Faith, Relationship

Reader: 4 Thoughts for Reading People

@JeanneTakenaka

In May, I participated in a twelve-day Instagram writer’s challenge. It was both stretching and fun. We were given a different word each day and created posts about those words relating to our writer’s life. 

As I contemplated each word, I discovered correlations between writing life and real-life. I’ve expanded on the original posts, and I’d love to read your thoughts on these words as they relate to your life as well.

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Some of my earliest memories of my mom involve her curled up on our sofa lost in a book. When she read, it sometimes took WW3 in miniature form to bring her back to the world of three young, quarreling daughters. 

She was the first one who taught me to love reading. Even when I had to have eye therapy at five years old, I loved the feel of a book in my hands, the images from the story coming to life in my imagination.

As an adult, I’ve discovered there are many kinds of reading. We read not only the written word, we also read people and life situations. 

We create perceptions and perspectives based on how we read circumstances, on how we read people. Maybe because of my own childhood rejection wounds, I became hyper-sensitive to others’ responses to my words and actions. 

I learned to cultivate my actions so as not to give away what my true thoughts and feelings were. I learned to distinguish between people who would be safe to interact with on deeper levels, and who it was better to keep at a surface level of relationship.

But, I also became a reactor to others’ words and actions. I expected others to hurt me at some point, and I found myself anticipating that one word or action which would scrape open my heart wounds. 

This is a terrible mindset to guide my reading of people, and it skewed my relationships with those in my life. 

Over the past number of years, God has done a lot of healing in my heart, and as I’ve entrusted my wounds to Him, He’s renewed my understanding about people. 

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned when being a reader of people:

*Be aware of what shapes our perspective. Our past can be an inaccurate guide to help us discern our present. Reading people and situations through a lens of hurt will distort our understanding of others’ words and actions. 

*Don’t only read what we can see on the surface of a person. but give grace for what we can’t see. So often, I base my opinions on another person’s actions on how they treat me. I’ve been the one who was too quick to judge based solely on what I saw. When someone is rude, maybe they’ve just received bad news or had a hard day. Using this filter in my interactions helps me return kindness when someone is terse.

*Form perceptions based on grace—Let’s face it. We all have bad days and difficult seasons. These will impact the way we treat others, and how others treat us. We need to look beyond what we see and give grace for what we don’t understand. We’re all walking wounded. We don’t know what has caused another person to act a certain way. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is offer a smile. 

*Read people through the lens of God’s love—Jesus loves the worst of sinners. No, we aren’t Him, but He calls us to love because He first loved us. He doesn’t ask us to love without boundaries. All relationships—and especially unhealthy ones—need boundaries. In some situations, we need to ask God to help us see those people through His eyes and pray for them when it’s not safe for us to be in relationship with them.

Being a people-reader requires a lot more interaction on our part. We see and perceive certain things. And our hearts will pick up on other messages, other aspects of a person. 

As when we read written words, we should try to read people with an understanding heart.

What about you? What is one tip for responding to difficult people? What helps you treat others as Jesus would?

Click to Tweet: We need to look beyond what we see and give grace for what we don’t understand

I’m linking up with #TellHisStory and #RaRalinkup

40 thoughts on “Reader: 4 Thoughts for Reading People”

  1. Life was so much simpler then,
    no need for people-reads;
    the comfort-place of Combat Zen
    where everybody bleeds.
    Civilian life is hard to take,
    so many empty smiles.
    So little there that is not fake
    so much bespoke to styles.
    I know that I should try to learn
    the minutiae of social grace,
    but heck, I’d really rather turn
    and get in someone’s face.
    They say with dogs I’m at my best,
    one judgement that I won’t protest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andrew, there is so much truth in your words. Those empty smiles and fakeness that happens in relationships can be draining. We all have our strengths and weaknesses in relating to people. I love that God has given you those dogs to care for and love on and be cared for and loved in return. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, friend. I’m praying for you.

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  2. Such wisdom here, Jeanne. It’s so easy to react based on our own frame of reference. God has been so gracious with us when we least deserved it. May He help us extend that grace to others.

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    1. Barbara, you’re right. God has been gracious with us when we haven’t deserved it. I’m grateful that, when we’re willing, He helps us grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.

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  3. Jeanne,
    I agree that I/we need to not assume things upon first glance. Just like we carry a lot of hurts below the surface, so do other people. I also see that my own childhood experiences shaped how I “read” other people. I took in a lot of sensory information as a child, but I wasn’t always good at interpreting it. I read people and situations incorrectly a lot of the time. Know myself helps me to better understand others. It never hurts to give people the benefit of the doubt. If they keep continuing to hurt me, then I need to set boundaries. It’s truly a “learn as you go” process!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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    1. Bev, learning to give people the benefit of the doubt has been such an intentional learning for me. It’s never been something that came easily. I’m grateful God gives us chances to learn (often through those life lessons) how to be conformed to the image of His Son and to learn to give grace and His love to those around us. And yes, we do need to place boundaries in relationships where people continue to hurt us. I’m so thankful for your sharing your insights!

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  4. Love this connection between reading and understanding people.
    I’m reading Sensible Shoes with a book club and keep bumping into the description of one character who is expert at analyzing literature and is also a good reader of the “text” of the human heart.
    There’s certainly a connection there!

