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Cold Reading—the way that con-men make us feel like they know us, inside and out — 16 Comments

  1. Joyce, this is a phenomenal article because it speaks to boundaries and our own “RE-actions” being easy reads.

    I know that I described this story, before, but I’ll give a nutshell version to illustrate JUST how easy it is to extract information from well-meaning and empathetic people.

    Long ago, I was an AOL Chat Host, and one of the perks was a free AOL account. This was when AOL was the only (literally) chat server on the interwebs.

    When I wasn’t performing “Host Duties,” I had an online ID and would engage in chats with specific topics. In one of the chatrooms, this gal was going on about how she could do online psychic readings to “help” people. I had watched this chatter for a few weeks, and I finally wanted to demonstrate what she was doing. So, I offered to do a reading for another “regular” that I didn’t really know very well.

    I began by suggesting that this person was concerned about someone that they were close to. Yes, this was true.

    Then, I suggested that the person of concern was a male – there was a 50% chance of being correct. Of course, I was.

    Then, I led this person through very specific suggestions for which the responses and re-actions gave far more information than a typed word would provide. Certain exclamations, “YES!!! YES!!!” and, “She did ____ to him,” etc., were very, very telling about the level of her concern, and just how involved she was WITH the person. Romantic? Platonic? I was able to use words and suggestions rather than questions – letting the person give the information with me leading in a specific direction.

    Once I declared that the “reading” was over, this gal was simply astounded. “How did you know all of that?” My response was that I didn’t really “KNOW” anything – that SHE had provided every scrap of information that I required to connect the dots. I then declared to about 40 people that I was not a psychic, under any circumstances, and that the person that I was “reading” simply followed a pattern and direction.

    Now, the reason that I did that was to prove that most “psychics” are full of sh*t and only “reading” their clients’ reactions and body language, rather than communing with outside forces. The most ironic aspect of this recollection is that, given my understanding of HOW such a con could be set up, I wasn’t able to see the setup that the exspath was orchestrating. LMAO!!!


  2. Joyce,
    I love the picture you chose… and the article attached to the link on the picture.

    Our own empathy is what the cold reader is reading. They tell us something that triggers us to try and relate to whatever they said. We can only relate by remembering our own, similar, experience. So that’s how we fill in the blanks. We assume that the cold reader is talking about the same thing that we experienced, when in fact, they are only watching for reactions.

    Truthy, it is ironic that you couldn’t see your ex for what he was even though you were familiar with the format. But remember that he was putting on a performance tailored especially for you. Personally, I was also pretty good at knowing when I was being manipulated, but I could NOT see the ex-spath’s manipulations. I was completely blinded. I think it was fear that blinded me.

    Also remember, that you were vulnerable because you had just been through a previous abusive relationshit. We are only human and we will always have normal human responses. That’s never going to change. All we can do is “modulate” how those responses go out into the world.

  3. You can go to any “fortune teller” an watch them try to do the cold reading, and if you do not respond they are at a LOSS TOTALLY….but if you give them feed back they can make you think they are reading your mind or have a direct pipeline to God himself.

    This is the “love bomb” that cults use, that other manipulators us as well….It is very important that we educate ourselves about this “cold reading” because if we don’t we will be taken in again and again. It isn’t only “gypsies” that do this but all sorts of cons, after your money, your trust and your love.

    Look at Bernie Madoff, he was the ultimate con and look how long it was before he was found out.

    The old adage of “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.”

    A friend and I were talking today, he and his wife went to some scam real estate sales pitch to get tickets to some show for $100 off and he told me about how the sales people pressured him that he had to make a DEAL NOW!!! Finally he and his wife just left. They got their discounted tickets, but he said it wasn’t worth the hundred bucks they “saved” to sit through that high pressure sales pitch. LOL

    You know, Dale Carnagie’s “how to win friends and influence people” (to buy your product) actually WORKS in sales…but you know it is really a primer on how to manipulate folks. The 48 Laws of power book is a con man’s hand book as well. Scary.

