Kathy Gets A Famed Mentalist To Share His Secrets About Body Language
Ever since I obtained my Master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and studied communication theory, I’ve been fascinated by how we communicate and, in particular, how much information we share through our body language that we don’t realize we’re revealing. So when my son and I saw Oz Pearlman working his mentalist magic onAmerica’s Got Talent, we both were deeply intrigued.
Dubbed as “The Wall Street Mentalist” by CNBC’s Squawk Box, Oz Pearlman is one of the busiest performing mentalists in the world, impressing major figures of Wall Street including Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric, who said of Pearlman, “He just turned one dollar bills into hundreds…amazing!” After several years working on Wall Street, Oz decided to pursue his dream and became a full time entertainer, entertaining audiences with his mind reading abilities and fascinating sleight of hand for over two decades. His numerous television appearances include NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Today Show, CBS’s Early Show and ABC’s World News Tonight just to name a few. Recently, he dazzled television audiences nationwide as a favorite and finalist on America’s Got Talent.
I caught up with Oz (pronounced OH’s) and asked him to share some of his mentalist secrets about how we can read body language and become more adept at identifying cues that will help us in our professional dealings.
Kathy Caprino: Oz, how does your knowledge of mentalism help with negotiations and closing deals?
Oz Pearlman: For negotiation, the knowledge of people’s body language, the tone of their voice, how quickly they speak and when they take pauses at certain moments can tell you a lot about how comfortable an individual is with what you say. I find that the less you speak and the more you observe people, the better of an impression you can get to determine their mood. All those things combined allow me to know whether I can move forward or hold back.
Ultimately, I believe people just don’t stop talking when they get nervous or find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. That is momentum you can use in your favor. Keep letting them speak because often they will give you information without you even needing to acknowledge it and it will eventually show you their hand. That’s something I learned from being a mentalist…you learn by watching people and allowing them to speak.
Caprino: I’ve heard that during your performance, you will somehow recall the names of dozens, if not hundreds of people, that you just met. Is there a trick to remembering names that you can share with us?
Pearlman: Yes, there are two big tricks that I use. Firstly, clear your mind completely. When somebody tells you their name, the number one reason people forget is because they were thinking of something else at that moment. You are not completely focused on the individual telling you their name. So, the moment they tell you their name, repeat it back twice. I will say it twice while I focus on just their name and look them in the eye. Confirm the pronunciation if a tricky name and determine the spelling if there could be multiple options (“Lindsey” with an “a” or an “e” for example). The second trick is to pay that person a compliment when repeating their name, thus helping to anchor and embed it even deeper into your memory. “Lindsey, I love that necklace.” Now your brain will do a great job of recalling the name when seeing that necklace that you legitimately liked. As a bonus, everyone enjoys flattery, so that compliment can go a long way towards you being remembered as well.
Caprino: Can you share how people’s body language tells you what’s going on inside their head and what they might be thinking?
Pearlman: Absolutely. To some degree, sales people use this technique all the time. There are so many factors, but a big one is when you speak a little more quietly. If the individual you are speaking with leans in, then you know they are interested. People tend to lean out when they are lying and feeling uncomfortable. When trying to pick up lies or interest, especially when it involves sales, you must be observant of people’s reactions. Are they interested? Are they paying attention? At times, people look like they are zoning out, when in reality they are just digesting. Don’t push them at that moment.
Here are three other ways body language can tell you what’s on someone’s mind:
Eye movements mean we’re thinking
This is very useful for me when performing and in day-to-day life. Eye movements always indicate that someone is thinking . Regardless of the direction they are moving, I know that thoughts are going through their head at that moment and I shouldpause. Trying to give someone instructions, asking questions, or otherwise trying to convey important information right then will almost never be effective or fully absorbed at this time. All of us have that “zone out” moment where someone just told you something and it’s as if it never happened and you respond “Wait, what did you just say?” Eye movement is almost always a great indicator to save yourself that hassle.
The direction of eye movements reveals remembering vs. constructing
Neuro-Linguistic Programming, also known as NLP, involves the study of eye movements and how they can accompany certain thought processes. They are not infallible, but with a little bit of practice you will start to easily pick up on the patterns. One of the simplest is noticing where a person’s eyes move to when recounting a story that is visual in nature (as opposed to auditory). Generally if their eyes move up and to their left (aka your right when looking at them), then they are accessing the part of their brain that stores memories, they are “remembering” something. Versus if their eyes tend to move up and to their right (aka your left when looking at them), then it is more likely accessing their imagination and they are “constructing” an idea or memory.
Here’s a fun way to test this out for yourself: Ask a family member or friend to think of what they ate yesterday for dinner and observe their eye movements. Then ask them to imagine their dream vacation and meal and see where their eyes goes this time as they fantasize, as opposed to actually remembering. You will see the difference!
Other body movement indicators
Start to pay attention to what people do with their hands, the way their eyes move, and other indicators while speaking to them. You will begin to discern patterns in very short order. Most of us don’t realize that during conversations we are hardly observing others, but mostly focusing inward on what we are going to say next. Try to truly listen and watch. There are no hard and fast rules that always work and each person is different. In my profession, I am playing the odds and don’t always get everything right. Have fun with body language reading and you might start to impress yourself!
This article originally appeared in Forbes.