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  5. Love your tips on reading people well. It’s not just about reading them with our own ideas, but through the lens of God’s love and grace! (I’m really not great at this, so I’m praying God helps me in the gentlest of ways!)

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    1. Rebecca, it’s amazing how freeing it is to offer another person grace, but how stinking hard it can be sometimes. I think God gives us opportunities to grow in this quality . . . and when we do do it, we reflect Him so much more clearly to those we interact with. 🙂 May He continue to help both of us in this.

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  6. These are fantastic lessons, Jeanne! It’s so true, there’s always more going on than what we can see on the surface. Responding with love and grace makes such a difference. It’s so important too to be aware of what is impacting our perceptions as it’s easy to read things into people’s words and actions which were never intended.

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    1. Lesley, I imagine you know a lot about lots going on below the surface of a person. We need to be careful how we “read” others’ words and actions, don’t we? I’m thankful for the filter of God’s grace over us!

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  7. This is really wonderful, Jeanne! I am a people person; I love to read people. People’s stories fascinate me. I am convinced that the more we learn to listen to others (read them), the more we find answers for ourselves. When we open our hearts, homes, and lives we see that we are all woven together to display a much larger picture, namely God’s glory. Your encouragement to read has made my day! I am looking forward to the “good reads” God has for me today 🙂

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    1. Heidi, peoples’ stories fascinate me too. I agree, the more we listen to others, the better we understand them and ourselves. I like what you said about how, when we open our hearts, homes, and lives that we can see how God’s woven us together for His glory. Thanks for your encouraging words today, friend.

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  8. I love this post and it’s one I will share with the couples I coach. I think that your points apply to couples, too. Each person has a background of hurts and pain; even their upbringing can skew their future relationships. We each need to be aware of how our past forms our view of the present and the future. You said it well, “Our past can be an inaccurate guide to help us discern our present.” So true.

    I had a husband say to me in our session that his tone with his wife was all he knew. His family spoke to each other with derogatory tones and he didn’t realize that there was another way to speak. His wife was hurt by his tone and words. I reminded him that the measure by which we use to relate to our spouse is not the family we grew up in, but instead, it is God and His word. It was a revelatory moment for him. Great post!

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    1. Marcie, isn’t it kind of amazing to be present when God reveals Himself to someone in a new way? It sounds like He’s using you and your husband in some powerful ways! Thanks for sharing your story here!

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  9. Timely words for me. I heard words coming out of my mouth this morning and was immediately convicted that I had put someone I barely know into a “category” in my mind that will cause me to be hesitant to engage with her. You reminded me (again, as the Lord did this morning) that I really don’t know her well enough to box her in. Hmm, wonder what the Lord wants me to do?

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  10. Lots of good thoughts here, but this is one of my favorites: “Don’t only read what we can see on the surface of a person. but give grace for what we can’t see.” Amen. There is always more underneath. It’s true for others; it’s true for ourselves. Grace, grace.

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  11. Ah, my very favorite line in this beautiful, vulnerable and encouraging post: “Form perceptions based on grace.” We are all silly, imperfect humans trying to make it through. Only through God can we overcome and find joy.

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    1. Yes, Jessica. We are silly and imperfect. Grace can be a powerful instrument to help us not only make it through, but live well. And yes, only God can enable us to overcome and find joy. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  12. So much challenge here – to read people with grace, through the lens of God’s love and refusing to make judgments simply by looking at “the cover.” Certainly how I would like to be read by others but not always my first action. Convicting. Thanks for the reminder and the challenge.

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    1. Jennifer, I’m with you. I’d rather be read through a lens of grace, but I’m not always great at doing that for others. I’m thankful God still showers His grace on us—on me—and reminds me to step up and step into that way of interacting with others.

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  13. This is so good, Jeanne. All your thoughts and tips hit home with me. Maybe we need to ask the Lord to help us do more of what we often hear, “Reading between the lines.”And not just any reading between the lines, the Spirit’s help in real discernment on what may really be going on. Sure, sometimes the person’s intent is to hurt and wound us. But, so much of the time, we or the other person have experienced bad news or something similar causing us to act and react in ways not characteristic of us. I pray to be careful to form perceptions based on grace and through the lens of God’s love. Help us, Lord!

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    1. Yes, we should be asking the Lord to help us read between the lines. You’re right. So often, people don’t set out to hurt other people. I’ve had to learn to think the best in “doubtful” situations. Most of the time, that choice to show grace makes the difference in how the situation goes. I love your thoughts here.

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  14. How wonderful that God is working in your own life. He takes our misconceptions about others and refines the view with His grace. It reminds me of the saying “never judge a book by its cover.”

    I find I sometimes let other people sway my view of a person. It is something I am learning not to get caught up in. It takes prayer and discernment from God to show me the beauty of those I meet.

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    1. Yes, Mary! Our Father is always faithful to refine our views, our perceptions, with His grace. You bring up a great point about how we need to be careful how others sway our perceptions of a person. I completely agree about the necessity of prayer and discernment to see the beauty in others. Thank you for sharing your wisdom here, friend!

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