Sherlock Holmes’ abilities of observation and deduction seem almost superhuman, but the truth is, he’s no superhero. He’s just a man (granted, a remarkably astute one). That means that whatever he can do, you can learn to do it, too. Here are some logical steps to teach yourself how to be observant and read situations for more than their face value. So put on your coat and deerstalker cap, and let’s get started:
1. Learn to Read Body Language
Did you know that only 11% of the information we take in about the world around us comes from our ears? Not only that, but 82% comes from our eyes. This means that even when you’re having a conversation with someone, the majority of the information you’re taking from the conversation comes from visual cues – that is, body language.
Most of the time we react naturally to body language and don’t give it much thought, but if you can learn to actively read body language, you can find out much more about people than they will tell you with their words.
This WikiHow article is a good place to get started learning about body language. Start by paying attention to how close someone is to you, physically. When you move closer, do they move away or allow you to stay close? You can also tell a lot from someone’s head position and eyes. Will they look you in the eye, or do they avoid eye contact?
Then look at their arms: if they have them crossed or over their body, they may be closed off to you, or uncomfortable talking with you. Finally, pay attention to nervous habits (especially of the feet) – if they’re jiggling their legs or tapping their feet, the person may be uncomfortable with the situation or perhaps impatient or excited.
For some much more in-depth reading about body language interpretation, check out this article from BusinessBalls.com.
2. Become a Human Lie Detector
Lying is just a fact of life. We all lie once in a while. Once you’ve practiced reading people’s body language, you’ll be ready to start detecting whether someone is lying to you or not. This tutorial from Bifaloo.com is a good way to get started learning about the telltale signs that someone is lying to you. You should pay careful attention to their eyes and facial expression. When they smile, is it just with their mouth (a false smile) or with their eyes as well (a genuine smile)? Are their gestures stiff and the timing of their emotional reactions off? Then they’re probably lying!
If you want a more in-depth exploration of body language and the signs of lying, check out this documentary about micro-expressions. It has input from several experts about the art of lie detection.
3. Get a Few Gadgets
Sherlock really is a genius, there’s no doubt about that. But where would he be without a few gadgets? There’s always background information that needs to be gathered about cases, not to mention critical information that needs to be shared with the world, like the 243 different types of tobacco ash and how to spot them. Plus, how can any case get solved without cryptic text messages?
If you fancy yourself a sort of Sherlock, get yourself a deal on a good computer – a 2-in-1 tablet is a good idea, nice and portable. And make sure you have unlimited texting and plenty of data for your smartphone. You never know when you may need it to save your best friend’s life, after all (or your own, for that matter).
4. Become More Observant
This goes right along with observing body language and detecting lies, but takes it one step further. What are people wearing? What might scuff marks on their shoes mean? A certain brand of perfume? Nicks from shaving?
This article from Cracked.com is a good place to start when you’re thinking about what you might learn about people just from observing their habits and what they wear. Once you’ve practiced guessing people’s personality types from their shoes and food preferences (read the article, then this will make sense), dive in with this in-depth guide to Bayes’ Theorem for reading people.
And by “meditate” I mean, learn to concentrate and enter your ~mind palace~. When he needs to remember some tiny detail or make a connection between pieces of (seemingly unrelated) information, Sherlock enters a state of total concentration.
You can learn to completely focus your thoughts, too, by practicing meditation. Henri Junttila describes some of the challenges to focused meditation and how to face them in his article, “7 Obstacles to Mindfulness and How to Overcome Them.” If you’re having trouble getting started with meditation, you should check it out.
Another thing to do is improve your memory. You may be able to build a mind palace, but without memories, what will you find in its rooms? Try using a few memory tricks like linking memories, building stories out of lists you want to memorize, or creating mnemonic devices.
6. Keep Your Best Friend By Your Side
Because where would Sherlock Holmes be without John Watson? Six feet under, that’s where. So keep your friends with you, and don’t forget to say a few nice things every once in a while.
(Spoiler alert! Don’t watch if you haven’t seen the third season yet!)