A cold reading can refer to an actor's interpretation of a script without prior preparation or what a fortune-teller does when a first-time client walks through the door wanting advice regarding love, health, work, or money. Here we are concerned only with the connotations of the latter.
You choose to be an entertained client or a vulnerable victim. "The House of Cold Readings" was created as a broad reminder of the ways we are subliminally influenced and/or consciously manipulated on a daily basis, so much that we may even begin to integrate viewpoints that are not healthy for us or are untruthful propaganda. A passing hurtful remark is an example of this. If we do not respond on some level to counteract its suggestive power — such as with a rebuttal ("I do not agree"), an affirmative self-definition ("I am worthy"), or a protective prayer ("God/dess, please protect me from idiots!") — then what was temporary becomes part of an untruthful cancer eroding our basic worth.
What follows is a summary of mind-influencing, as well as information-retrieving techniques, set forth in a familiar fortune-telling format. Psychics, mediums, sales people, politicians, religious demagogues, and junior high school teachers who have to work with sullen teenagers use these techniques almost intuitively.
|THE HOUSE OF COLD READINGS|
|Doorstep||Invite||We're open for business.||SET OUT THE BAIT/WELCOME MAT
• Use family, friends, coworkers, word-of-mouth referrals.
• Press releases
• Paid advertising
(Let's get into a suggestion-friendly alpha trance state, like when you watch too much TV.)
|MISSION SOCIAL CONTROL: CREATE A WELCOMING ENVIRONMENT
• WHAT YOUR CLIENT SEES
— TRADE EXPERTISE: Reference books, related journals or magazines, charts, framed diplomas (frames enshrine), promotional brochures touting knowledge and skills. (Balance these angular forms and corners with round forms, such as the crystal ball.)
— DRAMA: Altar, crystal ball, skull, crosses, votive candles, rosary beads, depictions of angels, demonic masks, dream imagery, wands, tools of the trade
— COMFORT & WELL-BEING: Throw pillows, throw blankets, healthy plants or quality silk plants
— WARM COLORS: Yellow, yellow green, orange, beige, brown, gold
• WHAT YOUR CLIENT HEARS
— SPEECH: Unhurried confident speech peppered with the vocabulary of relaxation, comfort, and wholesomeness (relax, rest, take a break, get comfortable, peaceful, expect good things, wonderful, nice). You have already given the client your name, so you are no longer strangers.
— MUSIC: Relaxing repetitive music or nature soundtracks
— ENVIRONMENTAL SOUNDS: Gentle repetitive sounds (ticking clock, tinkling windchimes) or white noise (whooshing fan). Also, drinking glasses are not thunked down onto the table but have their landing cushioned by a pinky.
• WHAT YOUR CLIENT SMELLS
— INCENSE: Lavender, jasmine, sandalwood, eucalyptus
— POTPOURRI: Lavender, rose, pine, cinnamon
— PERSON: Calming minty smell on breath. Light clean-smelling perfume or cologne.
• WHAT YOUR CLIENT TASTES
— Juice (orange juice, apple cider)
— CAFFEINE-FREE TEAS: Chamomile, peppermint, lemon, jasmine
— Candy mints
• WHAT YOUR CLIENT FEELS
— Nonthreatening pats of support on the hand, arm, or shoulder. (However, remember that any touching at all may put some people on the defensive, especially if you are a man reaching out to a woman. If you are a martial artist, a touch is your cue for a forceful strike back.)
— Comfortable chair
• WHAT YOUR CLIENT RECEIVES
— Unsolicited courtesy
|2||Counterpoint||I'm just like you.
(The effectiveness of propaganda is dependent on drawing clear lines between US and THEM.)
|MIRRORING & SHADOWING CLIENT'S BEHAVIOR/MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO
• Break the codes — verbal and nonverbal.
• Assimilate client's communication style (I think vs. I feel), learning style (I see, I hear, or I touch), and speech tone and pace (speech patterns).
• Speak to them in "their language" (with respect to vocabulary and education), but never below their level. Use of jargon can help establish expertise; it may impress, but it also may intimidate, which is of use for brainwashing or conversion. (Think of the unsettling anxiety ethnocentric people feel when others around them are speaking an unknown foreign language.)
• Encourage open body language with unfolded arms and uncrossed legs. Do not startle the little ones with sudden large and broad movements.
|3||Goal||I'm trustworthy.||SELF-PRESENTATION/ILLUSORY "GLAMOUR"
• YOUR UNIFORM: Dress the part — business professional, mysterious gypsy, or sympathetic grandma.
• YOUR SPEECH: Relaxed, patient, and monotonous (voice roll).
• YOUR BODY LANGUAGE
— Look them in the eyes. (Connotes honesty, but this is a culturally specific behavior as some people may find prolonged direct eye contact too aggressive.)
— Speak from a nonthreatening position.
1) SEATED, or kneeling down beside client's seat with head tilted to one side. (Some body language books talk about the politics of seating.)
