In psychology, mind-reading is also called mentalizing. It’s about understanding what another person is thinking. It’s something we all do – you might even be doing this without realizing it. It’s just a way of understanding other people better, especially if they’re not really saying what they’re thinking. It’s important to differentiate between reading someone’s mind, and empathy.
When we use the term empathy, we are talking about what the other person is feeling. But mind-reading is less about emotions and more about their thoughts. Non-verbal clues can tell you a lot about what a person is really thinking, but not saying. Researchers have found that women are better at reading minds than men! It’s not clear why, perhaps due to environmental factors, the way children are brought up.
Let’s look at 9 psychological tactics to read people’s minds. Make sure to read the entire article; you’ll get many useful tips that will help you get better at reading minds.
Number 1. What does your gut say?
You walk into a room and meet someone new. Immediately, you just get a feeling about this person. Try to tune into that and be aware of that initial reaction that you’re experiencing. Do you feel comfortable being with the person? Is your gut warning you to be careful or are you feeling relaxed around them? Maybe you are just intuitively aware of their intentions or attitude. Warnings come with a reason – listen to them. If you are able to quiet your mind and become aware of what your gut is telling you, you might get more information than you thought possible!
Number 2. What do their appearance and posture say about them?
The way someone is dressed tells you something about where they’re at. Do they want to appear ambitious and successful? Do they want to stand out and be noticed by everybody? Are they wearing bright colors and bold patterns that would be impossible to miss? Or are they trying to be invisible, trying to blend in with the furniture and hoping not to be noticed?
How do they carry themselves? Are they confident or trying to appear smaller than they really are? If someone is fixing their tie or hair while they are talking to you, that could mean that they really want to make a good impression. They want you to see them in a positive way.
Number 3. How are they moving?
Your body gives a lot of clues about what you’re thinking. Imagine you are having a conversation with a friend who is telling you a story. Initially, you are interested, and you might lean in, and get closer, making sure you don’t miss anything. But then he gets to a part that you’re really not enjoying. You might physically pull back. Is your body language open or closed? Crossed arms or legs might indicate that someone is closed off.
They want to keep a distance between themselves and you. You might also get closer to someone that you like and want a bigger distance from someone that you’re not that interested in. Be aware of any changes in their behavior during the conversation and what they might mean. Were they enjoying the conversation initially, but now you’ve said something that made them pull back?
Number 4. What is their face telling you?
There is a lot to be read in facial expressions. Some sources mention that the face has 42 muscles, while others say 43. But researchers have found that there are only four basic facial expressions. This means you could very easily misread someone’s expression, especially the more subtle nuances. But still, there are certain basic clues to be read. A frown, a smile, how tense or relaxed the lips are – any of these could be a starting point, but then look further: how authentic does the smile feel to you? Is it real, or just on the surface?
Number 5. What is the person’s behavior telling you?
You can tell a lot from how a person is behaving. Are they relaxed or calm? Or are they angry, nervous, or sad? What is the position of their hands? If one of their hands is covering their mouth, maybe they don’t actually want to be telling you those things. What does it mean if they are rubbing their chin – is their face itching or are they deep in thought? If their hands are almost presenting their face to you, that could be a sign of openness. Reading a person’s behavior will get easier once you get to know them and get to know how they normally behave.
When you pick up on changes in their behavior, these are clues as to what’s going on in their mind. Some people are often anxious; it is part of their normal behavior. But you won’t know this when you first meet. Even during your first conversation though, as you spend a bit of time with them, it will become clearer. When the person is doing something that seems a bit unusual, like picking invisible hair or fluff from their clothes, this is called a displacement gesture. They don’t really know what to say to you and are finding a way to keep themselves occupied, even if in an imaginary way.
Number 6. What kind of words are they using?
There is a lot of hidden meaning in word choices. Is the person trying to impress you, do they like to boast, or are they humble? Do they weigh their words carefully or jump right into the conversation, impulsively finding their words as they speak? Is it important to them to say the right thing, and convey their message exactly as they want to, or is it an easy flow where they don’t mind correcting themselves if they change their mind? There is a lot to be read in the words that people use. What are they saying, and what are they not saying?
Number 7. What is the tone of their voice like?
Tone can give you an idea about what someone is feeling, but also what they’re thinking. Are they contemplating their words, are they invested in the conversation? What is their attitude toward you and towards the conversation? Are they kind and caring, or critical? If someone is talking to you but they’re in a big hurry to leave, their tone is likely to not be as warm and friendly as it would be if they really wanted to be spending time with you.
Number 8. What does their presence feel like?
How do you feel when you’re around the person? Their presence may draw you in or push you away. Do they make you feel on edge, anxious, and cautious? Or do they make you feel relaxed and safe?
Number 9. What are their eyes telling you?
Our eyes convey a lot of information about how we feel, how we see the world, or whether we are telling the truth or not. Is the person making eye contact or looking away a lot? Are they looking up or down? A common stereotype is that a person who doesn’t look you in the eye could be lying. But it depends on the specific individual. They could also just be insecure or shy. What is the size of the pupils like?
Our pupils dilate when we are attracted to someone or stimulated by something. But this also happens in lower light conditions – so it’s not always easy to be sure! And when we are angry or feel offended, the opposite happens – the pupils get smaller. Does the person close their eyes when they’re speaking to you? And if so, what does that mean? It could be an unconscious way of saying they would prefer not to be seeing you. We blink more when were annoyed or angry. We also tend to blink a lot when we are talking to someone we like and when we are thinking about a lot of different things at the same time. So, it is important to consider the context before making any assumptions.
Most people are not very good at figuring out when another person is lying. According to Psychologists Paul Ekman and Maureen O’Sullivan, people who are really good at this look for inconsistencies. If there was a big gap between the words someone was using and the way they were saying these words, that is the clue. Look at what the person is giving away in their non-verbal clues. It’s a skill, and if you want to get better at this, keep practicing. Keep an open mind, and remember, non-verbal cues don’t just have one meaning. Keep the context in mind. The exact same behavior could have a different meaning in a different setup. If you are able to verify what you think you’re seeing, all the better.
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