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If you have ever seen a mentalist on TV, you might find yourself astounded by how they're able to glean so much about an individual without ever meeting them in the first place. As a successful mentalist, it is part confidence and part being able to read the individual in front of you and the information present. How do mentalists use body language to create accurate readings?

Body language tells an individual a great deal about another person's state of mind, how they are feeling, and other minor details that may allow them to better interact with that person. It is a necessary form of nonverbal communication that has been used throughout the ages for one person to relate to another.

Using critical information that you are providing, the mentalist can identify if they're on the right track with a statement they have made or if they need to pull back. But what is body language? How do mentalists use it to their advantage when they are committing to a reading? Read on for all you need to know about body language and mentalism. 

Body Language is an Important Component in Mentalism

Since its study in the early 1940s, body language has been on Earth to be intently linked to how one perceives another person. It is also used to create nonverbal communication that is inherently unconscious or subconscious in action. What does this mean? When we say unconscious or subconscious, we mean that you do not physically think of making this movement. 

This is a holdover from before we had a communicative language. With language, we can tell people when we are upset, what we're feeling, and what we're thinking about. Before, it's more than likely that a person in the distance would have gathered whether or not they should have approached an individual based on a stance or the look about them.

Despite having a modern language to communicate with, much of the time, our body language will dictate parts of the conversation we are not saying orally. in some instances, this can be very useful if controlled. In other cases, when you are not completely honest with another individual, it can give away that you are displeased or feel negatively towards them. 

If you've ever been in discussion with an individual and they suddenly leap to the conclusion that you are holding something back, you may have been startled by this. This is due to your body language. It told the individual that you were not present in the conversation entirely. Mentalists use observation of your body language in the same way. 

How Do Mentalists Use Body Language?

As a part of their trade, mentalists need to have confidence that they need to have heightened observational skills as they interact with other individuals. Improved observational skills allow them to see how individuals react to the information they provide and adjust or press on as necessary.

Heightened observation combined with body language can allow them to create cold readings, deductions, and suggestions that seem tailor-made to you. To do what they do, they need to study rigorously different forms of subtle communication people provide unconsciously. 

Body language is not solely consistent with what people do with their eyes or their faces. It makes up the entire individual experience. This includes posture, how they're holding their position, their stance, and even subtle ticks in the musculature of a person. We will review some of the top body language signals people can give off during cold readings. 

Arms and Legs

While talking to a person face-to-face is the best way to maintain an open line of communication, your arms and legs can actually tell a person more about how you're feeling deep down. That may be surprising to hear, but think about what you do with your hands and your legs within the confines of a day to day conversation.  

When you are talking with an individual, and you're having a great conversation, you might gesture a lot to emphasize points. When you're on a date with a person, if you touch their arm, that usually means you feel a form of affection for them. When you are feeling uncomfortable, you tend to fidget with your fingers to pass the time.

These are some of the base actions individuals do with their hands and arms. Mentalists use this information to get a read on their situation and how far they should press a conversation. 

Here are some of the top ways you may be indicating how you were feeling and what that stance might look like:

  • Crossed arms or legs
  • Fidgeting and clasping hands
  • Akimbo

Crossed Arms or Legs

Crossing arms or legs is more of a protective position. This indicates that you want to be left alone, that you're defensive, and you are not receptive to the conversation.

Fidgeting and Clasping Hands

Usually, when you're bored or anxious, you may find yourself fidgeting with your fingers or gripping your hands together in front of you or behind your back. This is not unusual and indicates to a mentalist that the person has disconnected from the conversation or is uncomfortable.  In some instances, such as tapping fingers, it may actually be a sign that you are agitated and frustrated with the situation.


This pose exudes confidence. Your hands are on your hips. Your elbows are out as if to say, “Here I am.” It usually indicates control of a situation, but it also can lead to agitation and aggression if the situation goes sideways. 


Posture is one of the biggest ways that people can tell how you are feeling. There are different ways that your posture may indicate being worn down, feeling tired, and other such situations of emotional distress. That's right: your parents were not just getting onto for hunching for no reason.

Knowing what a person's posture means can help to see if they are receptive to a conversation from a mentalist. There are two general positions for posture, but of course, every individual can have slight differences.  The close and open posture can be observed during a conversation and can indicate to a mentalist whether they are on the right track or not.

Closed Posture

During a conversation, does an individual hunch over? Do they seem to protect their chest or abdomen by closing in around themselves? This is a closed posture. Another way to see closed posture is if there is an obstacle between you and the individual you are speaking with. This is in order to protect themselves.

Typically if there is a closed posture, this means that the person is not open for debate or discussion. It is a sign that they are distrusting of the situation or of you. It can also indicate that they are unhappy with the situation due to secretiveness. Over time if not noticed or adhered to, a close postured individual can become angry.

Open Posture 

Open posture indicates that a person is very ready for a conversation or very invested. Typically this individual will have shoulders back and will have a very open and exposed stance. This person is ready to go and have the conversation, empathizing and listening to what you say.


