Evy Poumpouras saw firsthand the influence of crime and drugs in her neighborhood growing up in the Washington Heights area of Harlem. As she shared in the struggles her immigrant family faced in America every day, she vowed to escape the hardships that plagued her family someday.

In a recent episode of ON Purpose, Evy Poumpouras told Jay Shetty that she learned Greek mythology and heroes in school. Their courage and bravery were an inspiration to her. She desired to be strong and brave to protect her family and take care of them. Because of the high crime area her family resided in, Poumpouras could not play outside very often. She watched a lot of TV and saw many influential people doing extraordinary things.

Poumpouras began living with the mindset of, “Why not?” Instead of listening to all the reasons she couldn’t or shouldn’t do something, she flipped the thinking around.

“Let somebody else tell me no,” she said to Jay Shetty. “Let somebody else reject me. I'm okay with that. I can't listen to other people because, at the end of the day, I have to live with myself.”

“I knew I wanted to serve people and help people,“ Poumpouras told Jay Shetty. “I created this drive where I was just like work. Work hard.”

That drive led Poumpouras to a job as a Secret Service special agent. She became part of the protective details for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Poumpouras also protected former Presidents George W. Bush, William J. Clinton, and George H. Bush. Poumpouras worked complex criminal investigations and undercover operations, executed search and arrest warrants, and investigated violent and financial crimes. She currently can be seen as an assessor on the Bravo series, Spy Games.

Poumpouras holds a Master of Science degree from Columbia University in Journalism, a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology from Argosy University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Affairs from Hofstra University.

A Hunger to Learn

Poumpouras recalled a time when she worked for free for two years for a congresswoman. When others told her she was wasting her time, she disagreed. Poumpouras looked at the opportunity as a time to learn and connect with people she would otherwise never have had the chance to meet.

When Poumpouras moved on, her first application was the New York City Police Department. Despite her father’s disapproval, she accepted the job. In the meantime, Poumpouras had also applied to the United States Secret Service.

“I studied government and international affairs,” Poumpouras explained to Jay Shetty. “I bought a book that said, Careers in International Affairs. They had about 300 organizations in there. I was like, ‘Somebody is going to give me a job!’ I sent out 300 resumes the summer I graduated. I believed somebody would say yes.”

The Secret Service did say yes, and although Poumpouras had not planned that particular path, she lives with the belief that sometimes life takes you in the direction you are meant to go. Jay Shetty agrees that we often get where we want in life, just not in the way we had imagined.

“So often we sit down and try to figure out which path to take,” Shetty stated. “We try to construct and build it perfectly. We try to figure it out technically. The real answer is to open all the doors and see which ones stay open. Some of them are going to close. Keep walking through the ones that stay open!”

Taking the opportunity to walk through the doors that opened in her life, Poumpouras acquired many skills that taught her how to read and access people. Working as a polygraph examiner, Poumpouras interviewed hundreds of people, learning along the way that you can’t look at everyone the same, and that everyone wants to be heard and understood.

“I learned that I couldn't be one thing with everybody,” Poumpouras explained to Jay Shetty. “People respond to different things and need different things from you. Some people need a more sensitive version of me. Sometimes I need to bring out a more authoritative version of me. But you assess people, and you realize who your audience is, and what's going to resonate best with that audience, while still being yourself.”

Once Poumpouras began to apply these techniques to her life, she found that it strengthened her relationships and communication with others. She started to pay attention and was more in tune with what others needed. Poumpouras explained to Jay Shetty that you can be strong and assertive without being a jerk, and still have grace and kindness to connect with people.

Reading Other People

“I genuinely listen to people because I want to know what they think,” Poumpouras told Jay Shetty. “I care about what they think. It’s about connection. When it comes from an authentic place, I don't think people feel like I’m looking through them. When it feels manufactured, like someone's trying hard to sell you something, you can read that and tell if it is truthful or genuine.”

There is a saying in the Secret Service: The Truth is Simple. Poumpouras lives by that truth.

How to Identify Lying

There are three ways people lie. Fabricate the entire story, mix it up with a little bit of truth and a little bit of lie, omit, or leave out information that fundamentally changes the story. Take these things into account when learning to read others.

