Let me tell you an interesting story which you no doubt will relate to. One day I was walking the golf course, caddying for my older brother Nathan, a professional golfer, who was playing a regional qualifier for the Australian Open. He started the day strongly with a few shots under par, but the turning point came on the eleventh hole when he hit a bad two-iron from the tee on a par 4. Being a left-hander, he pulled the golf ball left where it ended out-of-bounds. Following that eradicate shot, his quality of play did not improve for the rest of the day.
At the end of the round, he had fail to qualify for the national tournament by two shots. In the clubhouse where we had a drink, we talked about what he did well and what he could have done better, “I was surprised by the quality of your chip shots and game around the greens.” I remarked. “Everything went within 2 meters of the pin.” Not to concerned about the disappointed day, Nathan replied, “Yeah, you’re right. My wedge game was strong today. Just…” to which I interrupted and said, “The eleventh 2-iron.” He echoed my words, “Spot on, the eleventh 2-iron.”
I let him continue to talk as his words almost perfectly described the words in my mind. Something happened between our minds. It was like a magic trick taking place. A mystical cable was connecting our minds which lead to strange psychological phenomena.
It seemed we had almost psychic powers. I wasn’t just reading his mind, he was also reading mine. There was a shared connection, a relaying of thoughts exchanged between minds. The distance between two brains was removed as two minds overcame physical boundaries to connect with one another.
There was no two persons trying to talk to one another frustrated in their misunderstandings. There was no interpretation, judgments, or confusion about what each other meant. We were so attuned to one another that we did not even have to say a word and we would have understood what was on the other person’s mind.
What happened here? Was it just a fluke, a lucky break? Were psychic powers at work? How does psychology explain this? How can you use this information to read someone’s mind?
We Were Born to Connect: We Have Innate Psychological and Physiological Connections
In 328 BC, Aristotle said humans are social animals. Nowadays, more and more evidence is showing that humans are born to connect with one another. There is much fascinating research on psychology, sociology, neuroscience, and child development which is slowly revealing how we connect with others in our relationships.
From birth, a baby prefers his or her mother’s voice, sight, and smell than that of a stranger’s. The mother is more connected to the baby than an outsider. As the baby grows, other attachments form. Should a babysitter come over to look after the toddler as the mother leaves the house, the toddler experiences separation anxiety and clings to the mother’s leg. (The anxiety is important for survival and avoiding dangerous situations.) The child can be joyous 10 seconds prior to seeing the babysitter, but the sight of the stranger creates fear in the child and leads to large amounts of distress.
As the mother leaves the house, she feels her child’s anxiety. The child may say no words or cry no tears, yet the mother is able to mind-read her child’s emotional state. She is able to feel exactly what the child is feeling. There is a mind-to-mind and mind-to-body connection taking place.
Interpersonal communication is not just about direct channels – the channels like verbal and nonverbal communication which is obvious to people. We are often well aware of people’s words and body language. Reading someone’s mind goes to the next level. When you know another person well enough, you pick-up on indirect channels that give you hunches about the other person. Nothing needs to be said or expressed nonverbally; it is your intuition, almost a sixth sense, that tells you what the person is thinking.
We do not just connect through words, we connect at a biological level. Our bodies can adjust to match someone else’s body. When we are so deeply connected to someone during a conversation, our posture, movements, and heart rate match each other. This power gives us the ability to control another’s mood. A mother can relieve her distressed baby with her soothing voice. While our psychology influences our physiology, and vice-a-versa; our psychology, as well as our physiology, can affect someone else’s psychology and physiology.
Social and emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman is a leader in the mind-to-mind, and mind-to-body, connections we share with each other. In a New York Times article, Goleman discusses the powerful connection we share with one another. He refers to one study which measured a female’s anxiety, and holding hands with someone, prior to receiving an electric shock. When the female held hands with a stranger, she remained distressed. However, when she held her husband’s hand, she was able to keep calm. Brain scans confirmed little activity in the emotional parts of her brain when the wife held her husband’s hand.
You Have Superpowers
“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napoleon Hill (1883-1970), author of the classic Think and Grow Rich!
