Mind reading. We all do it, every single day. Your dog does it when you point at something. She has to interpret your silent gesture and determine, “What the heck is my kooky master thinking?” Professional mediums do it for a living.
When we watch a movie, we subconsciously ask ourselves, “What is that character thinking?” Though we are usually not aware of it, we are mind reading whenever we have a conversation. It’s impossible to have a meaningful discussion without constantly anticipating what the other person is thinking. Thus, the better we become at reading people’s minds, the more successful we’ll be, both professionally and personally.
T.V. personality Theresa Caputo, aka “The Long Island Medium” (Photo by Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic)
Learning From Professional Mediums
Within the past few months, I’ve attended live performances by Theresa Caputo (The Long Island Medium) and Tyler Henry (The Hollywood Medium). Both mediums were entertaining and captivated their respective audiences for a couple of hours. Both crowds, of about 1,500 people, literally laughed and cried – a testament to these performers’ ability to engage, persuade and influence their audiences.
Whether you believe mediums can communicate with departed souls, or not, there are many persuasion and influence lessons to be learned from the professional medium’s craft. There’s a reason the term “reading” is used to describe a session with a medium – they are literally reading their subject’s spoken and unspoken messages, in real time, while guiding the conversation to solicit more and more information.
To be clear, the intent of this article isn’t to question the sincerity or authenticity of Ms. Caputo or Mr. Henry’s spiritual abilities. I respect their wit, humor and well-honed ability to read people’s minds, a skill we can all improve.
Some of lessons I picked up from Ms. Caputo and Mr. Henry include:
Willing Subjects – Mediums typically have the benefit of working with a highly sympathetic audience. Even the most talented medium cannot “read” a reluctant subject.
Entrepreneurs can ensure similarly conducive persuasion environment by properly vetting their sales prospects, potential partners and job candidates. Time at a nascent startup should be focused on attempting to persuade those who are inclined to listen. Once your venture is established, you’ll have the resources to win over the non-believers.
Open Questions – After explaining a spiritual symbol that has come to her, Ms. Caputo, often asks her subject a variant of, “How do you understand _____(the symbol) and the connection with _______ (the deceased relative)?”
Mr. Henry will often describe something he is hearing or seeing from the spirit world and then says, “I don’t know where that fits,” giving the person who is receiving the reading a chance to fill in the missing information. Such open-ended questions encourage the subjects to disclose additional information, without forcing the mediums to make false assumptions.
This is a particularly effective mind reading technique. For instance, if you’re speaking with a sales prospect, describe a product feature, but not the benefit, and ask, “How do you think _______ (the feature you just described) might be best deployed at your company” or “In what ways might ______ save you time and money?”
This approach helps you avoid being presumptive and it reinforces the reality that the prospect is the expert, not you. You’ll never know your prospect’s business as well as they do, so they should define how your value proposition fits within their operations.
Affirmative Head Nods – Effective salespeople and skilled mediums know the power of the affirmative head nod. If you’re unfamiliar with this persuasion technique, the next time you’re speaking to someone, slowly begin to nod your head up and down. Irrespective of what you’re talking about, it’s very likely the person you’re speaking with will begin to subconsciously nod their head as well.
So what? Well, behavior scientists have confirmed that people internalize and believe messages more readily when they are nodding their heads in affirmation. Consider the way a server at a restaurant asks you about your food – they come by with a big smile and vigorously nod their heads up and down, while saying, “How’s everything tasting?” The last thing they want to hear is, “This food sucks.” Their cheerful, affirmative approach reduces the chances that you’ll complain about your food.
Note: not every culture associates an up-and-down head nod with affirmation. Be sure to use whatever head movement means “yes” to the person your attempting to persuade.
Intense Listening – As noted in, The Single Most Effective Persuasion Technique Is Also The Easiest To Master, focused listening involves verbal and non-verbal signals of affirmation. For instance, Ms. Caputo frequently asks her subject affirmation questions, such as: “Does that make sense to you?” and “Correct?” These questions ensure that what she is saying, and hearing, are on track.
The most important persuasion skill is effective listening. Active listening leads to empathy, which in turn enhances your persuasion and influence capabilities.
Humor – Levity reduces stress and places the medium’s subject in a more relaxed and open state. Both Ms. Caputo and Mr. Henry interject humor into their readings, to reduce the tension inherent in speaking about deceased friends and relatives.
Successful influencers realize that people are more readily persuaded by people they like. Thus, establishing a strong rapport, with tasteful humor, facilitates persuasion and influence.