A recent post by Ideo CEO Tim Brown on Why Simple Communication is Complex included a great Peter Drucker quote – “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”  It got me thinking about how best to do that in a world where we often don’t have the luxury of being face-to-face where we can look into the eyes or read body language of the person we’re communicating with.

How then do you hear what isn’t being said if all you have to go on is a website, email, tweet or blog post?

Here’s the thing. Everything you do, say, wear or surround yourself with says something about you. As the old adage goes – we can not help but communicate. So we need to be aware of how people are reading us and at the same time, learn more about how to read the people and situations around us.

Begin by becoming more aware of your subconscious reading.  Even though you may not consciously read a person, an article, or a situation, you can be sure your subconscious is at work 24/7. Think about the websites you like and those that just don’t do it for you.  What’s the difference?  Is it the aesthetic feel? The personalness or notion of real people behind the scenes?  The tone of the words? The ease of finding what you want?  These are all part of the hidden message of the website. Here’s an article on the elements that make for a psychologically sound website. R-E-S-P-E-C-T Formula for Website Credibility.  It provides insight into what customers need to see, hear or experience on the site in order to trust you and want to do business with you.  There is a similar “list” of psych elements for tweets, for emails, for Facebook posts and all other forms of communication.

Here are some additional resources for reading people:

How to Read People Blog

Face Values – How to read people and adjust your presentation to connect with them in less than three minutes – although this book is primarily about reading people by their face, it also includes information on reading by energy, tone, language, etc.

How you speak and write provides clues to your identity and character

How to read people by the words they use

Reading Proactive and Passive from Demeanor and Language

Hidden Identity – How your customers and prospects really see you – Although this article was written long before social media became part of our lives, the concepts still ring true today. Definitely worth a read.