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How to Read People You Have Never Met

You will need to check out primary and secondary souces of info.

Key points

  • It is not only possible to read people you know, it's possiblt to read those you don't know.
  • Reading people you don't yet know requires the use of primary and secondary sources.
  • It's possible to glean useful information about people in advance of meeting them.

In an earlier Psychology Today blog, we discussed how to read people you know. It hinges on a framework we have developed—called FAD HOP—that evaluates seven facets of functioning. We find that it is possible to use the same framework to read people you have never met. This situation is common for job seekers and sales professionals.

Reading those you've not met before involves the strategic use of secondary and primary information sources of information.

Secondary Information

Secondary information refers to online or offline publications written by or about the target individual. Using the FAD HOP format outlined below, how might the values espoused in the publications fit into the framework?

Start with your favorite search engine. Type the name of your individual and the word “blog.” Once that is done, try tying in the name followed by the word “publication.”

Connect to “news.google.com.” Are there any news stories about this person or this person’s company?

Turn to LinkedIn.com to see whether the target person has posted any articles or made any comments.

Information obtained through this method is only a data point: Psychology Today readers are familiar with the gap between public pronouncements versus behavior.

Primary Information

Primary information refers to written or verbal conversations with individuals who have direct knowledge about the target individual. Explain that you have a scheduled meeting with the individual and would appreciate their perspective.

Using the FAD HOP framework, find the three top factors you wish to focus on. Frame your questions to your primary information sources using the 0-10 scale supplied below. The explanation for why the number was given is often more illuminating than the number itself.

One source of primary contacts would be LinkedIn.com.

Using LinkedIn.com

Go to LinkedIn.com and ask to be connected to the target individual you are scheduled to meet. In most cases, you will get a positive response. Now that you are both connected on Linkedin.com, you may be able to tap into connections you and the target person both share.

Another secondary source: Go to the individual's company profile on LinkedIn. Do you have first-level connections with those who work or have worked at the company? Focus on people whose occupational level might have provided them with direct contact with your target.

A third secondary source: your college and graduate school alumni databases. Are there alumni who have worked at the company? Can you contact them?

The FAD HOP Format

The FAD HOP framework was inspired by psychologist Howard Gardner of Harvard University (2006) plus Stybel Peabody’s consulting work with leaders. For each of the factor,s on the framework, we supply a rating scale of 0-10. “FAD HOP” is a mnemonic device to remember the framework.

(F) Facts (0-10).

Are facts used to rationalize decisions? A 0 rating means the person is not convinced by facts. A 10 means the person thinks it is of the utmost importance that arguments be data-driven. You may be a 10, but if your target is a 2, you better load your presentation with emotion. A typical example is a family business CEO who tells you that 15% sales growth per year is the goal, but the emotional driver is that the CEO wants to be known as superior to his peers in the industry.

(A) Likely Acceptance (0-10).

What is the probability of the person accepting 100% of your proposal? A 0-rating means there is zero probability of the person accepting 100% of your proposal. A 10 means there is 100% probability. Anything between 0 and 10 is your estimate of how big a first step should be. If that first step is successful, confidence is built for future steps. Your vision may be big but what sells best may be a small step.

(D) “I am the Decider” (0-10)

Who makes the decisions? A 0 rating means the person strongly believes in team consensus. A 10 means that the person strongly believes “I am the Decider.” A 7 means the person wants to go through the process of consensus but ultimately the Decider rules. The higher the score on this factor, the more you must verbally humble yourself.

(H) Sense of Humor” (0-10).

Does the person have a good sense of humor? A 0 rating means the person has no sense of humor. A 1 rating means the person is open to humor at the expense of others, e.g., ridiculing competitors, adversaries, colleagues, etc. A 10 means the person is open to humor where all parties can laugh together.

(O) Differences of Opinion (0-10)

How open is the person to other perspectives? A 0 means the person does not welcome new ideas. A 10 means a preference for dialog and conflicting views.

(P) Get to the Point (0-10)

What is the person's preferred style of getting to the point of things? A 0 means the person prefers you to make your point indirectly through stories and analogies. A 10 means a preference for getting to the point quickly with an Executive Summary at the start of your presentation.

Summary and Conclusions.

FAD HOP is a structure to read people. It provides a technique for making educated guesses about people you have not yet met. Using this information, you can change your style of presentation to increase the probability of acceptance.

References

H. Gardner. Changing Minds: the art and science of changing our own and other peoples’ minds. 2006, Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

L. Stybel and M. Peabody. “How to Read People.” Psychology Today, 2022. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/platform-success/202210/how-rea…

L. Stybel and M. Peabody. “Are You Funny Enough to be an Effective Leader?” Psychology Today, 2022, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/platform-success/202206/are-you…

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