Mentally reading and influencing people

  • GilanGork4
Gilan Gork is a mentalist who dazzles audiences with mind-reading displays and can interpret depths of meaning in subtle shifts of body language. He’s also a nice Jewish boy.
by SIMON SHEAR | Jul 27, 2017

Gilan matriculated at King David Victory Park and even spent a few weeks at a yeshiva in Jerusalem, an experience that he tells me didn’t make him more religious, but was a valuable learning experience.

A hunger for knowledge, no doubt made Gilan what he is today. His parents owned an educational toy centre, and he grew up playing with puzzles and interactive games, rather than toy guns. Today he reads voraciously, constantly looking to expand his insight into human character.

But theory is only part of the mentalist’s toolkit. “As humans, we are such complex creatures”, Gilan tells me, “you never know what’s going to affect someone.”

Over years of performing and paying close attention to human behaviour - Gilan started performing when he was 12 - “you start to become more intuitive. You start picking up little nuances.”

I ask him about my body language. He notes that I tense up as he begins to answer, as if wary of what he’ll diagnose. Of course, he is correct. Whoever wants the truth?

Analysing body language is not about glancing at a person and deducing their character and fortune - a kind of whole body palm reading - so much as becoming conscious of subtle shifts in behaviour that offers clues about the subject’s mindset.

The technique is obviously useful in business: knowing when to push for a sale, say, or intuiting that your boss has started dissembling when she says there’s no money for salary increases.

Recognising body language cues is also great for improving communication in one’s personal life. Moreover, body language expertise is not just about reading meanings, but projecting them; displaying confidence in the boardroom, or coming across as trustworthy and likeable when you meet someone new.

“People are so busy online these days, they’ve forgotten how to meet people in person,” Gilan points out. “90 per cent of their opinion of you is formed in the first four minutes. You can use body language to seem open, honest and easy to get along with.”

That sounds like a godsend for the Tinder generation, but I wondered about the possible dark side of influence training. I immediately thought of ‘“pick-up artists”’who claim to train men how to manipulate women into desiring them. Gilan’s specialty is teaching the art of influence, but what’s to say that influence will be used for the good?

Influence underlies everything, Gilan says, it underpins success in all endeavours. But it’s like a surgeon’s blade: neutral in itself, it can be deployed to heal or harm.

Gilan says that when he teaches people to be more influential, he explains that influence can be used for good or bad. He encourages participants to seek win-win solutions that create a positive influence. It’s not just the right thing to do; creating positive influence is invaluable for strong leadership, effective parenting, or building a community.

Teaching more effective communication in your professional and personal life isn’t my first association when I think of mentalists. What even is a mentalist?

Gilan is refreshingly candid: “It’s a marketing term.” Mentalist is a useful shorthand for any of a diverse, but interconnected, group of entertainers and guides interested in analysing and moulding the human mind. “My niche is to read and influence people.”

And though he appears to divine the pictures inside your head and can discern your mood by the way your arms are folded, Gilan claims no paranormal powers. As student and teacher of the science of influence, he offers a toolkit for more effective communications.

But can influence really be learned? Surely charm is something you’re born with?

Being likeable is one aspect of influence, Gilan tells me, but it’s not all of it. Through body language cues and influence training you can become more open and likeable, but the science of influence is more extensive than that.

There’s just one downside. When I sat down with Gilan, he was so open and personable that I wasted precious time rambling on about my own life before remembering that I had been dispatched to interview him.

The tangible benefits of influence training probably explain a shift in Gilan’s career from mainly performing entertainment-based “mind reading”’shows to a greater emphasis on teaching the applied science of influence. It’s no surprise that corporates and organisations prefer entertainment that also promises to improve the effectiveness of employees and members.

For Gilan, the benefits aren’t abstract. “Any success I have, I attribute to these techniques,” he insists. 

Gork will be performing at the Maslow in Sandton from the 10th to the 12th of August. For more information, visit or email [email protected]



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