Reading the Room
Can you read the room? How can you know if you’re reading the room? Can you be absolutely certain you’re reading the room?
I was recently gathered with a new group. I sat in silence for what felt like a long time as the others were deep in a conversation that I didn’t feel part of. I sat waiting for the subject to shift. After an hour or so I felt my ability to speak grew cold and my willingness to listen evaporated. I was not the only one sitting silently, arms crossed and disconnected. In my head, I wanted to say hey! please! read the room!
As the feeling of isolation grew up around me, I felt myself withdraw. I felt resentment, then irritation and finally, boredom. I rose and wandered away.
I realize I may be overly sensitive to reading the room. A large part of teaching is being able to sense if people are engaged? Are they listening? Has the energy dropped? Before you can read the room, you need to become aware that it is something you might want to consider doing.
Can you tell when others are struggling? Do you notice when eyes drop to the floor or flit around the room. Are you aware when you’ve been talking too long?
As an intimacy coach, helping others become aware of the play of energy between themselves and others can sometimes be a big revelation, if they are ready to look in that direction.
Haven’t we all had that feeling of being trapped by others unconsciousness? Of either being talked at or ignored. It’s not malicious. It’s just not aware. No one is doing anything to hurt anyone else. It’s just that some of us lack a certain kind of sensitivity to others experience.
It’s like being color blind. If you can’t see the color blue, you don’t know that you should be looking for it. If someone doesn’t know how to read the room, it doesn’t make them a bad person. It does means that what they might perceive as a positive interaction could be actually an uncomfortable situation for others.
How can you know if you’re reading the room?
3 things you can look for.
Notice how you feel when speaking. If you see smiles and eyes looking in your direction, keep going! If you feel your own excitement drop, you might be feeling a shift in the room. That’s a good time to ask a question or invite others to reflect or respond.
Watch others bodies and eyes. If their arms are crossed over their chests, they may be closing up. If no one is making eye contact with you, they may be looking for an exit strategy.
Every share has a life, a beginning, a middle and an end. Try to key into this organic aspect of your own sharing. If you start a new share, before coming to the end of your previous share, you may be holding others hostage who are looking for a way to engage.
No one will tell you if you’re not reading the room, but they may keep their distance in the future instead of being honest. It’s certainly easier.
In terms of intimacy, being able to read the room is key. Intimacy=in to me see. Reading the room is that seeing. Seeing into others. Seeing into yourself. And if you’re not reading the room, that could be the reason why your intimacy is suffering.