HOW TO MASTER MIND-READING
Updated: Jan 11
6 POWERFUL WAYS TO READ YOUR AUDIENCE!
By HL Gioia
Reading minds, or the ability to infer a person's thoughts, emotions, and intentions from their behavior, facial expressions, and other nonverbal cues is a valuable skill in both personal and professional settings. While the ability to read minds is often associated with psychic powers or supernatural abilities, there are a number of scientific methods and techniques that can be used to infer a person's mental state based on observable behavior.
From understanding the thoughts and feelings of loved ones to interpreting a client's or coworker's emotions, the ability to read minds can help us connect more effectively with others and navigate the world around us. Unfortunately, mind reading isn't something taught in school. Still, recent advances in psychology and neuroscience have provided a wealth of scientific evidence on how we can read minds more effectively by paying attention to a range of verbal and nonverbal cues.
“Master the art of observing.”
By paying close attention to several factors, you can better interpret and anticipate a group's thoughts, feelings, and attitudes, allowing you to understand the underlying dynamics at play better and tailor your communication appropriately.
It's important to note that there are no hard and fast rules, as individuals may have different motivations. Still, research has identified some general norms that can influence communication and preference. Knowing this, you can alter your communications to speak to a person's assumed interests.
1.) SURVEY THE ROOM
There are a number of ways that one can infer a mindset and priorities from the appearance of a space.
The physical layout of a room can also provide clues to the dynamics of the group. How is it decorated? Where do people sit? How do they take up space?
For example, a study by Mehrabian and Wiener (1967) found that emotional state can be inferred from how a person sits or stands in a room, with factors such as posture, facial expressions, and tone of voice providing essential clues.
A study published in the journal "Psychological Science" found that people can infer a person's level of social power from their posture and other nonverbal cues. A study by Kujala and colleagues (2012) found that people tend to sit or stand in ways that reflect their social hierarchies. For example, people in positions of power and authority tend to take up more space and adopt more expansive postures. In comparison, people in lower positions tend to take up less space and adopt more constrictive postures. Research by Galinsky and colleagues (2006) also found that people in powerful positions have greater control of the area around them and are more likely to choose the location of meetings or events and how the interactions happen within that space.
Additionally, the overall decor and style of the room can give clues about tastes, values, and interests.
A study by Kujala and colleagues (2012) found that the art and decorations in a room can provide insight into the group's sense of identity and status, as well as their interests and values
For example, a room decorated with vintage or antique furniture and decor might suggest an interest in history, tradition, and reliability. Similarly, a room filled with contemporary furnishings and minimalist décor might offer a more modern, streamlined, and simplified point of view. Likewise, a room displaying books and reading material might suggest an interest in reading and education, while a room with musical instruments might suggest an interest in music. Lastly, personal items such as family photos, artwork, collectibles, awards, or diplomas can give you an idea about their background, family, culture, and profession.
2.) TAKE STOCK OF THE DEMOGRAPHIC MAKEUP OF YOUR AUDIENCE
Demographics significantly influence motivation, as different age groups, genders, income levels, and education levels may have different needs and preferences.
A study by Pager and Quillian (2005) found that people's race, gender, and socioeconomic status can affect how others perceive them and their opportunities, with some groups facing more discrimination and bias than others.
A study by Lally, Martins, and Meyer (2018) found that older adults tend to be more conservative in their preferences, while younger adults tend to be more open to trying new things.
Younger people may be more interested in all things trendy and cutting-, while older people may be more interested in practical, reliable products.
Younger people are likely to be more open to new products, brands, and experiences, while older people may be more loyal to established brands, conventions, and traditions.
Younger people are more likely to be influenced by online reviews, electronic news articles, and social media recommendations. In comparison, older people often value face-to-face meetings, books, and verbal recommendations from friends and family.
Younger people can be more sensitive to price, while older people may be more willing to pay a premium for high quality and reliability.
A study by Fang (2018) found that gender can also influence people's preferences, with men and women having different priorities.