When it comes to gestures, much like posture, individuals can have a different way of communicating that they are unhappy or happy to be there. However, there are some generalities that are very easy to read and can help a mentalist throughout their conversation. However, when it comes to gestures when was constantly pay attention.

There are, of course, some observed regular gestures. These are the okay sign, a thumbs-up, a thumbs down, or even clenching the fists. These all have universal meanings that any individual can recognize during a conversation. Another area one must look for is gesture slip.

What is a gesture slip? Much like any other part of the body, sometimes the individual may be saying one thing while their hands, face, or other areas may indicate another. Think of when you have a conversation with the person who accidentally says the wrong thing and then claims it was a “Freudian slip.” Gestures can do the same thing.

What is a great example of a person having a gesture slip? For instance, say you were talking to someone, and you ask, “Do you agree?” They respond emphatically, “yes, yes, of course, I do! ” however, you observe that their head is slightly shaking from side to side. They may be highly invested in the conversation, but they do not actually agree with what they are saying. 

The subtle indicator lets you know that the person is not fully honest with you. For a mentalist, it can be a sign that they need to redirect the conversation without calling the individual out, which could put them in a negative state. These subtle slips can make or break a conversation or situation. 


Of course, we have saved the best for last. The face does, in fact, tell a lot about how a person is feeling reacting, and its minor muscle movements provide a lot of subtle information that an individual may not have control over. Think of a time where you were thinking one thing and saying another, an individual asks, “Why did you make that face?”

The mouth and eyes specifically have great value in reporting body language to a mentalist. Because an individual is not always aware of how their eyes or their mouth may react to a statement or a situation, they can relate quick information by detailing small movements. First, let's examine how the mouth can tell us what the person is thinking.


The mouth is composed of many small muscles that are utilized to do everything from help communicate to consume food and more.  Being able to read body language allows an individual to pick up key mouth and lip cues that may identify an individual state of mind. 

The most common of which are the following:

  • One person bites their lip. They may be anxious or concerned about the conversation.
  • Some individuals may cover their mouth either inadvertently or on purpose to hide a reaction signify surprise or to prevent saying something that they find would be distasteful.
  • The edges of the mouth can indicate the status of the conversation just by their tilt. Upwards generally indicate a positive or happy emotion. While downturn edges can signify that they are upset or not trusting the situation they are in.
  • Thinning of lips or tightening usually signifies a person does not like the situation, disapproves of it somehow, and does not trust the individual they are speaking with.


Eyes are the windows into the person's soul. There is no mistaking that statement. What people may not realize is that the eyes do a lot of things that the person does not necessarily will intentionally. Everything from the gaze to where they look maybe it is a sign that they are trying to tell you something.

When you first approach a person, paying attention to their pupil size, blinking, and gaze can help you see if speaking with them will be accessible. A quick example of this would be that if a person does not mean Tina eye contact or is blinking rapidly, they are usually uncomfortable and do not desire to be there.

Maintaining eye contact is usually considered friendly, and that has though a person has invested in the conversation. The blank rate can also do crease if a person is concentrating or invested in the conversation. At the same time, this may be surprisingly average individual blinks about five times per second, so if they're blinking slow or they are usually paying attention.

This is a double-edged sword, however as also individuals who'll I can also decrease their blank rate as they are trying to appear confident invested, and it seems as though they are trustworthy. Finally, if pupil size is dilated, this generally means that the person is interested or invested in your company. Again this also does not help with people who are lying as people size can also dilate.

Subtle Eye Gestures

There are, of course, more subtle ways that the eyes can tell you what a person is thinking. Generally, when a Mentalist reads these, they can tell if a person is talking to themselves internally or even recalling a memory by sound or visually.

  • Down right: Emotional recall of a past memory
  • Down left: Thinking to themselves
  • Sideways left: Sound recall of a past memory
  • Sideways right: Making a sound up and could be lying.
  • Up left: Visually recalling a memory
  • Up right: Making something up visually, but also the typical position of a creative or a person constructing a lie.

What Are Observational Skills?

When communicating non-verbally in the past, all humans had to rely on was the information they could pull from their eyes. The observation was key in life to not only communicate but to potentially avoid being another creature's lunch! Nowadays, we still use it, though some wield it more adequately than others.

For mentalists, this tool of the trade can help them notice what others might not. Combined with a solid knowledge of body language, a mentalist can seem like Sherlock Holmes with just these two skills. Body language, however, by itself is not a complete science, as every individual and culture has different ways of communicating non-verbally.

How does a mentalist cross the gap between individuals when it comes to what their bodies may or may not say? We circle back to observation. Individuals, while all different, do have some key base micro-movements that can be the base dialect to how to read a person. These are quick and completely involuntary. 

Without keen observation skills, they can fly by unnoticed by others going about their daily life. That is why it is so important for a mentalist to really work on their powers of observation. Knowing and identifying these micro-expressions or movements can help a mentalist quickly adjust course on their conversation.