    • Sky and Joyce, yes – the information is what “bad people” require, and I was always more than prepared to lay it all out there. The second exspath just let me talk, and talk, and talk – and, he would lead me towards my wants, needs, and expectations, JUST as I had led the gal in the chatroom towards those things.

      Sky, you’re spot-on that the second exspath had tailored his performance for me, personally, and with malicious intentions. He is the same as a “professional” fortune-teller with intent: to take what is not theirs.

      So, I try not to give any of “myself” to anyone. Whenever someone asks me how I’m doing, it’s always, “Fine.” And, it stops there. There are very, VERY few people that I am able to trust, and I will never “give” my trust to anyone, again.

  4. If you look at the horoscopes in the daily paper, really listen closely to a lot of the mumbo-jumbo in some of the so called ‘readings’, it is so generalized it could apply to the life of a gnat and fit perfectly. There are those truly gifted in channeling others from beyond (we are all gifted with this actually) and when they hit on specific things right off the bat, then we’re talking. Otherwise you’re listening to a cold reader playing on your interests based on your reactions, plain and simple.

    I had a woman bothering me once, to give me a reading with a free question. I finally relented and let me tell you, she was trying her darnedest in a cold reading and picked up a lot of things actually. She hit on pretty much every. negative. vibe. I was sending out that day. She couldn’t have hit anything positive had she tried and I wasn’t responding on anything to let her know one way or the other… All said and done she was quite astonished when I ticked off each negativity in her reading, one by one.

  5. Without feed back from you, at least with body language, they can’t “read” you any more than they can a brick wall…it is amazing though what a trained con artist can do with cold reading if their subject is unaware of what is going on and cooperates with them. Some very smart people have been fooled by these crooks. But that’s what keeps con men and women conning is that they have a pretty good percentage of luck with their cons because people are too gullible and trusting. I’ve been a DUPE plenty of times, but it is getting harder and harder to pull me in. I won’t say i will never be fooled again,, but it won’t be as easy as it has been in the past.

  6. There is still plenty of info to be ‘gathered’ from us, even without any or much of a visible reaction.

    If we are dealing with a cold, incoming, ongoing or outgoing, it is often heard in our voice. Cold readers may press this and ‘look’ for bigger health problems or just settle on what is obvious. The chest area is large and holds many organs- they can generalize and likely ‘hit’ on something.

    How we are dressed ‘tells’ of our taste in the finer things in life, how we feel about ourselves or if we are in a bit of a funk perhaps. Jewelry- costume or genuine is also a ‘tell’. Not wearing any? Your hands (and skin too) can tell a lot without much more than a glance.

    Our car- tells about our personality. Is it functional, luxury or practical?

    The size of a purse you carry- do you have everything you could possibly need in there to carry with you or are you comfortable going it alone and traveling light?

    The way you walk- upright and forward or slumped over and dawdling? Are you confident or reserved?

    There are a plethora of ‘tells’ we each give out, (meaning to or not) without a thought or even trying. The cold reader only has to be observant, which they are, from the first moment they see you.

  7. Great point, Phoenix….there ARE many “tells” about us that can be SEEN by a cold reader or anyone else for that matter. GREAT point in fact.

    I have a friend who is a WELL educated woman, very cultured and highh IQ Imet her through our living history group and she actually now, and has for 20 years, made her living doing reenacting for various places like Jamestown etc. She is a large woman (not fat, just looks like what you would expect a peasant woman to look like) and of course she dresses “at work” like a peasant woman of the early ages…I was at an event where she was making lye soap in a large vat over a fire and we were at a college event, one of the professors came out and he was talking to her like she was an uneducated hick….because she APPEARED to be the role she was portraying so well.

