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The Top Four Paths To Cold Reading

If you want to learn how to give personal readings of a psychic, psychological or mentalist nature, there are many options open to you. However, most people follow one of these four paths to cold reading mastery. 

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1. Formal study

By this, I mean choosing a given discipline, such as tarot cards or astrology, and undertaking a formal course of study in that discipline. This could involve personal tuititon, joining a class or using a home study course.

Pros
Some people like joining classes and embarking on a new course of study, so this approach will obviously appeal to them. The student, providing she completes the course, will always be able to give a reading of some kind within that discipline.

Cons
This approach might be considered a bit limiting, in that the student only learns to give readings within the particular discipline she is studying. Then again, this may be all she wants. (And she can always take a different course another time.)

Although some people may enjoy studying a particular discipline, it's certainly not necessary in order to give good readings. I've never studied tarot or astrology, yet I can give very successful tarot and astrological readings. So can most readers I know.

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2. Stock Lines

This approach involves relying on a set of memorised 'stock' lines, also known as 'stocks' for short. Different readers will categorise their stocks in different ways. For example, one reader might have stock lines for different demographic groups: young male / middle-aged male / senior male and their female equivalents. Others readers might categorise their stocks according to themes such as career, health, relationships and money. Readers can get their stock lines from books and other cold reading resources, from other readers, and from experience of giving readings.

There is no doubt some readers use stock lines very well. I know at least one very good and successful reader who relies entirely on stock lines, and always has. It would literally never occur to him to do anything else.

Pros
A reader with a good set of stock lines can always give what seems to be a pretty impressive reading.

Cons
It can take a while to build up a good repertoire of stock lines. The other problem is that not everyone is a very good actor: there's nothing worse than a bunch of stock lines that sound like a bunch of stock lines.

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3. Trigger Systems

Trigger systems use specific variables to trigger cold reading lines. These are also known as association systems. Let me explain a simple example. Suppose that you learn 26 stock lines, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. A very simple system would be to take the initials of your client, and base the reading around the lines you have associated with those letters.

In reality, trigger systems tend to be a bit more sophisticated than this. However, the general idea is always the same: consider one or more variables that will be involved in any reading scenario, and use them as 'random generators' to trigger the lines you use.

There are lots of different trigger systems, and people never seem to tire of inventing new ones.

Pros
Trigger systems appeal to some students because they seem to provide a relatively easy way to give readings that aren't just the same old stock lines every time. I think they also imbue the reader with confidence that she will never be lost for something to say.

Cons
Obviously, all the points that apply to Stock Lines (see above) will also apply here.

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4. My System

My approach to cold reading is a little different to the other three. Let me explain how it works with an analogy.

I play the guitar. Suppose I’m giving you a lesson. I could teach you the chords for Tune 1, and you would then know one tune. I could teach you the chords for Tune 2, and then you would know two tunes. We could carry on like this, with you just learning each tune by rote, but it would quickly get tedious. Alternatively, I could teach you a bit of basic chord theory, and from then on you could listen to any tune and find the chords for yourself. Once you understand the underlying patterns involved, and how they work, you can play as many tunes as you want.

My approach to cold reading, as it applies to giving personal readings, works the same way. It doesn’t involve learning any specific lines. It involves studying the underlying principles involved, so you can create as many lines as you like, for any kind of reading, under any circumstances.

This is the approach that I explain in detail in my book on cold reading. I’ve never really given it a name, although I suppose I could call it the ‘Universal’ system or just stick my own name on it!

Pros
It enables you to give any kind of readings you want, at any time.

Cons
It calls for improvisational ability that doesn't come easily to everyone.

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