What is your conversation partner not telling you?

There is a tendency to group ‘mind readers’ among magicians, fortune tellers, spoon benders – and let’s face it – all kinds of superstition and paranormal abilities. Of course we are all very attached to our own beliefs, and very entitled to be so. But is it all just ‘slight of hand’ and suggestion?

In Duncan Fish’ audiobook ‘Engage’, he introduces us to research suggesting we can actually read minds. ‘Snake oil, shinanigans!’, I hear you cry. But don’t think you can become a human lie detector, it’s more general than that.

Theories on Neuro linguistic programming (NLP) indicate that our eyes really are the ‘window to our souls’. It goes something like this:


When your conversation partner looks up, they are picturing something visual. When they look sideways, they’re accessing a sound. When looking down, it’s a bit more complex. They may be chatting with their inner voice, feeling sad or solving a maths problem – not really the scientific stuff of polygraphs, but they do generate insights. It also depends on whether the individual is looking right or left.

Typically, when we look right, we are dealing with the memory of actual sensations or using procedural memory e.g. solving the maths problem. Left brain stuff.

On the other hand, when we look left we are using our imaginations to construct or our emotional brains to recall a feeling. Right brain stuff.

If you show compassion and understanding when your conversation partner looks down and left as you discuss the loss of a loved one, you are likely to be perceived as someone intuitive, empathic and friendly.

But be warned, calling your conversation partner a ‘liar’ when they are looking up and left (constructing a visual memory) will probably bring you undone! You just can’t be sure.

We tend to store single memories across multiple locations in our brain. Recall is the process of reassembling those memory parts – regardless of whether the memory is ‘real’ or imagined (or invented).

Duncan provides some more fascinating insights in the following audio sample from Engage. Enjoy!

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