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LESSON 3: Read Minds by Practicing Active Listening

Are mentalizers born or made? Actually, it could be both.

Let me explain: just as some of us have a natural predisposition towards music, while others are tone-deaf; and certain people have a “scientific mind,” whereas others are more artistic, the same could be said about mentalism: some of us have, from a very young age, special talents that enable us to tap into our mind’s power easier that other people.

However, that doesn’t mean that the field of mentalism is limited only to those who have a natural talent. Any knowledge, including that associated with mentalism, can be learned by anyone who …puts his or her mind to it! All that is needed is the willingness to learn and practice.

There are certain skills that every aspiring mentalizer must master but the good news is that each of these skills is relatively simple and everyone has the ability to learn them.

Actually, you may already have some of these skills because you use them, to a certain degree, in your daily life. Others may require some more work but, as I said before, mastering them is not exactly rocket science – they are within anyone’s reach.

As you know from the previous chapter, your brain and mind work together to assimilate and process all kinds of information, including all the knowledge you need to have as a mentalizer. So if you are not sure whether you can learn everything you need to know, just remember Buddha’s quote: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

So let’s get started on this chapter, which will explain what skills and character traits you have to work on to become a mentalizer.

As you read it, remember that my shows are different from the seminars and workshops I teach. My shows are pure entertainment and include a lot of gimmicks and techniques that aren't what I call “Real Mentalism.”

Be all eyes and ears

I already mentioned to you in an earlier chapter that a good mentalizer is like a good detective, who possesses sharp powers of observation and deduction.

But what exactly does this mean?

In one episode of the TV show “The Mentalist,” Patrick Jane (played by Simon Baker), is asked by someone who is amazed by his abilities: “Are you a psychic?” Patrick replies: “No, but I know how to listen!”

And that, dear readers, is one of the most important skills a mentalizer should possess: the ability to LISTEN and PAY ATTENTION to what people tell you.

By the same token, the ability to FOCUS and OBSERVE is just as important – if you listen, pay attention, focus, and observe, and then process all the information your mind registers, you will boost your powers of observation and deduction.

It sounds easy, doesn’t it, but you’d be amazed at how many of us are too distracted or too disinterested to hear, see, and process these very basic verbal and non-verbal signals that people send out, without even realizing it.

Listen to this…

Has anyone ever asked you to “lend an ear?” It is such a funny expression because it conjures up images of someone tearing off his ear in order to loan it to another person. I have no idea who invented this saying – maybe it was Vincent van Gogh!

Seriously though, being willing to “lend an ear” is a very important quality for a mentalizer. Now, I bet you think that you are a pretty good listener, and maybe you are. But ask yourself this question: how much of what you hear you actually remember? Chances are you only retain a small part of what people tell you. In fact, studies suggest that we remember only between 25 percent and 50 percent of what we hear. In other words, we forget between half and three-quarters of the things people tell us – as the saying goes, “in one ear and out the other.”

That’s not good enough for a mentalizer! So how can you sharpen your listening skills?

In the previous chapter, we talked about the importance of clearing our minds and having “tunnel vision.”

So the first step to becoming a better listener and observer is to de-clutter your brain (using a technique described in the previous chapter) so it can receive the new information, and also practice “tunnel vision” –mentioned earlier as well. Think of your mind as a garden, which is overgrown with weeds that take every inch of space. Before you can plant anything new in it, you must first remove all those wild plants that leave no room for anything else. You get the message, right?


One effective technique that teaches you to “catch” what people tell you (after your brain has been cleared) is the so-called “active listening.” It could also be called “conscious” listening, because you must really concentrate on and pay full attention to what you are being told.

This technique may not come naturally or even easily to many people because, as mentioned previously, we’ve accustomed our brains to multi-task. But here’s what you can try to do, little by little but on regular basis, to become an active listener:

After using mind-decluttering techniques explained in Chapter 2, sit down with another person and listen carefully, attentively, and consciously to what he or she says to you.

Focus not only on words, but, more importantly, on the entire message the person conveys to you. Don’t interrupt or jump in mid-sentence – you are not listening in order to reply, but in order to learn.

Analyze, understand, and retain what you just heard (this is where good memory will be very useful and we will talk about it in future chapters).

The ability to LISTEN, FOCUS, OBSERVE, UNDERSTAND, and MEMORIZE, are as essential to a mentalizer as the knowledge of anatomy is to a doctor. Obviously, there are more skills and qualities a mentalizer needs to have, and we will talk about them as we go on.

For now, I’d like to leave you with this very wise ancient Chinese proverb – are you listening?

“A wise old owl sat on an oak; 
The more he saw the less he spoke; 
The less he spoke the more he heard; 
Why aren't we like that wise old bird?”

I hope you found this chapter (as well as the ones you hopefully watched previously) interesting and informative. Please stay on board for the next chapters, where various techniques of mentalism will be revealed to you in detail. In the meantime, please keep sending me your questions and don’t forget to add your comments below – it’s always a pleasure to hear from you! If you haven’t done so already, be sure to like, subscribe and comment on my video. It helps us make the world a better place. Till next time, see you soon!

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