To read someone’s mind, develop the skill of taking on their perspective. The easiest way to do this is to ask yourself what would have to be true for them in order for them to carry themselves the way they do, and to say the things they say.
It might seem like something out of a fantasy novel, but it’s possible to make accurate educated guesses about what’s going on inside someone’s head based on simple observations. We can then refine those observations by taking our subject through a sequence of events designed to elicit further information.
When this is done correctly, our subject tends to think that we’ve read their mind.
1. Observe their physical responses
The very first step in reading someone’s mind is to become aware of how they are carrying themselves through the world.
Pay attention to their posture. Are they standing straight with their head held high? Or are they hunched over, arms crossed and hiding from the world?
Notice how they breathe.
Are they breathing slowly and calmly? Or are they taking short, quick breaths?
What you are looking for at this stage is an overall sense of how they are.
A word of caution: Most people misread others quite a lot. To work around this, maintain an open mind. Be willing to throw out your initial assumptions the instant they prove incorrect.
The key to reading someone’s mind is to quickly adapt to their responses in the moment.
To give you an example, if someone has their head down and their arms crossed, you might interpret it as them being closed off. In reality, they could simply be cold and listening to someone closely.
The truth is that every posture has multiple internal mental states associated with it. And the only way you get good at spotting them and accurately interpreting them is through practice and live feedback.
For starters though, make an educated guess, and be willing to refine it as you go.
Track their micro-expressions to read their mind
A lot of people are quite adept at hiding their genuine thoughts and feelings. However, even the most deceptive people have difficulty controlling their micro-expressions.
Micro-expressions are fleeting expressions that appear on our faces as we communicate. You see, most people don’t dare expose their innermost self to the world.
So for example, if someone says something that irritates us, we might have a momentary snarl appear on our face for less than a second. Then our conscious mind replaces it with the expression that conveys the response we think the world expects.
This deception is a partially conscious process, which means that there is a delay of a few tenths of a second between when someone has an emotional response, and when their facial expression catches up with what they’re trying to project into the world.
When you learn to track these micro-expressions, you can quickly gather information about their true thoughts.
To practice, simply pay attention to someone’s facial expressions while they are listening.
2. Build rapport
If we want to read someone’s mind, it’s critical that we can take on their perspective.
The first step in doing this is to move into rapport with them. For the purposes of mind reading, it’s generally easiest to build rapport by agreeing with them.
I’ve covered this in detail elsewhere, so if you’d like to know more about how to do that, check out my article on How to Use Agreement to Build Rapport Even If You’re an Introvert And Hate Small Talk.
As you’re doing this, be aware that it’s important to maintain congruence. Only agree with the things that you can personally agree with.
People can easily spot fake agreement.
Luckily this is not much of a problem since there are almost always ways to frame things so that we can agree with them. So long as we do it right, the absolute worst case is that we acknowledge their point of view without taking it on ourselves. Since this also leads to rapport, it’s not a huge issue.
To give you an example of how this works, suppose that your subject says something like I think that X is an amazing leader and you disagree with them. Rather than expressing your disagreement, you can say something like It sounds like you have some interesting views on leadership.
3. Discover their world view
By the time you’ve built rapport, you’ve probably already uncovered a few gems about your subject’s perspectives on the world.
So now it’s time to start digging deeper.
There are almost always universal truths that you can start with.
To dig deeper, start with the material you uncovered while you were building rapport and ask them questions about it.
Key things that it’s important to uncover when reading someone’s mind are what kinds of things are important to them, what kinds of things cause them pain, and what is the nature of their dreams.
Most people love talking about themselves, so it’s usually quite easy to mine them for that information.
As a rule, you want to start off with a general statement that’s likely to be true for most people who match their demographic and that fits in with what they’ve already told you. Then move to more specific details as you uncover more of their world view.
4. Read someone’s mind by placing yourself in their position
Once you’ve uncovered some of the details of your subject’s view on the world, place yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what else must be true for them to believe what they do.
This is where the magic happens.
You’ll find that there are some things that absolutely have to be true, some things that are highly likely to be true, and some things that could be true.
5. State their likely truth
As a rule, it’s best to assume nothing.
And of course, rules are made to be broken!
I find that what tends to work best is to start by reflecting their exact words back to them. After doing this a few times, I can then inject a statement that I’ve deduced is likely to also be true for them.
This is where the mind reading comes in.
You’ve already mined them for their world-view and placed yourself in their shoes, so when you make a statement that’s also true, it can seem to them like you’ve read their mind.
As you gain more experience, you’ll quickly learn what kinds of things you can state as fact, and what kinds of things might need to have a little more built-in uncertainty.
There are some magical sentences you can use that work in just about every case: It sounds like X is a very useful structure that you can use to state just about any mind read.
When you use this structure, and other equivalent ones, what tends to happen is that if you get an exact match, they will think you’ve read their mind. And when you don’t get an exact match, they’ll simply correct you without thinking anything further about it.
Either way, you win.
They’re probably in hypnosis
Of course, they’re usually in a fairly profound hypnotic trance by this point, so often they don’t even notice.
If you do it right, you can even make something become a part of their world view and have them think that they believed it all along. When something sounds like it fits naturally with everything else they believe, they are likely to simply adopt it even if it had never entered their mind before that moment.
People like to be right, so if you tell them that it was their idea, quite a lot of the time they will believe you.
How to supercharge your mind-reading abilities
So how do you get good at reading people’s minds?
As with everything else, it requires practice with live feedback.
To get good at mind reading, it’s necessary for each of the things in this article to start to become a habit. This is because there are a lot of things to track, and the truth is that our human minds don’t have the resources to consciously track more than a handful of things at once.
When things become habits, they are driven by unconscious processes and will tend to happen automatically without having to think about them too much.
The way to do this is to mindfully practice each step until we become good at it.
Conveniently, there’s a shortcut that can be used to get there in record time: Hypnotize yourself first.
When you hypnotize yourself first, you’re placing yourself into a state where a lot of the things that we’ve discussed in this article can start to happen automatically.
And it’s quick and easy to learn.
I’ve written an article on self-hypnosis to help you get started. In it, I give a simple self-hypnosis technique, and then show you how to construct an anchor so that after a few tries you can hypnotize yourself instantly. Just like it says in the title!
When you’re working with other people, you don’t usually have time for a drawn-out hypnotic induction to hypnotize yourself first, so it’s critical to know how to get yourself there right away.
So go and check out How to Hypnotize Yourself Instantly right now, then come back here and use self-hypnosis to implement each of these steps in lightning time!
Practice each step until you’ve got it down, and before you know it, you too may find that you automatically know what’s really going on inside people’s heads.
Even when they don’t know themselves.