Men may be more interested in technical, performance-oriented products, while women may be more interested in aesthetics and convenience.
Men may be more likely to make impulsive purchases, while women may be more likely to research and compare products before making a decision.
Men may be more interested in products that enhance their status or appearance, while women may be more interested in products that provide functional benefits or support personal growth.
Men may be more likely to purchase products related to hobbies or interests, while women may be more likely to buy products related to family or home.
A study by Dittmar et al. (2018) found that people from lower socioeconomic groups tend to have different consumer preferences and that other factors shape their decision-making processes.
People with lower incomes may be more price-sensitive and more likely to look for discounts, sales, and deals. They may also be more likely to comparison shop and prioritize getting the most value for their money.
People with higher incomes may be less price-sensitive and more likely to focus on convenience and quality. As a result, they may be more willing to pay a premium for products or services they perceive as high-quality or exclusive.
People with lower incomes may be more likely to cut back on non-essential purchases to save money. In comparison, people with higher incomes may be more able to make discretionary purchases without worrying about the cost as much.
People with lower incomes may be more likely to use credit or loans to make purchases, while people with higher incomes may be more likely to pay with cash or use a credit card with a higher credit limit.
Cultural demographics play a significant role in predicting consumer preferences. Studies have shown that individuals from different cultural backgrounds have distinct tastes and preferences in products, services, and experiences.
A study by van der Meijden and colleagues (2019) found that people from different races or ethnicities have different consumption patterns. In addition, they tend to have other preferences for products, services, and brands and different levels of brand loyalty.
A study published in the Journal of International Consumer Marketing found that Chinese consumers have a stronger preference for collectivistic and tradition-oriented products than their Western counterparts, who have a stronger preference for individualistic and innovation-oriented products. Another study published in the Journal of Business Research found that Hispanic consumers in the United States have a stronger preference for products that reflect their cultural heritage and identity.
People with higher levels of education may be more likely to prioritize quality and value when making purchasing decisions. They may be more likely to research products, read reviews, and compare prices before purchasing.
People with higher levels of education are also more likely to be interested in products or services related to their field of study or career. For example, a person with a degree in engineering may be more likely to invest in tools or equipment related to their profession.
People with lower levels of education may be more price-sensitive and prioritize finding the lowest price over other factors when making a purchase.
People with higher levels of education may be more willing to pay a premium for products or services that are innovative, environmentally friendly, or aligned with their values.
3.) STUDY YOUR AUDIENCE'S BODY LANGUAGE
The body posture of your audience can reveal a lot about their perspective and intentions.
EYE CONTACT: This can indicate a person's level of confidence, honesty, or interest, such as maintaining consistent eye contact indicating trustworthiness, while avoiding eye contact indicating dishonesty or evasion
Argyle and Cook (1976) found that people who maintain consistent eye contact are perceived as more confident and trustworthy, while those who avoid eye contact are perceived as hiding something or uninterested. Additionally, other studies have shown that people with higher levels of extraversion tend to make more eye contact than those who are more introverted (e.g., Bigliardi et al., 2018) However, it's important to note that the interpretation of eye contact can vary across cultures and social and professional settings. For example, a study by Gudykunst and Nishida (1991) found that people from individualist cultures tend to use more eye contact than those from collectivist cultures. In some cultures, direct eye contact may be considered impolite. In contrast, it may be seen as a sign of respect or attentiveness in others. Additionally, certain professionals, such as actors, politicians, and even salespeople, are trained to make more eye contact to project confidence and build trust.
FACIAL EXPRESSIONS: Facial expressions can be the most direct means of communication. They often say more about a person's feelings than their words might. For example, a smile can indicate happiness or agreement, while a furrowed brow may indicate confusion or frustration. By paying attention to facial expressions, you can understand how the person feels and adjust your approach accordingly.
