Need to convince someone of something? Here’s how to READ THEIR MIND (by Chris from TellPeople)

People listen to a presenter

Ever felt like you’re explaining something that – to you – seems so obvious, but the person you need to convince just isn’t getting it?

Recently, I was asked to run a workshop on buyer empathy (aka how to understand what your potential client wants), so I turned to get some help from my (very, very smart)(he’s been a lawyer representing Wall Street companies and Aboriginal governments across Canada) friend Chris from TellPeople.

Then, I asked him to share some of his smarts with you! Here’s what he has to say about how to READ MINDS (or at least, have a good guess at what’s inside them):


Make sense of your audience

When you’re trying to convince someone of something – whether it’s a potential client to hire you, or a family member to please stop doing that annoying thing they keep doing – do you ever wonder what’s going through their mind while they read your writing or listen to you talk?

What about when you’re talking to a group of people – how do you keep track of what all those people are thinking?

People listen to a presenter

The truth is: you can’t know what anyone else is thinking about what you’re saying.

But – while you can’t read peoples’ minds, there is one thing you know for sure about every person you talk to. Actually, it’s the only thing you know for sure.

Can you guess?

Other people aren’t you

The only thing you can be certain about your audience is that they aren’t you. They know different stuff, care about different stuff – how could it be otherwise? Even your best friend’s path through the world has been wildly different from yours.

If you want to connect with people who have different knowledge and experience, you need to use language that makes sense for them given their knowledge and experience.


If I were them…?

Here is a simple tool for recognizing how other people make sense of the world. Whenever you talk to someone, take a moment to think about: if I were this person, what would be my:

·            Capacities? (What would be my knowledge and experience of the world?)

·            Concerns? (What would I be worried about?)

·            Interests? (What would I want for myself in the world?)


Here is the important thing to realize about these questions: if you don’t think about how your audience is different from you, what you actually do is presume they are the same as you – which is ridiculous and counter-productive.


Let me give you an example:

A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with my landlord to discuss some renovations that I wanted to make in the apartment. In advance of that meeting, I used If I Were Them to think about the different ways my landlord and I would approach the conversation.



I used to be a lawyer and so know exactly what our lease says about renovations. My landlord is not a lawyer and doesn’t pay close attention to what the lease says. My landlord will not respond well if I start the meeting by talking about our lease (regardless of whether I think she should care about what the lease says).



I have no concerns about the renovation. My landlord has all kinds of concerns: How much will it cost? Who will do the work? What if something goes wrong? My landlord will not respond positively if I ignore her concerns during the meeting (again, regardless of whether I think her concerns are justified).



My interest is having a beautiful apartment. My landlord is interested in two things: passive income from the apartment and maintaining the building’s resale value. My landlord will not respond positively if I focus on my interests rather than her interests (even if I think our interests overlap).

Notice that I don’t need to be able to read my landlord’s mind to know that her capacities, concerns and interests are different from mine. It’s enough to recognize the difference and then let my imagination do the work of figuring out how best to proceed.

And, of course, if you feel like there’s too much you don’t know about your audience, you can use another very simple tool:


You can ask them questions.


Now, over to you

Is there someone you need to convince of something? Could be a friend, family member or a potential client. What’s something you know about their capacities, concerns or interests? Let us know in the comments below!


I first met him when he was telling a story about a horse, so now he's in my phone as Chris Horse.Thanks, Chris! Chris Graham is the founder and principal of TellPeople, where he shows professionals like you how to communicate and tell stories in a way that helps you share your vision. Whether you’re pitching new business, meeting with important people, talking about your organization’s history and success or making the case for your client—TellPeople will make you better.

Find out more about him on his (very good-looking) website:

(Side note from me, Marsha: Chris is excellent at helping you if you’ve always struggled to get your ideas across – and he runs TOP NOTCH workshops for organisations and companies)

Thanks so much for reading! If you know someone who’s in conflict and bashing their head against a brick wall, you can share it with them using one of the round buttons below, or by clicking HERE to share on facebook.


You rule!


xx (Yes Yes) Marsha


PS Want even more ideas like this about how to communicate and tell better stories – plus tips, tricks and stories that I won’t put on the internet? Join the Yes Yes Family for free – I’ll even throw in my guide on the MAGIC BULLET for powerful storytelling. Just pop your details in here:


  • Melinda

    Reply Reply November 11, 2018

    This can be summed up as: the only thing you need to show them is what’s in it for them.

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