2) STANDING: Be aware that generally Americans of European extraction stand arm's length apart, Latinos stand closer, and Asians stand farther away. Moving in or away can be perceived as unfriendly, depending on the person.
|Success depends on you.||INSTRUCTIONS TO CLIENT
• COOPERATION/CONVERSION: This only works if you believe.
(Does this sound familiar? "Only believers get to go to heaven.")
• PREP FOR MISSES
— You must not be a true believer, if it did not work.
— My spiritual powers wax and wane like the moon.
— The future is not set in stone and is changeable.
— This is just for fun! I told you that before we started.
|I know your strengths.||(P.T.) BARNUM STATEMENTS (Can be applied to any of us at one time or another.)
• Sometimes you are good, and sometimes you are bad.
• You are generally a lucky person, but there are times your luck runs out.
• Occasionally you are brilliant, and other times you are foolish.
• You have more friends than you realize.
• GENERAL APPEARANCE OF CLIENT: (not a single hair out of place) You are detail-oriented and may be irritated sometimes by people who are sloppy or lax in their work.
• HAIR: (pink hair) You live creatively and are not unduly influenced by the opinions of other people.
• SKIN: (nice tan) You enjoy being outdoors and probably don't like to stay cooped up indoors for too long.
• BODY/POSTURE: (buff) You are not afraid to work hard, especially toward worthy goals (such as staying physically fit).
• CLOTHING/SHOES: (clean but worn-out clothing) You do the best with what little you have.
GRAPHOLOGY (if handwriting sample is available from a note or a card)
— Smaller than expected writing indicates introvert; larger writing, an extrovert.
— Heavy pressure indicates great vitality; light pressure indicates sensitivity and possibly physical weakness.
— Large rounded letters indicates friendliness; angular writing indicates aggression.
— Normal slant is to the right, extreme right indicates heart over head, vertical indicates head over heart, left indicates repression or self-absorption, and variable indicates unpredictability (crazy).
|I want to know your pain.||CLIENT'S NEEDS|
• What's your question?
— After they finish talking, don't speak right away. Let the silence get uncomfortable enough for them to break it as you are fishing for information. (Westerners are not as comfortable with silence as Asians are.)
— Clients whose eyes go left and stay there during recall often are being imaginative or wishful and/or may not be telling the truth; probe further to verify.
— Depressed clients are strongly oriented toward the past. The key to their happiness is to focus on the future, on possible successful outcomes.
— "Let me make sure I understand your question. What you are saying is...."
— "Yes, that's right…(recap)." ("I already knew that" is implied. See, told ya I was psychic!)
|You tell me what works.||CLIENT'S PARTICIPATION (Everyone likes to feel important and needed.)
• CHECK UNDERSTANDING: Does this make sense or sound reasonable to you?
• CHECK NEEDS: Why might this be important or meaningful to you?
• CHECK AGREEMENT
— That's what you had hoped for, don't you agree?
— Maybe things aren't as bad as they seem, wouldn't you say so?
|This is what the stars say.||PROPS/PANNING FOR GOLD
(Props can be used separately or together. Remember, attitude is more important here than knowledge or skill.)
• Tarot cards: allegorical images
• Rune stones: pictographs representing life events
• Palm reading: Rorschach inkblot test
• Psychometry: Holding and examining a client's ring, watch, or keys can provide additional character insights. Look at price tag (estimate the cost), condition, style, and so forth.
|I want feedback.||CATHARSIS/SYNTHESIS
• How do you feel about your reading? Are you satisfied?
• (to a negative response and resistance) Do you mind sharing with me how you thought it would work out?
|10||Outcome||I want to see you again.||LONG-TERM CONTROL
• Follow-up meetings may be necessary.
• Let's schedule another meeting in a week/month/six months.
"The Battle for Your Mind: Persuasion & Brainwashing Techniques Being Used on the Public Today" by Dick Sutphen. Malibu, CA: Valley of the Sun Publishing, 1984. Sutphen is a New Age hypnotherapist.
"Cold Reading: How to Convince Strangers That You Know All About Them" by Ray Hyman. Skeptical Inquirer (1977). Hyman is a psychology professor at the University of Oregon in Eugene.
"The Cold Reading Technique" by Denis Dutton. Experientia 44 (1988): 326-32. Dutton is a philosophy professor at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand.
"Learn to be Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons!" by the Skeptics Society, Skeptic.com, 2008.
Handwriting Analysis: The Complete Basic Book by Karen Amend and Mary S. Ruiz. North Hollywood, CA: Newcastle Publishing Co., 1986.
Mind Manipulation: Ancient and Modern Ninja Techniques by Dr. Haha Lung and Christopher Prowant. New York: Citadel Press, 2002.
Successful Cold Call Selling: Over 100 New Ideas, Scripts, and Examples from the Nation's Foremost Sales Trainer by Lee Boyan. 2nd ed. New York: AMACOM, 1989.
Word Power: Talk Your Way to Life Leadership by Vernon Howard. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1958.