Anger is not a well-understood emotion. More often than not, it is met with misunderstanding or burned bridges. Because of this, many people try to hide anger as often as possible within social situations. They will try to maintain their face in a certain way to hide what they are really thinking or feeling.

People do not realize that their faces and body language can give away their underlying anger through micro-expressions without them knowing. These will be fleeting as a person rushes to control their outward reaction. However, knowing what to look for can help an observant mentalist.

In the eye region, there may be furrowing of the brow or a more hardened stare for a moment. The corners of the mouth may turn down for a short or prolonged period of time, while the lower jaw may move forward. Nostrils can also flare, indicating a more aggressive emotion within the individual.


How often do you tell people when you are feeling sad? Many people also avoid sharing sadness as much as possible, making it one of the most difficult to identify emotions through micro-expressions. Often, people will wear a false smile instead to cover up what they are feeling to avoid the discomfort of others.

The benefit of this is it is extremely hard to fake, making true sadness hard to mistake. Look for the inner end of the eyebrow to extend up, possibly with furrowing. The corners of the lips will, of course, be pulled down, and the lower lip may extend out. This will not be cartoonishly so, but just a slight pucker out of the bottom lip. Finally, the jaw is raised, which can be identified as furrowing of the chin.


Above all, this should be the easiest to recognize! Everyone knows if someone is smiling, they are happy and joyful. However, that may not always be the case with some smiles. When it comes to recognizing happiness by a mentalist, it is more about being able to discern the truth from fiction.

The smile does not simply reside in the upward turn of the lips. The eyes actually can be the determining factor in whether a person's smile is genuine or false. During a real smile, the eye region gets creases, as do the cheeks. Identifiable as crow's feet and wrinkles, without these, the individual may be feigning happiness but not really feel all that great.


Of all the emotions, disgust has the honor of being one of the easiest to pinpoint. Unlike other emotions where micro-emotions can be fleeting, for some reason, the feeling of disgust can last longer on a person's face, allowing the mentalist to pick up on this feeling. It may be the extreme nature of the emotion that causes this lingering.

The entirety of a person's face will contort to express this emotion. The nose may wrinkle, the eyes squint as if in disbelief. The frown will be prominent on the other person's face. Just everything about the expression says, “I do not like it, and I do not want it near me,” for whatever “it” may be. 

The Complexity Between Fear and Surprise

While mentalists are experts in the science of body language, there are even some things that give them a hard time. The trickiest emotions to discern between are those of fear and surprise. That is because they are so similar in response, just with opposite connotations. Whereas surprises can typically be pleasant, fear can be caused by quite the opposite.

Microexpressions really go to work when it is time to discern whether an individual feels fear or surprise. A mentalist must analyze all of the expressions they see and definitely determine what the individual is actually feeling. On top of that, they must solidly determine if the surprise shown by someone is genuine or just a facade. 

Many times, when working, a mentalist may run into an individual that seems to be surprised; however, after really studying their reaction, they were just pretending. When this happens, a person may act surprised for longer than would seem realistic. How can a mentalist identify fear vs. surprise? 

Fear Vs. Surprise
Facial RegionFear ResponseSurprise Response
EyebrowsEyebrows raised but pulled togetherEyebrows raised but curved
WrinklesBetween eyebrowsHorizontal across forehead
Additional Eye InformationMay see upper whites of eyesMay see upper and lower whites of eyes around the cornea
MouthSlightly tensed, mouth openNot tensed, slightly open

How Can All of This Be Used Together?

When a mentalist goes to work, they can start in a number of ways. One of the most typical is a cold reading, where they strike up a conversation without knowing the individual even from a prior conversation. From there, they will observe and read the person's subtle hints and reactions to navigate the conversation to its desired conclusion.

Another tactic they may also bring to the table is mirroring. Using a combination of observation and body language, one can pick up on subtle signals that can be replicated to appeal more to an individual. Mirroring is a natural thing humans do to fit in, but mentalists use it to create a more relaxed environment that signaling they are friendly and appealing to another.

Using body language, a skilled mentalist can create quick trust between them and the other individual. This state allows the other person to be more willing to listen to what they have to say and be an active participant in a conversation. 

In Summary

Since before a spoken or written language, humans have used body language to communicate with others their mental state as well as a number of other emotions they may be experiencing. Now, even with a spoken language, body language is still a key aspect in daily life to get across to others your true feelings and build camaraderie.

Mentalists use body language to assist them in their work. With keen observational skills, they identify what people are thinking and feeling based on a number of clues from arms, legs, posture, and face signals that the individual subconsciously gives off. These inadvertent movements are not known to the individual, making them key unseen clues to them.

Using this information, the mentalist can appear as though they are supernatural or even have powers beyond the other individual's comprehension in some instances. For the mentalist, they can turn a cold person into an open book where they can steer a conversation any which way they want.

Knowing the science of body language and honing one's observational skills can help one on the path to becoming a skilled mentalist. Studying the subtle clues that people can portray is a life skill, so practice makes perfect. Before you know it, you, too, could be wowing those around you with your powers of deduction.