Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want


Thinking I know more than I do has been a big problem of mine. A problem in the fact I believed I understood more than I did, that belief meant I held onto it.

An assumption, an untested one.

Based on ego and overestimating my abilities.

Gladly I was given some great advice after writing an email to Derek Sivers, an ultra-successful entrepreneur, a creative and exceptional person whose work I follow.

I asked how I could understand people better and their needs in order to offer more value to them and help them in their health and wellbeing.

My assumption was thinking I knew and understood people the same as if all people had the same wants and needs.

He replied, much to my delight and simply recommended that I read a book called ‘Mindwise.’

I gladly took him up on his suggestion by buying and reading the book and it changed the way I saw things.


Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want (Summary)

People overestimate their sixth sense or mind reading abilities, working off incorrect assumptions which govern their actions and misguide people.

We think that the way we see the world through our eyes is the actual reality of the world and those who see it differently are faulty, delusional or don’t understand.

People do not think or see us as much as we think they do or put more eloquently by Derek Sivers:

“The social limelight does not shine as brightly on ourselves as we may believe.”

The reality is to increase accuracy then we need to test these assumptions.

Rather than thinking we know all the answers, know everyone is different and has different needs/wants/values and beliefs.

Asking people what they want is not as straightforward as asking people what people think, believe, feel or want.

It’s creating a safe environment where they can trust that in answering honestly does not result in any punishment.

One way of developing this trust is by being trustworthy yourself, by being honest and open first.

We are conscious about our own beliefs, values and stories but are unconscious to the origin of them, we overestimate our ability to understand ourselves.

When we have assumptions about what others want or how we can help or understand better than guessing just doesn’t cut it.

They are another human being, elaborate and complex and more importantly unique.

If I care enough to understand then asking genuine questions with an openness and curiosity is a much better way of ‘mind reading’.

The MPFC (medial prefrontal cortex) is one of the brain’s regions responsible for helping us understand other people and their needs and wants.

This is activated when we think about ourselves, family and friends or people we care about helping and understanding.

Put simply, if we show up with genuine curiosity, empathy and compassion towards helping another person then we have a much better chance of success.

In exams, asking people for answers is cheating.

As mentioned in the book, life is not a closed book exam.

With that barrier removed in open life then we may as well use all our resources in front of us in order to maximise our accuracy and understanding especially in the important areas of our lives with the important people in our lives.

By asking questions to test assumptions.

When we base decisions and actions on guesswork we are not doing our best work.

They say that successful people don’t take bigger risks, they mitigate risks.

Use your resources to remove as much guesswork in your life and increase the chances of success in your life, whatever that may look like.



  • We overestimate our ability to understand our minds, including thoughts, beliefs, wants and previous actions.
  • Assumptions on other people’s minds are coming from this incomplete and blurred perspective.
  • That the best way of understanding our own minds and others is to ask questions and test assumptions.
  • Asking questions from a place of genuine curiosity and empathy increases the accuracy of results.
  • Taking a beginners mind approach with the intent of understanding ourselves more and then others so we can make a better impact in our daily lives.
  • The safer the environment and the more people can trust us will increase the chances of successfully getting to a more accurate perspective.

Always be testing.