“The greatest reward is to know that one can speak and emit articulate sounds and utter words that describe things, events and emotions.” – Camilo Jose Cela, Spanish writer and recipent of the 1989 Nobel Prize in Literature
“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.” – Meryl Streep (1949-present), American actress
Because we were born to connect with one another, each of us has innate abilities to connect with others. Believe it or not, everyday we are reading each other’s minds. Whether a friend is asking for your opinion on their clothes, a boss wanting your input on a coworker’s performance, or a child asking for a gift, you receive what feels like sixth sense signals that tell you how to respond. When a friend asks for your opinion on their clothes, you can almost determine what they are thinking. You have memories, empathy, and gut-feelings about the person’s thoughts that tell you how to respond.
You already have “superpowers”, an ability to determine another’s state. If you did not have such abilities, you would fail miserably in your relationships; you would fail to intimately connect with your partner; you would struggle to persuade others as your negotiation skills would be insufficient to determine what the other person really wants; you would not be able to sense when someone is manipulating you. Without this “superpower” to read someone’s mind, we would struggle to cooperate and connect with people.
Unfortunately, the less time you spend with someone and the more distanced you are with them, you become less able to read a person’s mind. As I’m sure you know, we don’t have perfect abilities to cue into another person’s thoughts. If it were that perfect, there would be little reason to communicate as we would know exactly what everyone is thinking. The assumptions we have get us into trouble.
It seems that a couple intimately connected to one another should know what their partner is thinking because time in a close relationship helps build the individual’s mind-to-mind connection. Married people might be laughing at reading that. Too many married couples can recall many occasions when their partner did not have a clue as to what they were thinking – yet alone, what they were thinking when they tried to explain themselves.
William Ickes, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Arlington, is the leading expert in empathic accuracy. Ickes says misunderstandings in marriages occurs from a lack of insight into their partner’s way of thinking. While you may be motivated to understand your partner early on in a relationship, during the first few years of marriage most people’s empathy for their partner decreases because they become overly confident in understanding their partner says Ickes.
It may seem contradictory, but assumptions destroy your ability to read someone’s mind. Reading someone’s mind is not about guessing or making-up information to come to a conclusion of what the person is thinking, it is about being immersed in the present as you allow yourself to be absorbed by the person’s reality. You come to act as the person acts, feel as the person feels, and think as the person thinks. Assuming you know this information destroys your human powers to read someone’s mind.
Becoming a Better Superhero: Mind-Reading Tricks
“The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them, inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.” – Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), third President of the United States
“In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it and over it.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), famed German writer
“Every reader, if he has a strong mind, reads himself into the book, and amalgamates his thoughts with those of the author.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
You can smile and the whole world smiles with you. That is the magic of “emotional contagion”, a term created by psychologists to describe the infectious nature of emotions. If you frown as you walk around at work, you will infect coworkers with your sour mood as you make them feel a little more miserable. This connection we have with one another is there for a reason: it connects us! Emotional contagion plays a very important role in connecting people together.
Without emotional contagion, we would be separate to each other; we would have little concern about other people’s feelings; we would be unable to read into another’s mind. The more you get infected by someone’s emotional state, the better mind-reading skills you will have with that person. Taking on the person’s reality by allowing yourself to become infected with their emotions, gives you the ability to infer their thoughts. Some psychologists allows the transference of emotions to take place which gives them the ability to peer into their client’s inner world. This gives them the ability to discover a thought or feeling their client is not yet aware of.
In Goleman’s Social Intelligence, he discusses the amazing mind-to-mind connection, a connection that transcends physical boundaries. When a couple are highly engaged with one another, Goleman says, “Such mental intimacy bespeaks an emotional closeness; the more satisfied and communicative a couple, the more accurate their mutual mind-reading.” The intimacy of our communication controls the degree we can connect with others.
The intimacy of our communication that creates a psychic connection has a neurological explanation explains Goleman in his book, Social Intelligence. It is not some unexplained magical power, but neurological adjustment. As we communicate with someone and experience what other people experience, our neurons form pathways. These neural pathways unconsciously direct messages to form our sixth sense that gives us gut-feelings about what people are thinking. “Our trains of association run on set tracks, circuits of learning and memory.” says Goleman. “Once any of these trains has been primed, even by a simple mention, that track stirs in the unconscious, beyond the reach of our active attention.”
