Mind Reading isn’t Real. Here’s How to Do It.

Mind reading, the art of knowing exactly what the other person is thinking.

It’s a dangerous sport, and one that we’re not very good at. It’s the source of many disagreements and misunderstandings. No matter, we all continue to try.

Image "distant distance" by Rennett Stowe, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
We believe we know what other people are thinking. Image “distant distance” by Rennett Stowe, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

I’ve certainly tried to finish someone’s sentences and been completely wrong. Haven’t you cut in because you knew exactly what the other person was going to say? How did that work out for you? Not always very well, I would bet.

“I opened the door to see…”

“…She was in the house!?”

“Actually, I was going to say…”

Other times we think we understand someone’s intention. We connect our experiences to their words, creating a story disconnected from their Reality…

“That’s not what I meant at all!”

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw put it well when he said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”


The human brain doesn’t like random, disconnected information. To reduce this cognitive load, we gather the limited facts that we have. Maybe we believe someone is a part of a group, and everyone in that group thinks in one way. Using limited facts and assumptions, we create stories to fit. Then we believe our invented stories and we find supporting arguments — confirmation bias.

Dangerous stuff.

Most of us go through life concocting stories, myself included. Seeing Reality as it exists, without creating stories, is incredibly difficult.

Buddhist monks meditate for years on the nature of Reality, trying to “remove the specks of dust from their eyes,” trying to see Reality and reach Enlightenment.

I’m just happy when I catch my brain in the act.


Actual mind reading of someone’s thoughts or positions is impossible, in my experience. That’s not to say it’s not useful.


At this point you might be wondering, how can mind reading be useful if it’s impossible?

I’m going to teach you this technique in just a minute. First a bit of understanding of what’s going on with our brains.

Mind reading is a persuasive technique that helps to get people’s brains on the same wavelength. We were recently reminded that brains working on the same wavelength are tuned to one another, leading towards increased amenability and empathy. (It’s interesting to note that much of the universe works on waves/spirals, but that’s another story…)

This mind-reading technique works well in large groups., because it’s not easy to get individual people on the same wavelength. Individuals have many personal experiences that we’re unable to account for. If our mind reading effort fails on a few people, without putting words into their mouths, but is effective on others in the group, it becomes a part of a larger campaign to win influence and rapport with your audience. Smaller groups work too, but not as reliably.

Are you ready to learn the technique to read minds? Yes give it to me already!

During your back-and-forth conversation or presentation, you ask a simple question and immediately provide the audience’s likely answer. The answer they likely would have chosen to the simple question. If you’re right, you’re suddenly a lot more like the audience in your thought patterns and brainwaves.

You’re not trying to presume their position or put words into their mouth. Ask a question that’s inconsequential if you’re wrong, and then provide their likely answer. Another option is to provide a simple statement that captures their thoughts: “You might be wondering…”

Look back over this post. More than once, I asked you a question and provided your likely answer. If I was wrong in any of those situations, no harm done. But if I was right, we’re now on a similar wavelength. (Web readers, I suggest you sign up for my email list to learn more.)

The trick is to think like a chess player, a few steps ahead. What moves might be coming? How can we prepare for them? Not to corner someone into a position, but to steer the conversation toward common ground and thereby get your brains thinking alike, towards better decisions and better outcomes.

Photo "Black & White" by Dean Strelau, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
Think a few moves ahead. Photo “Black & White” by Dean Strelau, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

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