A lot of my performance consists of the illusion of “mind reading“. Mind reading was described in Psychology Today magazine as a “seemingly magical ability to map someone’s mental terrain from their words, emotions and body language.” I love this description. When people think of “mind reading”, a lot of people are under the impression that you can see directly into someone’s mind and picture exactly word for word what they are thinking. However, this is not how it works, sadly. Life would be a lot more complicated and i would hazard a guess, be more stressful and violent if this was the case. All those evil thoughts about the boss, your other half, your friends or colleagues would all be entirely visible. As would theirs to you. So let’s be thankful that this will probably never be possible. Although who would have thought 100 years ago we’d have “garlic bread” or One Direction.
So i prefer to describe the whole process as thought reading. Which is what most of us do on a daily basis. And i would venture that most people are better at it than they think. Its just some of us practice a lot more than others. Imagine a couple sitting on a park bench. An attractive girl walks past and the guy on the bench gazes at her and continues gazing at her as she keeps walking. His girlfriend then “kicks off” and starts to give him aggravation of the earhole. Now 99.9% of onlookers would know exactly what the girlfriend is thinking. A policeman holding a riot shield being confronted and taunted by an angry mob. Again, we would all know how the policeman is thinking and feeling. Now believe it or not, there is only a short leap from that, to having a good idea of what a person is thinking when they are emotionless and have a poker face. For example, if you ask someone to think of a happy memory, the chances are they will think of a birthday or the birth of a child. We all fall into patterns and once we know what those patterns are, we can “read them”.
Its all about developing what i like to call “sensory acuity”. Taking notice of tiny details as well as the obvious ones. Any fans of Sherlock or The Mentalist will be familiar to this (although sadly, the powers of Sherlock and Patrick-Jane are greatly exaggerated for TV purposes ( But then again, so are Dynamo’s). Very few of us realise how much we reveal about ourselves by the way we walk, the clothes we wear, the bags we carry, the jewellery we wear, the newspapers/magazines we read. It is not too difficult to build up a psychological profile of someone just through appearance. Imagine a man sitting in a 1st class train carriage wearing a suit, a Cartier watch and reading The Times. We could quite accurately guess quite a lot about him. The same goes for the guy in the tracksuit coming out of the Job Centre drinking Kestrel Super Strength. Although these are extreme examples, they are not untypical. This is not judging people, this is how we can tune into our “sensory accuity” and start to take in details.
Get Your Head Up
Although appearances can be deceptive, the majority of time they can be very accurate. If you add in extra layers of hearing the person talk, their accent, their general manner, you can build up their profile even more. If you want to get good at this stuff, practice! Try to guess someone’s occupation, if they’re married, have children, hobbies etc. The more you do it, the more natural it becomes and you will be very surprised at how accurate you can be. Look at someone in a public place and try and guess everything about them (but please don’t stare. I learned that the hard way. Although if someone is pre-occupied with their mobile which is 87.5% likely, then it’s quite safe to stare. And if you do get caught, just say Mind Spy said it was ok. You’ll be fine).
Next Time: The eyes have it.