How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes – Part 5 of 6: “Reading a Situation and the Key to Humility”

Since the character “Sherlock Holmes” was introduced to the world in 1887, people around the globe have been fascinated with the chance to become just as cognitive and intuitive as he is.

Of course, we need to remember that “Sherlock Holmes” is a fictional character with some “abilities” that may be exaggerated for dramatic effect… but becoming a clear, intuitive/cognitive thinker is not impossible. Here is Part 3 of my 6-part series: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.

Click Here to Read Part 1 / Click Here to Read Part 2
Click Here to Read Part 3 / Click Here to Read Part 4


For all of you Sherlock admirers, while reading his adventures or watching them on television or at the movies, you will realize that Holmes has definitely harnessed the power of effectively reading a situation. The value of training our ‘reading-a-situation’ skills like Sherlock is to bring the subtle or the nuance of what is happening into our conscious awareness.

If studying how Sherlock reads a situation has taught me anything, it’s these three key things:

  • Keep your eyes and ear open … ALWAYS.
  • Keep your personal emotions in check.
  • Get rid of any “labels of generalities” such as “He’s angry.”

Some mistake Sherlock’s ability to effectively read a situation as a special ‘power.’ It’s not really a power, it’s an art – the art of reading a situation.

You must be able to see clearly without labeling. This means that you have to have a “mental file,” or “mind palace” for all of your Sherlock fans, where unknown and/or unverified behaviors can be stored. A label of “wow… that’s interesting” is much better than a snap judgment such as “she’s shy.”

When reading a situation, you must always be asking yourself “what am I looking at, what do I hear, and what is happening?” You must answer all of these questions as specifically and exact as possible. As humans, we all love to jump to snap conclusions, so if we want to be like Sherlock, we need to avoid generalization and we need to not allow our own beliefs to distort what is actually happening.

  1. Always keep an open mind and keep your judgments at bat.
  2. Stay away from assuming and don’t go in with expectations.
  3. When you don’t understand something, ask open-ended questions.
  4. You don’t need to solve every unknown. Remind yourself often that it’s okay to not know EVERYTHING.

No matter how skilled Sherlock Holmes is, he definitely realizes that “seeing everything” is no consciously possible – and this definitely frustrates him sometimes. But he also realizes that in order to read a situation successfully, he must pay more attention than required at all times. If you want to read a situation effectively, then you must do the same.


“You know a conjurer gets no credit once he has explained his trick; and if I show you too much of my method of working, you will come to the conclusion that I am a very ordinary individual after all.” – Sherlock Holmes in ‘A Study in Scarlet’

What Sherlock was saying is that he didn’t feel that it benefited anyone to know his method or manner in specific detail, and indeed, to reveal such would dispel the entertainment and effectiveness of what he did. Follow Sherlock’s example and keep your intuitions and your deduction abilities and methods close to yourself.

When I first started deducing people and situations, I would inform them what I was doing and how I was doing it. This was a mistake, even though I was starting to get quite good at it. It’s better and more entertaining to keep the mystery, especially because you are not running the risk of wrongfully accusing people of something, especially if you am not absolutely certain of an answer.

Part 6 – “Endless Possibilities” – CLICK HERE


7 thoughts on “How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes – Part 5 of 6: “Reading a Situation and the Key to Humility”

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