“Some of the fundamental things that you want to look for are body language, reading people, and connecting with people’s openness,” Poumpouras explained to Jay Shetty. When people feel relaxed, they're going to give you more information with their bodies.”

Paying attention to the actions of the people you surround yourself with is an essential tool in helping you become aware of whether or not that person is someone you want in your circle.

Poumpouras explained to Jay Shetty that you need to learn how to separate a person’s actions from the person themself. You generally have invested time and energy into that person and have a connection with them, so It becomes easy to fall into the narrative they have created because it is the narrative you want to believe.

“Look at the actions people present to you and believe in them,” Poumpouras said to Jay Shetty.

Body language is another indicator that you can use to read people. Poumpouras believes you feel people's energy even before you are able to assess that person cognitively. Your sixth sense tells you something about that person. You need to listen to that nagging feeling that something's not right.

“When you study a person, if you can pick up on their behavior and speech patterns, you will be better equipped to read them,” Poumpouras explained to Jay Shetty.

Getting people talking by telling you their story will unearth a lot about that person. The more they talk, the better the opportunity to get to know their feelings, thoughts, and values, giving you a better read on that person.

Dealing with Stress

The stress of the world can be all-consuming if you have not equipped yourself to deal with it. When faced with stress, you need to accept it and not resist it.

“The biggest hurdle is accepting it,” Poumpouras told Jay Shetty.

Once you accept it and believe it, you can adapt and find a solution. You are the gatekeeper to what you allow in your life. If you choose to surround yourself with chaos, your life becomes chaotic. You can control the amount of stress you allow in your life by simply changing what you allow in your life and adapting to the things you can’t control.People tend to absorb the energy and characteristics of the people around them. It is up to you to decide which habits you want to absorb.

“You can learn from not just the positive people and positive things people do, but even the negative things people do can teach you how not to be and who not to be,” Poumpouras shared with Jay Shetty.

“When stress does happen to you, don't look at it as a horrible thing,” Poumpouras told Jay Shetty. “Look at it as an opportunity to learn and embrace it. Embrace the challenge. Embrace the confrontation. Embrace the hardship.”

Shetty agreed and stated, “By learning not to resist that stress, learning not to resist that pain, allows us to strengthen our resilience muscle.”The law enforcement academy breaks you down and builds your resilience. Poumpouras explained to Shetty that they remove all of your flaws and strip you of all the weaknesses you should not have. They purposefully expose you to stressful situations so that you can feel what it is to be stressed out. They want to gauge your reaction to that stress.

“They call it hormesis,” she said. “When you induce small amounts of stress into somebody, they adapt to that stress. They overcome that stress. They become stronger, more resilient. Then you give them another stressful situation, and they adapt to that. They overcome it, and then another and then another. You create a habit in which stress comes, you recognize it, and you deal with it.”

If you have the desire to build a mental shield, read people, and understand body language; if your goal is to influence scenarios, and live fearlessly, follow these tips that Poumpouras has shared. Learn to read body language, watch the actions of those around you. Listen to your sixth sense; learn to accept stress and embrace it. You can find more inspiration about the human mind and behavior in Evy Poumpouras’ book, Becoming Bulletproof: Protect Yourself, Read People, Influence Situations, and Live Fearlessly.

More From Jay Shetty

Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode “How To Instantly Read People, Create Connections & Influence People” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.

Jay Shetty On Purpose Podcast
Feeling a little lost lately?

Take my new quiz to discover your deeper purpose.

Take the Quiz
Jay Shetty On Purpose Podcast

Looking for greater meaning? This quiz shows you how to live with purpose every day.

Take the Quiz
Jay Shetty On Purpose Podcast

Dreaming of becoming a life coach? This quiz tells you if a coaching career is right for you.

Take the Quiz
Jay Shetty On Purpose Podcast

Dreaming of becoming a life coach? This quiz tells you if a coaching career is right for you.

Take the Quiz
Jay Shetty On Purpose Podcast

Everyone communicates differently. Discover your own personal fight style now.

Take the Quiz
Jay Shetty On Purpose Podcast

Understanding your role in a relationship is the first step to making things work.

Take the Quiz