July 18, 2012

on Cold Reading

Is Cold Reading Cool?

At a quick glance, the subject matter or the topic at hand is quite perplexing.  It is in a way questionable in the sense that there seems to be no such thing.  It’s a combination of two alienated words with no relation to one another.  Is it something in our mind that keeps us into believing that there exist no such thing and that these are all products of the mind?  Is it mere sign of ignorance, perhaps? As it is felt initially the drawing out of a conclusion to move away from the subject matter because of the lack of proper information or maybe the will to approach the unknown matter in order to have a good knowledge of it.  The outcome of such syllogisms and queries of the mind can be greatly affected on the intuitive mind as well as the hunger or thirst one has.  It is a mere word or a collection of random thoughts put into words to signify a certain meaning that is known only to the person who formulated it and a big question to those who do not. How does one feel if the lack of proper knowledge and instead ignorance is felt?  The main objective could and can be achieved once a fraction of the true idea is drawn from the one who made it as I can see your eyebrows are getting twitched already and so curled up already…..

What I did right there was a practice of my newly learned method called “cold reading”.  It is a certain method that one uses to draw out information from another person.  This method is extremely popular nowadays as it is often used by “psychics” and fortune tellers to draw information to “unconscious” number of people.  These unconscious ones can be anyone of us.  So famous that this technique has already reached its “commercialization” level as lots of people who claim to see the future or possibly talk to the dead are already gaining profits by exercising cold reading and putting it into some sort of business.

Considerably, cold reading is a way of interacting with another person and drawing out some information on the interaction with the notion or behavioral pattern being given or formed to make it believable that the reader really knows something or in such cases, know a lot about the other person that is being interacted.  In common terms, it is a “make-believe” pattern, method or technique often used by “mind-readers” to make their clients or victims believe that they are telling the truth or at least, know something about the client’s personality or any other aspect in his life.  Still unclear you, guys?

Let’s plunge into it and have a look and maybe offer some techniques that each one can practice.  This technique starts with the drawing out of the subject’s attention and full cooperation to the reader.  The reader will try to convince the subject that the success of the procedure will mainly depend on the subject’s full cooperation and the readiness to give the needed information.  The reader would usually analyze the subject and draw questions based on what the reader initially sees.  The reader draws out his initial batch of information through the subject’s appearance, body language, manner of speech, sexual orientation and such the like so it is important that the reader must pay attention to these minute details.

Since the reader’s aim is to draw convincing and true facts about the subject, the process requires the reader to formulate questions.  These questions are formed or constructed in a way that it is so general or vague in nature.  Formulating these questions are the very core tools that needs to be practiced in order to draw a near to the truth answer to the subject.

Proper technique and lots of practice is necessary in mastering this technique.  However, it must be noted that this rather “abused” technique is intended to be used for entertainment purposes only, as advised by some experts in psychology and those in the mentalist branch of the performing arts.

To date, there are various ways to learn and eventually master cold reading.  Experts on this field have devised a technique or two over the years.  These different approaches all point to the same agenda which is to draw valuable information from the subject by asking questions and making it so believable that the reader is a real mind reader or a “psychic” in nature where in fact, it is the subject himself that unconsciously gives the information.  It should be understood that the success of cold reading on a particular subject will highly depend on the reader’s questioning and keen sense to the signals and information that the subject gives.

Shotgunning.  One of the most famous techniques in cold reading is called “Shotgunning”.  This technique is so common in the practice of cold reading as the reader gives or throws an entirely general question to elicit bits and pieces of information (as if firing a shotgun, thus the name).  An example of a shotgun technique would be:  “I’m sensing someone here who has a long lost friend who desperately wants a visit or a call.”  It’s a general fact or a very obvious idea that all of us at least one time in our lives have old friends whom we really love to see after a while.  The technique may sure hit something about the subject or it may not touch any.  The thing is, the technique that was just thrown was very vague in nature the probability of soliciting a positive response from the subject is high.  One of the key aspects in getting a good response in cold reading is to be able for the subject to magnify the hits and forget the misses.  What’s basically important among the subjects are getting really to know if the reader knows a lot about the subject.  The shotgun technique is so vague that a reader hardly misses.  This technique is mostly applied and cold readers find it very effective in a large audience or a group of subjects.  Again, an example would be throwing a shotgun on an audience by telling them or asking them: “I see someone who is still grieving from a loss of a loved-one or someone dear that passed away a year or two ago.”  Trying or using this technique will surely hit than miss more than one person in your audience.