    Once when I was demonstrating the oxen at a living history event, of course dressed like my friend, a woman came up to me and wanted to know how many acres a day I could plow with the oxen and what crops I grew plowing with them. LOL Ii played my part well I guess…I told her that I was an advanced practice nurse and that dressing up this “part” was a weekend hobby not the way I made a living. LOL I tried to be kind about it, but I did embarrass her (she blushed) but actually I took it as a compliment that my portrayal was believable which is what I was there doing in the first place.

    Now that I am getting and looking older, I am seeing first hand how old people become “invisible” in many cases, are treated with less respect, etc.

  8. Joyce, that is soooo funny that the woman couldn’t figure out that you were an actor!
    That’s a red flag.

    When the show, The Colbert Report, first aired on Comedy Central, my spath brother in law called me to tell me that I just HAD to watch it. He loved the show because Steven Colbert acts like a pompous narcissist and he thought it was REAL. He didn’t realize that it was an actor, acting a role.

    When I told explained to him that Steven is spoofing Bill O’Reilly on Foxnews, spath BIL responded with, “nuh uh…”

    Later that week he called again and I asked him if he had been watching the show, he said, “No we don’t like that show anymore.”

    Later, I read that a study had been done which showed that many conservatives do not realize The Colbert Report is satirical.

    This matches with my experience with psychopaths and satire. They don’t get it. Their ability to understand nuances in the human language is limited by their shallow perspective of the world.

    Since a psychopath’s facade is the extent of his reality, he believes that your facade is also the limit of what you are.

    So it makes me wonder what kind of woman could believe that you were plowing fields with oxen

  9. Well, we have Amish near here and they use horses and mules, so maybe she thought I was some member of an Amish-type community…

    My soap maker friend was doing a demo in Jamestown and they had to stay 100% in character and her husband who was a leather worker had a shop set up and he was talking to her in h er role as indentured servant very harshly, and this lady and her daughter came in and watched a while then the older lady took my friend aside and toldl her “honey you don’t have to let that man abuse you, there are shelters, I will help you get away to safety” well my friend could NOT break her role so she had to try to figure out how to let the woman know she was ACTING so she said “Madam, in 1774, (emphasis on the year!) my master is a good man, he doesn’t beat me much.”

    The older woman’s adult daughter said as she laughed “see, mama, it’s like a play we walk into, she’s not abused” LOL

    So yea, we play our parts as well as we can and try to stay “in character” as much as possible.

    It is sort of like a “play” that the audience can walk on to the stage and interact with the actors. We explain what we are doing, and why, and demonstrate some craft, even if it is just cast iron cooking.

    We are having the 5-state regional event her in Arkansas in 2015 near my house (ah hour or so away) and I have arranged to have a friend’s oxen for that 12 days….we don’t allow any cars or trucks or modern vehicles in camp once it is set up so people have to walk an d carry their wood and water to their camps and it may be a quarter of a mile, so it will be much easier if we have the steers to pull a sled and haul wood and water for our group and I can probably make a few bucks hauling for other folks. It really is fun and entertaining too. We even have people ask us if the FIRE IS “Real” or not, and we look them in the eye and say “Oh, no, it is “demonstration fire” REAL fire would be much too dangerous.” Sometimes they get we are joking and sometimes NOT! Yea, some folks are well removed from our ancestor’s roots. LOL

    Yea, Patrick thinks my son Michael is a psychopath like him…he even told him “I know you, you are just like ME!” He could not be more WRONG but because he is selfish and out for himself he thinks others are too…He tried to get Michael to control me and spy on me because he decided I had a “brain tumor” LOL and needed someone to advise me. LOL Funny that Patrick thought he could diagnose brain tumors from his prison cell. LOL

  10. Phoenix, I agree with the point that you made that people determine what they will by all information that they can gather, even the unspoken information.