A study by Krumhuber and Kappas (2012) found that subtle variations in the duration and intensity of facial expressions, such as a half-smile or a micro-expression, can indicate more nuanced emotions, such as sarcasm or insincerity. Additionally, studies have shown that people can use cues such as facial expressions and body language to judge an individual's personality traits, such as extraversion or agreeableness. For example, Todorov and colleagues (2015) predicted the first impressions of trustworthiness and competence by analyzing facial expressions and body postures.
Additionally, blinking patterns can indicate a person's level of interest or attention, such as rapid blinking, which indicates stress or nervousness, while maintaining consistent and slow blinking indicating relaxation and focus.
HEAD MOVEMENTS: Head movements can indicate a person's attention, interest, or engagement level. For example, nodding can indicate agreement or understanding, while shaking the head can indicate disagreement or confusion. Additionally, tilting the head to one side can indicate interest or curiosity, while keeping the head still or avoiding eye contact can indicate disinterest or evasion.
A study by Scherer and Ellgring (2007) found that head movements are closely linked to the intensity of emotions, such that more dramatic head movements accompany stronger emotions. They observed that people expressing stronger emotions tended to move their heads more, while those expressing weaker emotions tended to move their heads less. Additionally, research by Brennan and colleagues (2018) found that anxious people move their heads and eyes more frequently, while more relaxed people tend to have more stable head and eye movements.
HAND GESTURES: Hand gestures can indicate a person's level of emphasis or conviction. For example, pointing or making sharp, chopping motions can indicate a strong level of emphasis or conviction, while more open, expansive gestures can indicate a more relaxed or casual attitude.
A study by David McNeill (1992) showed that when we speak, we often use gestures to indicate the structure of our thoughts, and it is proposed that gestures are intimately connected with language and that they may help us to form and express our ideas. A study by Hadj-Bouziane and colleagues (2012) found that anxious people tend to use more self-touching gestures, such as fidgeting or wringing their hands, while people who are more relaxed tend to use fewer self-touching gestures. Furthermore, research by Cook and colleagues (2018) has also suggested that hand gestures are related to self-esteem, that people with high self-esteem tend to use gestures that take up more space and are more expansive. In contrast, people with low self-esteem tend to use more closed and constrictive gestures.
The way a person shakes hands can indicate their level of confidence or friendliness, such as a firm handshake indicating confidence, while a weak handshake suggests a lack of confidence.
BODY POSTURE: This can indicate a person's level of confidence or relaxation. Studies have shown that open postures, such as standing tall and having relaxed and open body language, can indicate confidence and assertiveness. In contrast, closed postures, such as crossing arms or hunching over, can indicate nervousness or defensiveness.
Krogulecki and colleagues (2017) found that people with high self-esteem tend to adopt more expansive postures, such as standing tall and occupying more space, while those with lower self-esteem tend to adopt more constrictive postures, such as crossing arms or hunching over. In addition, a study by Carney, Cuddy, and Yap (2010) found that people who adopted high-power postures before a high-stakes negotiation reported feeling more powerful and performed better compared to those who adopted low-power postures. Research by Carney, Cuddy, and Yap (2010) found that people who adopted high-power postures (e.g., standing tall with arms open) before a high-stakes negotiation reported feeling more powerful and performed better compared to those who adopted low-power postures (e.g., standing with arms crossed). Furthermore, studies have also found that people who adopt open postures tend to be perceived more positively by others and are more likely to be successful in social interactions (e.g., Huang et al., 2013). On the other hand, closed postures, such as crossing arms or hunching over, can indicate nervousness, defensiveness, or a reluctance to engage with others. Research by Krogulecki and colleagues (2017) found that people with a high level of self-esteem tend to adopt more expansive postures, such as standing tall and occupying more space, while those with lower self-esteem tend to adopt more constrictive postures, such as crossing arms or hunching over. Furthermore, studies have also found that people who adopt closed postures tend to be perceived less positively by others and are less likely to be successful in social interactions (e.g., Huang et al., 2013).
Proximity: The distance between people can indicate their level of comfort or rapport with each other, such as standing close together, indicating a close relationship, while standing far apart, indicating discomfort or lack of trust.