Rainbow ruse.  This cold reading method is often used by the reader to draw information by presenting both ends of a particular characteristic that the reader believes the subject possesses.  This method is quite tricky and would involve creativity on the part of the reader.  It is applied in order to draw out what kind of characteristic the subject has by presenting or formulating an essential guess by the reader.  Through this method, the subject is faced with the distinction of which character best describes him and those that which are the ones that are merely retained in the memory.  That alone would give a strong hit and would make the reader more believable when in fact; he is just making a guess.  The Rainbow ruse technique is used on a wide variety. One of its forms is the “appeal to flattery” where the subject is being rewarded with a pleasant characteristic drawn by the reader.  Example:  “Something is telling me that you are a very approachable person and a nice one although it is sometime in the past that you had to turn down an offer from a friend or from someone.”  This approach of the rainbow ruse method always gets a positive response because no subject would ever admit that he really is that unapproachable and thus flattered by the fact that the reader blatantly admires his being approachable.  Another method of drawing out a subject’s character is thru the use of Barnum Statements.  Derived from P.T. Barnum the showman, the reader draws out the information by throwing generalized character statements.  An example of this is:  “I strongly believe that you are a very much talented person that sometimes people don’t recognize it.”

The fact that cold reading does not only dwell on the generality of the reader’s guess, it is also on the manner that the reader construct statements that the subject is drawn more to provide not just the basic information but the details as well.  These bits of important information can be easily drawn by the reader by building or guessing facts that are specific and those that are vague.  Readers would also throw a lucky guess.  A fact drawn by using statistics and jargons as most fortune tellers or tarot card readers would normally do is also a good technique in cold reading.  These psychics can draw a nod out of the subject through the use of a seasonal touch.  An example of a seasonal touch method would be a reader telling the subject that “I see some disease on the skin coming and a few traveling in a few months.”  The reader could be very good in a sense but what he really tries to “see” is the truth based on the season.  Summertime would be nearly coming and would mean sunburns and skin rashes due to sun exposure and the same would entail some enjoyment at the beach which would surely require traveling.  Again, our cold reader hits the spot.  Information and events can also be drawn out through a momentary reminiscing of the past.  And what best way to remember than going back to your childhood days.  The cold reader can always form a statement like: “I see a struggle, a struggle in your personality during your adolescent life and you seem you have been imprisoned in that time in your life.”  More ways than not, a nod is on the way.  As if nobody experienced that event during that time!  The most effective method of extracting information on the subject that the cold readers usually practice is the “Incidental Question” technique.  This is the “chat-type” of technique where a deep sense of reply is required from the subject.  Questions are mostly crafted as a “trap” and force the subject to lay down the information needed by the reader.  A simple example would be: “I’m sensing a great amount of pressure during your past relationship as compared to now, what do you think?”

As stated above, fortune tellers often use cold reading to trick their avid fans.  They either go for certain predictions such as: “I see someone you know passing away in the near future.”  A cold reader would also throw a 50-50 prediction like: “I see a heart problem in the future so better take care of you health”.  It is most likely to happen in reality, isn’t it?  Psychics would often give a likely kind of prediction on a 40 year old man: “I sense that you will finally meet your future wife this year.”  Physical appearance and other attributes cannot escape a master reader in giving a “Sherlock Strategy” prediction.  An example of this is: “I sense that you’ll be having a lot of relationship related problems in the next few months.”  This statement is made on a good looking, mature and outgoing type of woman as a subject.

