How to Speedread People

images-3A time-tested approach to figuring out how people differ is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – a simple personality test that places people along four areas:

  1. Extraversion (E) or introversion (I)
  2. Sensing (S) or intuition (N)
  3. Thinking (T) or feeling (F)
  4. Judging (J) or perceiving (P)


While grouping personalities in broad types always runs the danger of oversimplification, the Myers-Briggs categories have proven surprisingly robust over the years, so much so that many businesses ask their employees to take the quiz to help improve communication, collaboration, and to be more respectful of differences.

In a previous post I wrote about the importance of knowing our personality. I provided a link to a quiz to understand your own personality. If you have not taken the quiz, I highly suggest that you do so. It can be both surprising and enlightening!

Of course you can’t always ask people you meet to take the quiz so here are some suggestions on how to “speedread” people. As I did the research and wrote this post, my personality type didn’t always fit into the specifics given here but overall I fit within the majority of the data. These are merely guidelines..if you really want to know..ask the other person. 🙂

Spotting the differences between extraverts vs. introverts:

images-4Extraverts usually display more physical energy and are animated when they talk. Introverts usually will be restrained physically and project calm and reserve. In groups extraverts gain energy and may want to be the life of the party whereas introverts may withdrawal and are rarely the life of the party. In communicating, extraverts usually talk more, faster, and louder than introverts. Introverts talk less, and focus less on the people they’re talking to and enjoy exploring a single topic in depth. The extravert can be an open book with others and derive energy from interaction. Introverts may be more likely to open up to only a few close friends.

How to tell a sensor from an intuitive:

Unknown-3About 65% of the U.S. population are sensors whereas 35% are intuitives. So the odds are the person you’re meeting is a sensor. Here’s an example as to how you can tell the difference: An apple is given to a sensor and an intuitive and they are asked to describe it. The sensor will give you a description using the five senses – telling you what type of apple it is, how it feels, how it looks, and compares it to the size of a baseball. The intuitive will give you an association, impression, memories, and stories that take you back to the Garden of Eden – they will tell you that they are used for pies, juice, and a host of other things. Language for an intuitive is a plaything. For a sensor, it’s a tool. Sensors like physical or slapstick humor best while intuitives like more cerebral forms of humor. Intuitive’s tend to finish other’s sentences, whereas sensors are more likely to wait until others have completed their whole thought. Intuitives repeat and recap; sensors are typically direct and to the point. Sensors are more aware of their bodies and are more naturally graceful. Intutitives have a track record of bumping into things.

The differences between thinkers and feelers:

images-565% of males are thinkers and 65% of females are feelers but this doesn’t mean we can assume. Feelers will usually go out of their way to help people – if you think a person is “just nice” they are likely to be a feeler. Feelers are more ready to reveal personal information about themselves and more likely to share their feelings. They are more sentimental and less fond of violence in movies or on TV. Thinkers are assertive and tend to appear more confident. They like to get to the point quickly and are less likely to take things personally. In communicating, feelers tend to be good at finding areas of agreement; thinkers are better at delineating areas of difference.

Judger vs. perceiver – Telling them apart:

images-6Typically judgers are 60% of the population and perceivers the other 40%. In demeanor, judgers appear more formal and perceivers more casual. Judgers are restrained, serious, and no-nonsense. Perceivers are fun loving and playful. Judgers like to be in charge, perceivers are able to go with the flow. Judgers often appear to be in a hurry. Perceivers are more apt to give the appearance of calm. Judgers are typically better able to manage their time.

In communicating judgers appear decisive and deliberate. Perceivers may have a harder time making decision. In giving opinions, judgers tend to be forthright and assertive, where perceivers may appear more flexible and less determined to take one particular course of action. Judgers like structure, rules, and clear procedures. Perceivers are much more comfortable with ambiguity.

UnknownTake a moment (if you haven’t already) and choose someone you know that hasn’t taken or shared his or her Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Can you figure out by speedreading them what they are? Extrovert or introvert? Sensor or intuitive? Thinker or feeler? Judger or perceiver?

Now that you’ve figured out someone, we can apply this insight to shape our communication in ways that make it easier for other types to listen to. When we can speak the language of other types, we’ll be able to get our points across more successfully.

UnknownTalking to an extrovert:

  • Communicate verbally rather than in writing.
  • Let them think out loud.
  • In meetings provide a variety of topics to keep them engaged.
  • Keep meetings moving along – don’t over analyze an issue.
  • Strive to get immediate action from meetings.


Unknown-4Talking to an introvert:

  • Spend more time listening than talking.
  • Take one subject on at a time.
  • Write rather than talk.
  • Allow time for reflection and consideration.
  • When meeting with them face-to-face – don’t finish their sentences.

Unknown-5Communicating with a sensor:

  • Provide clear delineation of the topic at hand – have facts, examples, and cases.
  • Present information in a step-by-step fashion in a practical manner.
  • Speak in complete sentences

Unknown-1Communicating with an intuitive:

  • Provide a sense of the big picture first.
  • Use analogies and metaphors – go light on the facts.
  • Use brainstorming options and figure out ways to engage them on the imagination level.
  • Let them figure out the possibilities in the ideas you are presenting.

images-7What to say to a thinker:

  • Be logical and organized in your communication.
  • Make sure that you’ve thought through the logical flow of a discussion or presentation.
  • Don’t ask them what they feel ask them what they think.
  • Be concise and don’t repeat yourself.

images-8What to say to a feeler:

  • Remind them of the points you already agree upon first.
  • Acknowledge their contributions in a way that shows you understand and respect their emotions.
  • Address the people issues – don’t focus solely on the facts of the business.
  • Maintain healthy eye contact, smile and be friendly.

images-10Succeeding with a judger:

  • Show up on time and be ready to go.
  • In meetings have a clear agenda and cover all of the points.
  • Resolve issues brought up and come to conclusions.
  • Find ways to be decisive.
  • Be efficient, don’t waist their time or yours.
  • Have a plan and stick to it.

images-9Succeeding with a perceiver:

  • They will have lots of questions, respect their need to ask.
  • Don’t force decisions on them, better to give them time to make a decision later.
  • Allow for a lengthily discussion of options, opportunities, direction changes, and mid-course corrections.
  • Pay attention to the process not the end product.
  • Give them choices.
  • Incorporate their contribution to the flow of discussion.

By using different communication styles for different types, you’ll have a better chance of connecting with people in ways that make it easier for them and more successful for you. They’ll be more likely to understand your point of view and be more favorably toward it. Use these four continua of types to improve your communication style and eliminate unnecessary static in the give-and-take of communication with others.