Professor X, from the X-Men is not considered the most powerful mutant. But to me, he is because he has the most powerful superpower of all: the ability to read people’s minds. While we can’t read people’s minds like Professor X can, we can get into their heads with something we’re all born with.
I naturally like to understand people, and I’ve always been more of a listener than a talker. When I was younger I would let people talk all they wanted because I’d rather listen more than talk. It wasn’t because I was insecure, it was more shyness. I found that I would know more about them than they of me because they would just talk and talk; as a result I would get people to open up to me very quickly.
I learned that people love talking about themselves. And the more you get them to talk about themselves then the more you know about them, who they are, where they come from, what motivates them, what gets them excited, what brings them down, etc..
With that said, I believe that the single most important skill we can all develop is the ability to get inside the minds of other people. If you develop this skill, the sky is the limit; nothing will ever stop you. Because people are like a mystery, they wear a mask. And you don’t have any idea what they’re thinking.
How do you learn this skill? We all have it, some people are more keen to use it than others, but we stop using it as we get older; it’s empathy.
Stop the ME, ME, ME.
How do you practice empathy?
It’s not easy, not everyone is born the same way. But you can do it. We all have egos, and we love talking about ourselves. To switch, it all starts with shutting your mouth, opening your mind and listening more. Normally we go around interested in our own thoughts and ideas. How many times have you sat down with someone to talk, and suddenly you tune out and get into your own head? I do. We all do it. Why? Because we’re more interested in our own thoughts and life.
But to get inside the mind of another person, you have to switch it around and tell yourself the other person is more interesting than me; their life, their thoughts, their ideas, you have to imagine they’re an undiscovered world. They have experiences you’ve never had, they have a worldview that’s not your worldview; it’s fascinating.
That’s it, that’s what you have to do.
Be more interested in others
If you switch from ME to being more interested in other people, when you listen to them you’re absorbing yourself in the words and energy and think about what they’re saying. You want to understand their body language, what motivates them, what their inner life is like, etc..
You can’t get inside someone’s thoughts, but you can get inside their moods and emotions because we’re very subceptible to other people’s moods and emotions. We can understand the tone in someone’s voice, the subtext of what they’re saying and pick up the emotion behind and what they’re intending.
Doors open up to you once you’re able to put yourself in the mindset, point of view and spirit of other people. And as you switch your perspective from ME to THEM, you’ll become more interesting too.
How to get inside the minds of other people
How do you get inside the mind of another person? I know there are mentalists who read people’s minds. But they don’t read people’s minds without asking questions or making comments and then reading people’s reactions; that’s how they do it and we can too. For those of us who are not trained mentalists, tactically it’s about:
- Going beyond small talk because small talk is just a means to an end;
- Digging deeper into a person’s personality;
- Digging into what gets them emotional;
- Looking at non-verbal communication;
- Understanding their thought process.
The objective is to get people to open up, and it all starts with trust. This will take time, and might not happen in one sit down but with time and practice you can start noticing things about another person and start getting into their head.
To summarize, to get inside the minds of other people is the most important skill you can develop. And the way to do that is telling yourself, “other people are more interesting than me”, and then absorb yourself in their interests and thoughts.
What are the tactics? Ask questions and listen intently. Don’t just listen to what they say, but also non-verbal communication. Ask about what excites them, what brings them joy and why, what’s the most interesting thing they’ve done recently, why did they decide to do that thing they talk about, etc..
Bottom line: Being more interested in others is a superpower.