Touch: This can indicate a person's level of comfort or affection, such as touching someone on the shoulder indicating a friendly or supportive attitude, while avoiding touch indicating a more distant or unfriendly attitude.
Breathing patterns: This can indicate a person's level of stress or anxiety, such as shallow breathing indicating nervousness and deep breathing indicating relaxation.
Foot and leg movements: These can indicate a person's level of readiness to move or depart, such as tapping the foot or shifting weight, indicating impatience or discomfort, while maintaining stillness, indicating a relaxed or content attitude.
Grooming behaviors: This can indicate a person's level of confidence or anxiety, such as fidgeting with hair or clothing, indicating nervousness, while maintaining stillness, indicating confidence.
4.) PAY ATTENTION TO WORD CHOICE.
Different people will use other words to express the same idea or concept, and the words they choose can be a powerful indicator of a person's preferences, attitudes, and beliefs.
A social psychology study published in the journal "Personality and Social Psychology Review" found that people's word choices can reveal their underlying personality traits. Similarly, a study published in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" looked at how word choice can reveal a person's cognitive processes and mental state.
Martin and Nakayama (2010) found that people from different age groups use various communication strategies. For example, older adults use more indirect and polite language, while younger adults use more direct and informal language. A study by Hall (2016) found that people from different cultures use different levels of directness in their communication. Some cultures emphasize politeness and indirectness, while others emphasize honesty and assertiveness.
POINT OF VIEW: The words a person uses to describe their point of view can provide insight into priorities and the power to make decisions. For example, someone who uses words like "I," "me," or "my" may be more focused on their interests, while someone who uses words like "we" or "our" may be more focused on collaboration.
A study published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology found that people use first-person pronouns, such as "I" and "we," when discussing topics they feel personally invested in or want to express their opinions or feelings. On the other hand, people tend to use third-person pronouns, such as "he," "she," and "they," when discussing topics that they don't feel as invested in or when they want to take a more objective perspective. Another study published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology found that when people use impersonal constructions, such as "it" and "this," it creates a sense of distance and objectivity. Doing so can lead to fewer emotional reactions, which can be helpful when a person wants to present information in a neutral and unbiased way.
STYLE OF SPEECH: People who use formal or technical language are thought to be more educated or experienced in a particular field. In contrast, a person who uses informal or colloquial language is seen as more relatable or down-to-earth.
A person's choice of words can indicate certainty, attitude, or engagement on a specific topic. For example, someone using words like "definitely," "absolutely," and "without a doubt" indicates a level of confidence and conviction, while someone using words like "maybe," "possibly," and "I am not sure" shows hesitation or lack of certainty.
A study published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology found that people use more tentative language when uncertain or unsure, such as using words like "maybe" and "perhaps." On the other hand, people tend to use more assertive language when they are confident, such as using words like "definitely" and "absolutely." Language can be used to convey a sense of assertiveness or hesitation and can indicate the speaker's level of confidence or uncertainty.
EMOTIONAL LANGUAGE: People use different words to express their emotions, and the words they choose can indicate their emotional state.
For example, someone who frequently uses words like "angry," "frustrated," "irritated," and "mad" might be assumed to be experiencing strong negative emotions. In contrast, someone who frequently uses words like "happy," "content," "satisfied," and "joyful" are experiencing positive emotions.
Furthermore, figurative language and metaphors can give insight into a person's imagination and world perspective. Some people may use more abstract or fanciful language, while others may use more concrete or literal language.
A study published in the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" looked at how word choice can reveal a person's cognitive processes and mental state. The study found that when people were asked to describe their thoughts and feelings, the words they used were indicative of the type of cognition they were using. For example, people who used more concrete, specific words were found to be more focused on the present moment, while those who used more abstract, metaphorical language were found to be more focused on the future or past.
A study published in "The Journal of Language and Social Psychology" examines how people’s word choice in online dating profile can indicate their romantic interest. The study found that people who used words related to commitment and exclusivity in their dating profiles were more likely to be looking for a serious romantic relationship. On the other hand, those who used words related to fun and adventure were more likely to be looking for a casual relationship.
