“By a man’s finger-nails, by his coat-sleeve, by his boots, by his trouser-knees, by the callosities of his forefinger and thumb, by his expression, by his shirt-cuff – By each of these things a man’s calling is plainly revealed. That all united should fail to enlighten the competent inquirer in any case is almost inconceivable.”

“What do the public, the great unobservant public, who could hardly tell a weaver by his tooth or a compositor by his left thumb, care about the finer shades of analysis and deduction!”

“Never trust to general impressions, my boy, but concentrate yourself upon details. My first glance is always at a woman’s sleeve. In a man, it is perhaps better to take the knee of the trouser.”

– Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Sensory acuity or observation is the essential key to any communicative art, whether that is management, therapy, teaching etc. We, as humans are much more predictable than we would like to think and by being observant you can appear almost psychic. In fact the is a whole field of “mentalism” (the field in magical entertainment of appearing psychic when you are not) called “Cold Reading”, which utilising many observational skills.

How do you tune up your senses in this way?


If I meet someone new, I always build a “30 second profile”. I will look at their clothes, jewellery, eye colour, hair style, the way they walk, stand carry themselves, the way they talk, accents, catch phrases, descriptive words and build an idea about that person in my head. The idea I get about the person maybe wildly wrong and is purely a bit of fun on my behalf. But it helps me to get used gathering information, this information may be useful at a later date, to help me communicate better with that person.