Can You Read Minds?

“There is only one way… to get anybody to do anything.
And that is by making the other person want to do it.”
– Dale Carnegie

What if you could read other people’s minds? Think, for a moment, how many people you could influence. Consider how effective you could be. Consider what you could achieve.I’m not speaking, of course, of the evil mustachioed characters of science fiction movies or the “Vulcan mind meld” of the original Star Trek television series. I’m talking – purely and simply – about empathy. I’m talking about crafting a message to another person, or group of people, that takes into account people’s motivation, weaknesses, and strengths. I’m speaking about having a genuine understanding of your teammates’ concerns, mindsets, priorities.


Unlike sympathy or compassion, empathy does not necessarily involve feeling another person’s emotions. Instead, empathy involves understanding – understanding, but with detachment; which is far more easily said than done. It is about understanding other people’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It is also about predicting others’ behaviors and reactions to your words and actions.


For a leader, empathy is essential. When you can understand and predict your co-workers’ behaviors, you can influence their thoughts and decisions. Your office can operate more smoothly. You can better identify — and recruit — employees who are likely to have success and longevity in your company. On a certain level, almost every business executive “gets” the importance of empathic behavior. More typically, though, we see empathic behavior directed at customers or consumers, not employees or teammates. If you have any doubt, consider the dollars devoted to predicting consumer behavior.

Empathic behavior is time-consuming and requires humility, and yes, it can be uncomfortable. But remember, the goal in this case isn’t to necessarily like other people. It is to understand other people.

“When you really listen to another person
from their point of view, and reflect back to
them that understanding, it’s like giving
them emotional oxygen.”
– Steven Covey
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