or person to mix up your attention, really watching the person(s) talking and observing how they act in the environment they’re in, and most importantly, what is your relation to the person, how long have you known them for, and if you know anything about their background for which you can infer something about who they are.

It is easier to know someone’s true thoughts, feelings, or beliefs when you are giving them your undivided attention. You also have an advantage if you know a little bit about them beforehand, their background, what their personality is like, and what their point of view is likely to be based on all those factors. This kind of perspective can make a big difference especially professionally because you’ll know better of who you’re dealing with, where they’re coming from, and what they might be like when they meet and talk with you.

There are going to be crucial points in your life where you’ll need to read between the lines such as during an intense negotiation, dealing with business meetings, and just making sure in your day-to-day life that you’re not being taken advantage of. It can be hard to trust other people at times and you really must screen them hard to see if they are giving you the truth, embellishing a little bit, or outright lying. Being able to read between the lines will not only help with the major events in life but also in small day-to-day interactions as well. Most importantly, if you carry yourself well, give steady eye contact, listen without interrupting, speak clearly and in a steady tone, avoid distractions when you’re reading or listening, you will have a much easier time being able to read people.

You likely won’t be anywhere near 100% successful in thinking you know the person or people you’re reading in terms of body language, behavior, and their actions but you’ll be much better off than before if you at least try. Indirect communication can be a real pain to navigate but it is quite common in our culture and our society. To remedy that, make sure you do your best to read between the lines, make an assessment, and carry forward with the best intentions. I think it is quite likely you’ll be in a better position than you were before by adopting this skill and making it a priority in your life.

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The Life and Times of Ben Weinberg

English Teacher, Entrepreneur, World Traveler, and Writer from New York.