A recent research from journal "Psychological Science" found that people's use of function words, such as pronouns, prepositions, and articles, can reveal their underlying emotions and mental states. The study found that when people were experiencing negative emotions, such as sadness or anxiety, they were more likely to use words that reflect a sense of distance or isolation, such as "me" and "mine". On the other hand, when people were experiencing positive emotions, such as happiness or excitement, they were more likely to use words that reflect a sense of connection or community, such as "we" and "us".
POLITICAL LANGUAGE: Political preferences can be inferred from the words they use.
Someone who frequently uses words like "taxation," "regulation," "big government," and "welfare state" might be assumed to have more conservative or libertarian views. In contrast, someone who frequently uses words like "income inequality," "social justice," "progressive," and "worker's rights" might be assumed to have more progressive or liberal views.
Similarly, certain words or phrases can indicate a person's bias or opinion about a topic. For example, a person who consistently uses words like "liberals" or "left-wingers" might be assumed to have conservative or right-wing views. In contrast, a person who consistently uses words like "the establishment" might be considered to have more progressive or left-wing views.
5.) CONSIDER TONE OF VOICE.
The voice can be a powerful indicator of a person's preferences, attitudes, and emotions.
VOLUME: The volume of a person's voice can indicate confidence or assertiveness. A person who speaks in a loud and confident tone of voice might be assumed to be more assertive or self-assured, while a person who speaks in a soft or hesitant tone of voice might be deemed timid or uncertain.
PITCH: A person's voice's pitch can indicate their excitement or enthusiasm. A person who speaks in a high-pitched or animated tone might be assumed to be more enthusiastic or excited. In contrast, a person speaking in a low-pitched or monotone tone might be considered subdued or unenthusiastic.
SPEED: The speed of a person's voice can indicate their level of nervousness or anxiety. A person who speaks in a fast or rushed tone of voice might be assumed to be more nervous or anxious, while a person who speaks in a slow or measured tone of voice might be deemed more relaxed or calm.
INFLECTION: The inflection of a person's voice can indicate their level of certainty or emphasis. A person who speaks with a rising or falling intonation might be asking a question, while someone who speaks with a level intonation might be assumed to be making a statement.
EMOTION: The emotion conveyed through the tone of voice can indicate the person's attitude or feeling towards a specific topic. For example, someone who speaks with an angry, bitter, or resentful tone might indicate that they are not supportive of that action.
6.) LOOK FOR CONGRUENCE.
When trying to understand a person's way of thinking, paying attention to congruence can be very informative.
Congruence is when a person's words, tone, and body language align. When a person's verbal and nonverbal behaviors are aligned and consistent, it can indicate that they are genuine and authentic in their communication, which can give insight into their thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. On the other hand, when a person's verbal and nonverbal behaviors are not aligned or inconsistent, it can indicate that they are being insincere or disguising their true thoughts and feelings.
Research by DePaulo, Kashy, and Kirkendol (1996) found that people who were lying were less likely to make consistent eye contact, had less expressive facial movements, and displayed more fidgeting and other nonverbal cues of discomfort. This can be a sign that they are hiding something or trying to manipulate the situation. For example, if a person says one thing with their words but their body language and tone of voice indicate something different, they may not believe or agree with what they are saying. Another study by Ekman and Friesen (1969) found that people who were lying were less likely to display the corresponding emotions on their faces than when they were telling the truth.
Additionally, incongruence might give an idea of the level of awareness the person has about their own thoughts, feelings, and attitudes as opposed to those of a group. For example, someone with a high self-awareness could align their words and nonverbal cues to indicate their true perspective. In contrast, someone who is less self-aware might have more difficulty coordinating their verbal and nonverbal messages. Finally, when someone is congruent, it's generally a good sign that they are being genuine and honest. Incongruence, however, can be a red flag, as it may indicate that the person is hiding something or being deceptive.