How to connect with people like a magician

The older I get, the more I’d like to know how to connect with people on a deeper, more meaningful level.
It’s no doubt that we think about this a lot at Pillrs as deep, meaningful connections are the key when fighting addictions and compulsions.
At Pillrs we use algorithms to create instantaneous villages – which tune themselves over time – allowing our users to truly connect with each other. It’s really a key component of breaking habits, addictions, or recovery in general.
So when we stumbled onto the video below on TedX by Brian Miller, a magician, about how he uses lessons from magic to connect with people in real life we figured it was worth a watch.
And we were right. Our favorite part?
Brian used magic to connect with a blind man (and leave his wife in tears).
Below we’ve cut the video into a number of segments for discussion but if you’d like to view it without spoilers, here it is in its entirety.

How to magically connect with anyone – the full video

Watched it? Not enough time? Either way, let’s dig in.

[0:11] A blunder, a blind man, and a real connection

Note this is your last chance to view the video in its entirety… 

“Our world is a shared experience, fractured by individual experiences… Imagine if we could all understand each other.”

One day, while doing magic at a restaurant Brian asks a couple “Would you like to see some magic?”
When the man promptly responds

“Sir, I would love to see some magic but unfortunately, I can’t, I’m blind”.

It was at this moment that Brian actually took a close look at the man and, in Brian’s words, “anyone would have known he was blind”.
“I stood there, embarrassed.”
At a loss for words he blurts out an apology and promises that the next time the man comes in, he’d have a magic trick for the man.
And a few weeks later, the blind man comes back.
You’ll have to watch it yourself, but the two things that really stood out to me were:

  1. “His wife was weeping tears of joy. It was the most beautiful bit of magic I’d ever performed.”
  2. “The real beauty of magic is understanding other people’s points of view.”


[3:30] Brian does some magic

If you’d like you can skip this bit, but it’s fun to watch as Brian mesmerizes the audience with a quick rope trick.

[5:25] Varying viewpoints and using perspective taking to connect with people

“…the magician is the person who can’t see the magic because I know how the trick works”.

Because he knows the tricks, inside and out, Brian must aim to take the perspective of his audience if he wants to connect with them.

[6:34] Brian shows us how to connect with people – using a Rubix cube

When you feel understood then we have a connection. And then I can do the trick.

In this short clip Brian connects with his audience by first taking their perspective (“I hate Rubix cubes!”), makes a few jokes, then tosses it into the air and it lands solved.
And he’s right. By making a few jokes, I don’t get annoyed with him, I’m instead delighted to see the trick.

[8:10] Why perspective taking is important, and how you can use it to your advantage

Although he doesn’t have difficulty making friends:

Eventually, the communication would break down, they would leave, and I would be alone.

That is, until he started to really take their perspective. Brian knew how to connect with people, but it wasn’t until he applied the knowledge that he started seeing results.
Including finding – and getting engaged to – the love of his life.
Also, I love this line, because it really hits the heart of human connection:

“It’s not enough to understand someone, they have to feel understood.”


[9:25] How to do perspective taking

The relevant question for me was ‘what would it be for Ed to feel magic?’

How do you connect with someone around a visual medium when they cannot see?

[sc name=”list-num” number=”1″ ] [10:30] Ask questions

So if you want to get to know someone’s emotional perspective? One of the simplest ways to do it? Ask. Ask questions.
We underestimate people’s willingness to answer our questions.

One of the most important things I’ve learned from our work at Pillrs is: if I ask questions instead of pitching, and ask really to understand someone’s situation, then there’s a chance that we might be able to help them.
If I don’t ask questions, I come off as a used car salesman. Pushy, uncaring, and overly self-interested.

[sc name=”list-num” number=”2″ ] [11:20] Listen to understand

Don’t just listen to reply, listen to understand.
Too often we listen to people only with the intention of coming up with something clever to say so that when they stop talking we can jump in.

After asking, listening is crucial. It’s also incredibly difficult.
There’s a trite saying in sales that goes “You have two ears on one mouth, they should be used accordingly.”
While it might be overused, it’s also under-followed. And as a serial extrovert, listening to understand is a challenge that I facae on a daily basis.

[12:27] How Ed “saw” – the secret to the trick

How did Ed, a blind man, see the cards?

Brian gives away the secret to his magic trick – to Ed and to us. Like most magic, it’s so simple it’s genius.

[13:35] Conclusion – Life is about connecting

Magic isn’t about the technical skill. Magic isn’t about the trick or even the secret.
Magic is about connecting. Life is about connecting.

We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves.
What did you pull from this talk? Feel free to connect with us in the comments box – we’d love to connect with you.
Featured image creditSteven Lilley

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