As a capable leader, your ability to read the room can help you influence change by modulating your behavior and tone to suit your environment. Reading the room means that you can look at your surroundings to figure out how people are feeling or what the “vibe” is and then match that.
The importance of reading the room
Granted, “reading the room” is one of those phrases that people use all the time, but no one has really laid out exactly what it means and how to do it. However, it’s another soft skill that all of us could benefit from as we interact with the world around us, in a social as well as professional capacity.
You can better understand how your audience is responding to your message if you are able to read the room. You can adjust your communication style, tone, and approach to better align with the needs and preferences of those around you.
Additionally, when you read the room, you can identify common interests, concerns, and values. This can help you build rapport and establish stronger connections with the people around you. To the contrary, if tensions are high in the room, reading the room can help you identify the root cause of the conflict and work towards a resolution.
How to read the room – 3 steps to raise your social awareness
“Reading the room” is an important skill that can be used in a variety of social and professional situations. It means being able to understand the social dynamics of a situation, the mood and attitudes of the people in the room, and the unspoken communication that may be going on.
Here are some ways to improve your ability to read the room and influence change:
1. Observe body language and energy.
The first way to read the room—and the room can be just one person or online, by the way—is to observe the body language and energy of the people you are engaging with, whenever you can. Remember that nonverbal communication adds important context as well. This is why you need to learn to pay more attention to the things that are not being said, not just the words. Adults and even kids can be good at lying with words. It’s definitely harder to lie with one’s body language and energy.
The first thing you need to do when you step into any space is to observe the energy and body language of the people and that space. It will tell you a whole lot more than their words or silence can say. Malcolm X used to say that anytime he gave a speech, he could tell if there was more attention than normal in a room, and that helped him tailor what he said and how he said it to his audience.
2. Listen carefully.
Be a keen listener, not only in regard to what is said but also to what is NOT being said. This is not to say that words do not matter; of course, they do. In listening, however, you should also notice what people are not saying and get good at understanding the direction someone is going with their words. Not everyone is as good with words as you are; sometimes people are trying to make a certain point but are just not very articulate in making it.
By tuning into your ability to read the room, however, you can understand where they are trying to go, even if they are clumsy and get there. This means that you should address the direction of what someone is saying rather than the specific verbiage that they use. Especially if your goal is to build rapport with the people you’re addressing and influence change in the process.
3. Notice the environment and the energy of the space you’re in.
This is about the physical space that you step into, not just the people who are in it. So, in that sense, this is literally reading the room. Any room you walk into has a certain energy, a specific “vibe.” This “feel” can be a result of the music, the paint on the walls, or the temperature. It could also be the energy exuded by the people who are already in it, the experiences you’ve had in it in the past, and the expectations you bring with you into the room. All these factors add to the environment and energy of any space, and reading them accurately can mean that your social awareness quotient is distinctly higher.
This is why, in some cultures, people engage in energy cleansing rituals and practices when moving into a new home that was previously occupied. They even call in some experts to prep the space so that they can put their own energy into that space.
Takeaway: Read the room to influence change.
So, being able to read a room is an important skill that can help you communicate better, build stronger relationships, and handle social and work situations better.By observing the people in the room, you can pick up on cultural differences and change the way you talk to be more effective and polite.
If you can read the room, it will be easier for you to deal with office politics, understand how power works, and make strategic alliances at work. It can also help you anticipate changes in the workplace and adapt accordingly.