    Because of my situation, I literally look like I should be homeless – old clothing, no jewelry, a banged-up “hoopty” vehicle, hair that hasn’t been done in 5 years, and no makeup. And, people treat me as if I am daft and intellectually challenged. At this point, I don’t really care how I’m perceived because nobody’s getting “in,” anyway. LOL!!! And, it just may be that it is a subconsciously deliberate exterior that I’m presenting – perhaps, I’m “protecting” myself in this way.

    Everyone conducts their own cold readings, regardless of whether they are empaths or disordered. We each make our own personal assessment of what we initially see. I’ve actually been practicing Joyce’s “rule” of observation because of this fact, and the fact that I visually present a superficial homeless appearance.

    Strict aside and WAY off-topic, it’s very interesting how Alec Baldwin has been caught behaving before and after the court proceedings against the now-convicted stalker. Is he showing his true colors, or is he expressing his stress in an inappropriate manner? I’ve never been a Baldwin fan, and I figure that he’s a nasty character, ALL of the time.

  11. With strangers we meet, even just walking by them on the street, by their dress and grooming we form a mental picture of them…old versus young, good health versus poor health, rich versus moderate wealth, or poor. and on and on and on. Does the person walk and talk confidently> What seems to be the vocabularly–accent, educated or uneducated?

    There are soooo many things we use in deciding what and who a person is from exterior appearances… In the film “I psychoopath” they showed two women walking and asked which one is more likely to be raped….the more fearful appearing woman, where as the one striding confidently would be less likely to be attacked.

    A cat wants easy prey and so do humans.

  12. Truthy and Joyce, you both proved my point exactly. People will ‘see’ what they want and take from it what they will. Their perceptions may be off, but they pick up what they see as useful.

    Truthy, observing is a great way to see a persons true intentions. Someone may take pity on you and assuming you are destitute, cut you a lower price on something, or thinking you are an under or uneducated hack they may try to walk all over you. I have seen and had both scenarios play out for me as well. Actions speak far louder than words as we have said here many times over and will repeat as necessary.

  13. Phoenix, I no longer take people at “face value” any more…but do observe them…listen to what they say and make “mental notes”—if they embellish their stories or get the details “wrong” I pretty well know that “something is up”

    I want to help people and I do what I can…whether it is relief for a local or worlds away disaster. I give to charity, but directly, not to ones that use 90% of what they get for “administrative” costs. I don’t donate to the Red Cross, or Goodwill because their executives make millions…I give to the Salvation Army whose CEO gets a bare living. I know the money goes to GOOD use not paying the CEO huge sums.

    I’m that way with people as well…I will give people a hand up, but not a hand out. I try to help people help themselves not take them on as a dependent. Even then, I have folks who will try to take advantage of that and I have to set boundaries.

  14. I may take them at face value for starters, but their words and actions are what either increases or detracts from that ‘value’. Like the dollar, it generally fluctuates a bit before it either stabilizes or plummets to rock bottom. Doesn’t often take long for it to go one way or the other.

  15. Yea, you are right there Phoenix…I don’t GIVE my trust away to people, they must EARN it. My circle of close friends has shrunk quite a bit as I have weeded out the users and abusers and freeloaders.

    Funny thing is though that when they try to take advantage of you and you set boundaries, it pithes them off and they start the smear campaign to anyone who will listen, saying how mean you were and how you took advantage of them….poor them…they need the next person (i.e victim) to rescue them from what you did to them, you old meanie. LOL

    In some circles I have a reputation as a biatch because I called out the abusers, offenders, and law breakers….time, however, ALWAYS proved me right….they eventually made such an arse out of themselves, OR WENT TO JAIL, that even those who called me unkind or mean had to admit I was right. It is a bit of vindication, I don’t depend on that vindication from others any more. I make my OWN assessments of someone’s character and when I see that they are dishonest, hateful, spiteful, unremorseful and that they are not responsible members of the community (i.e. working to support themselves and assuming their own welfare not wanting other to support them) I gently or not so gently sometimes, push them out of my orbit.

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