Intimate communication that shapes the brain can only be achieved by intimately sharing another person’s reality. Quietening your inner dialog makes you more able to detect another’s emotions. Without inner silence, empathy becomes a difficult task because there is no two-way communication. Think back to a time when you were really angry with someone you were talking to. Your anger was illogical as it caused you to do things you later regretted. You did not care about what the other person felt, you were just concerned with releasing your anger and telling him or her how you felt. (The 10th chapter on emotions and logic in my communication secrets program can solve this problem for you.)
You need to manage your self-awareness and emotions, through emotional mastery and meditation, to stabilize yourself so that you can better connect with people. Better emotional management helps your mind-reading skills and improve your relationships. Four researchers in a study titled Physiologic Correlates of Perceived Therapist Empathy and Social-Emotional Process During Psychotherapy found that therapists and patients who felt the same had a more positive relationship. Having similar feelings is related to a better relationship.
The researchers from the study say that talking uses a different part of the brain than emotional responses. Being a blabber-mouth kills your ability to emotionally connect with people and read their mind. Listening plays a huge role in connecting minds. By talking too much, we block-out our biological ability to feel what another person feels, and hence fail to build a connection akin to mind-reading.
As you quieten your inner dialog so you can tune yourself into the person’s emotions, be aware that their thoughts and desires will not be the same as your thoughts and desires. Psychologists call this a “theory of mind” where we determine people’s mental states and acknowledge the differences to our own mental states. Body language and other cues helps us achieve this seemingly psychic power.
Annie Murphy Paul, in a Psychology Today article titled “Mind Reading”, says that body language cues such as facial expressions are a good way to tap into people’s thoughts. “We tend to focus on others’ eyes, and that helps us.” says Paul. “The many surrounding muscles make eyes a richer source of clues than other parts of the face: downcast in sadness, wide open in fright, dreamily unfocused, staring hard with jealousy, or glancing around with bored impatience.”
While the eyes play an important role in determining someone’s thoughts, as does other nonverbal signals like voice, “it’s the content of speech that contributes most to our success at mind reading” says Paul. Meaning is not always directly in words, but words give us insight into people’s way of thinking. It is next to impossible to read the mind of a person who is speaking another language.
Another trick you can use – which is one of the biggest tricks – to read a person’s mind is to keep learning about communication, personal development, and human psychology. As you learn more about yourself, you learn more about other people. You come to understand what people feel, how we act, and what we think in certain situations. It is crazy how good I am now at digging into someone’s mind and knowing what is going through their minds in a conversation. I know how people react to many statements, the feelings one has during certain moments, and how to shift all this around to make it work for me.
Because of our power to look into someone’s mind, there needs to be a word of warning about your mind-reading superpowers. Before you go out and use the magic tricks of mind-reading, a series of techniques that use our innate ability to connect with one another, use your powers wisely. Empathy expert Ickes, with his academic partner Jeffry Simpson, advise people against the surprising dangers of empathy. “Empathic accuracy and understanding can be bad for relationships.” writes Ickes and Simpson in their study Managing Empathic Accuracy in Close Relationships. “While accurate understanding should be good for relationships as a general rule, too much understanding in certain contexts may have deleterious consequences.”
Diagnosing is one such example of a poor application of mind-reading skills, which is discussed in my communication secrets program. We diagnose others when we express people’s intentions as we try to act above others. You can try to mind-read your partner by diagnosing them (“You’re just jealous”, “Why do you always try to argue with me?”, or “Liar, I know what you really mean”) and hurt the relationship as a result of your diagnosis.
As you learn more about communication, you may be tempted to use the communication barrier of diagnosing because you will understand the human mind more than before. Just as a partner in a marriage gets into relationship-trouble by assuming they understand their partner, the same happens when you are overly confident about understanding how our minds work.
The sad thing about diagnosing is it does not matter how accurate you can diagnose someone. Merely assuming or revealing their intentions makes people defensive. Your superpowers and all the tricks you’ve been given to read someone’s mind that are suppose to connect two people together, ends up separating them.
We were born to connect with one another. Each of us innate abilities that enable us to read each other’s minds. The advice in this article can help you fine-tune this natural ability into great power, but as with any power comes responsibility. Use your mind powers wisely young Jedi. Know when to get into someone’s head and when to stay out. It is not the power to read another person’s mind that will give you great power with people, for that is a skill we all have; rather, having the skill to keep on understanding people is what will give you power. After all, understanding is the purpose of wanting to peer into someone’s mind.
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