Lie To Me Way!

The following article is part of the series on how to win friends and influence people. You can read the first two articles here, and here.

In Part 2 I covered how lifestyle determines the resources you have at your disposal, the resources needed to bring value to the people around you and to draw people in.  You don’t always need lear jets, cash, and women—but you should know what kind of value you can bring them to provide them with the greatest amount of value. When it comes down to it, making the connection necessary to understand what kind of value you can bring is easier than you think.

Time to Shuffle

To do that you need the ability to read people to discover their wants, needs, and desires.  All of us do this at some level but when you can do this well, in moments you can connect with people in ways that only their closest friends and family can. Very few people get as much attention as they want. Most of us would like to be higher priority in other people’s lives than we are. Most of us would like our desires to be met without asking… especially those desire we didn’t even know we had!  (The rabid fandom of Apple is the result of a company achieving this goal.)

You’ve been touched by someone else’s actions at a deep emotional level at some point in your life and that’s what this skill allows you to do. Master the skill, and you can create this feeling purposefully and strategically. Doing this well means you really have to shift your focus outward.

It All Comes Down to Electronics

When someone sneezes and you say, “bless you,” this is exactly what you’re doing.  You are acknowledging them and their situation in that moment—this is the essence of reading people.  At any given moment, in a public environment when you look around you, people are living through variety of different and unique personal experiences. Some people are hot; others are happy; others are agitated, tense or nervous; while others are relaxed. One person is tired, while another person is bursting with energy. One person is feeling sick, and another sleepy. These are all easily observable experiences that most people pay no attention to as they walk down the street, sit in a coffee shop, or mingle at a party. These are the experiences you need to pick up on.

Since we all have an innate ability to do this, it’s totally possible to improve the skill. Every person has what are called, “mirror neurons,” specialized cells designed to pick up on, feel, and reflect the emotions in our social environment. When someone smiles at us, we almost automatically smile back.  These same neurons are key in how we can learn by watching.  What’s important to understand about the smile example is that the physiology is so closely related to our biochemistry that smiling makes us feel happy just as something that makes us feel happy causes us to smile.  This ability means we can “ping” emotions from other people, just by taking the time to pay attention long enough for our mirror neurons to kick in.

Where the Real Money Is

You can collect a lot of information about how people are feeling in a given moment which means that you can gain an understanding of how to interact with them effectively. To get real understanding, though, you need to watch for behavioral patterns and thought patterns, as well as ask questions. Everyone is different. One person wants to travel overseas to go shopping while another is looking forward to seeing a friend or family member. Yet another wants to travel to experience culture, food, or people; while another person just considers it a job or “life opportunity”. These are all different motivating factors and different people at different points in their lives have different primary drivers. All of these thought patterns hint at what the person is looking for in their lives, what their ultimate desires are.  Some of this will come out naturally, while you can only discover others by asking the right questions.

Even more powerful than listening to what people say though, is looking for their behavioral and thought patterns.  Most people have made it this far in life by following a set of thought and behaviors that they learned growing up.  Most people don’t go through the trouble of changing them, and even the most internally pained people will live in the pain they know rather than adopt new patterns of behavior.  Eric Berne talks about this in his book, What Do You Say After You Say Hello?  The important point here is that how someone has behaved in the past is how they are likely to behave in the future; and, the way they think now is likely the way they will think in the future, as well.

Now for the most critical paragraph in the entire article: All of this means that people have a system of beliefs that, in addition to it’s rewards and benefits, has risks, weaknesses and failings.  Those risk, weaknesses, and failings are the holes in the other person’s life that you can fill with the resources at your disposal. This is where the real money is.

There’s a great example in The Social Network, the movie about the founding and early growth of Facebook.  In it, Eduardo Severin and Mark Zuckerberg have a small network which limits their growth and it’s not until they meet Sean Parker who has experience and connections in the high flying world of Silicon Valley that they have the vision and the resources to make it big.  Your job in reading people is to find out where the missing pieces are so that you can give them maximum value with minimum effort.

For Further Reading…

Emotions Revealed by Paul Eckman, the psychologist known for showing that humans have universal expressions for certain key emotions, is a great place to start learning how to sharpen your ability to read others. (While the hard cover is going for just under $4000 on Amazon, you can pick up the soft cover for as little as $12.) You can also learn a lot from watching a show I highly recommend based on using his research to solve crimes called, Lie To Me. The show is outstanding and currently selling for only $2 on Amazon.


  • Evolution

    This is really good stuff. I’m learning a lot from this series. Can’t wait until part 4 comes out!

    • I had a great time writing it…it was originally supposed to just be one article, but I ended up writing 5 parts!

      Thanks for the kind words, they are always appreciated.