It must be taken notice that the subject’s ability to recall the hits the reader made during and after the cold reading session will greatly make or break the reader’s success.  The reader should always try to vaguely tackle all possible angles from the elicited information given by the subject.

From all those methods and techniques that were randomly described above, the possibility of learning the art cannot be that difficult.  Cold Reading, just like any craft, can be learned by almost anybody. And this word “anybody” really means everybody.  If you happen to be a “new kid on the block”, below are some quick tips on learning how to “cold read” the very easy level (just like in the games) way:

Tip # 1.  The Persona. – Since it is an accepted fact especially among mentalists that cold reading is just a form of entertainment, you being the cold reader or “psychic” should first practice of having or exuding the aura or persona of being one.  It does necessarily mean that you have to be too serious on everything as your prospective subjects may opt to look for an alternate reader upon seeing that look of seriousness in you.  Try to look as normal as everyone else.  One of the cold readers which best epitomizes our tip would be Derren Brown.  He dresses and speaks just like anyone.  This easy “personification” won’t be hard to learn as acting as natural as you can is already your nature and subconscious.  What if someone, a strange unknown person suddenly comes up to you and suddenly gives you a million bucks?  You’ll be surprised, isn’t it?  Ideas of greatness, humility or generosity and other good ones are immediately formed in your mind afterwards.  The thing is, a certain persona, a persona of one that has great powers is conditioned in your subject’s mind upon knowing that this “natural” reader actually has “psychic” powers!  Projecting simplicity and being natural like anyone else are the initial cold reading talents that you should develop.

Tip # 2. Open eyes. – For someone new who’s eager to learn and master the craft, being very keen to details that your subject gives is among the important factors a student reader should learn by heart.  The success of your “psychic” career will depend on how you are able to pick-up the signals and the bits of information that your subject has.  Remember that the subjects are unknown individuals and drawing or eliciting information is quite difficult that an “open eyes” should be always present.  A student reader should be wary of every detail (consciously or not) that the subject projects.  Seeing the subject crossing his arms or legs upon mentioning a certain subject matter would somewhat say that what’s being discussed is something private or something that the subject does not want to talk about.  Looking away or avoiding eye contact would imply that the subject is either lying or afraid to tell the truth.  What Psychologists’ say that actions do speak louder than words still do apply in this tip.  Being able to pick-up these minute but important details would also enable the reader to formulate his next move.

Tip # 3.  Throwing out the big ones. – As all these tips are vital for a student reader, mastering this particular tip involves a lot of work and wits.  In either eliciting or giving information, a sudden reader “must” always generalize or broaden up everything.  This tip is best recommended for cold reading on a group of subjects.  A subject or question that is so vague or generalized in nature will surely hit your subject one way or the other.  Being so vague in formalizing your “moves” is the best tip for a student reader’s psychic success.  Try throwing a vague question to a group of subject such as: “I see a person who has this great talent when it comes to formalizing new ideas but is afraid to show it for fear of rejection but if someone so close would tap it, then that talented person will definitely succeed in life.”  With eyes closed, 99% of your subjects will magically turn to talented ones!  The reader’s statement was so generalized that anyone in the group agrees of having it and accepting the “Oh, that was actually me!” notion.    

Anyone who’s alien to the art and wants to learn it must always be ready for failures.  Just like anything that one wants of perfecting unto: an art, method or technique, the athletes’ and the expert’s advice still resounds: “practice makes perfect”.  It is sometimes through failures that one really learns that’s why its very important to practice, practice and above all, practice.

And now, the downside part of it.  The fun and enjoyment that cold reading brings as well as its mastery was not as entertaining as one thought of as the craft was abused and mishandled by person who’s main purpose of using cold reading is for greed.  Sad to say, that many have already and are currently benefiting on it and using it in its unintended purpose.  Ironically, these greed driven “psychics” are the best practitioners of the art.

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