A Guide To Thinking Like Sherlock Holmes – Part 2: Deduction and the Power of Observation

Thanks to film, TV, and obviously the classic written stories, the character of Sherlock Holmes has fascinated the world. Even though he is a fictional character with some, dare I say, “exaggerated abilities,”, tapping into his cognitive thinking skills is not as far fetched as one may think.

With that said, here is Part 2 of my 6-part series: A Guide to Thinking Like Sherlock Holmes.

Click Here to Read Part 1



In Part 1 we talked about intuition. In Part 2, we’re going to talk about the importance of deduction.

First, what does that word mean? To “deduce” is to arrive at (a fact or a conclusion) by reasoning, or to draw as a logical conclusion. What makes Sherlock Holmes so fascinating is the fact that he can deduce so much, simply by looking at someone. How you’re feeling, whether you are telling a lie, what your true motives may be, ect… he can learn all of that from you with a keen and simple observation.

So how does he do it? There’s a couple things he takes into consideration. First…

Body Language

First and foremost, you need to learn how to read a person’s body language. When you get a moment, read A Definitive Guide to Body Language, a book that is written by Barbara and Allan Pease, among others. Reading body language can be quite tricky, especially if you are dealing with people who are good actors or people who are great at the art of deception. In order to successfully read a person’s body language, you need to use facts, visual evidence, and intuition.

You’re a Filthy Liar!

Secondly, you need to be able to tell when someone is lying. Sherlock can spot a liar from a mile away, and if you want to think like him, you need to educate yourself on how to spot lying. (CLICK HERE for a great guide on how to spot a liar … or just watch old clips of Bill Clinton saying, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” That’ll help.)


And thirdly, learn how to people watch. Spend time each week simply watching someone in their daily comings and goings. Please do not be a creeper… Simply find somewhere comfortable to sit and watch people as they pass you. Guess where they’re going or how they’re feeling. Doing this can teach you a lot about people’s general habits, their mannerisms, how they interact with others, and the basics of their personalities. This involves A LOT of guess-work, but by observing these mannerisms and behavioral habits and traits, and remembering them, it can serve as a possible future reference for me.


“You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.”

Sherlock Holmes in “A Scandal in Bohemia”

While reading Sherlock books and watching movies and television shows based off of him, you’ll realize that he’s really good at noticing and observing things that most people overlook and miss. This may seem like a magic trick or some sort of supernatural psychic nonsense, but alas, it is not. Sherlock is simply observing things as opposed to just looking at them. In moments of panic and tense environments, things quite often get overlooked, and people do not pay attention to the finer details of the visual.

Sherlock Holmes pays attention and takes in the finer details.

It takes practice to improve your powers of observation. First and foremost, you need to make sure that you stay calm and think clearly, especially if you are in a pressured situation. Also, use your common sense and general awareness of the things that are surrounding you.

Sight, Smell, and Sound

The three senses that Sherlock relies on the most are sight, smell, and sound. These three senses are our most used senses, and for that reason, we tend to take them for granted. Pay attention to what you see, what you smell, and what sound surrounds you. These are all important details that you will need in the future.


Discernment – The ability to judge well.

Sherlock once said, “It is the highest importance in the art of detection to be able to recognize out of a number of facts, which are incidental and which are vital.” In other words, you need to use your discernment to focus on the details of a situation or setting that are relevant and important. Remember, not everything has value. That doesn’t mean that small details aren’t valuable though. In fact, Sherlock makes it very clear that the small details can be quite important. He stated, “The little things are infinitely the most important.”

Puzzle Games

Okay, so do you know those puzzles that ask you what the difference is between two pictures? (You might drunkenly play those puzzle games on the game machine at the corner of the bar you frequent…) Well, guess what … if you don’t play those games, you should! Puzzles like that are great games to help you hone your skills of observation. Play these games often, as they will help you learn how to spot things faster and faster without panicking.

Quiz Yourself Often

Right now, think of your best friend’s house or apartment. Is it one or two stories? How many steps does it take to get to the second story? How many bedrooms are there? Is there a picture over top of the tv? What color are the kitchen walls? Can you accurately describe the smell? Gas or electric stove? How many clocks are in the living room?

Sure, these all may seem like stupid questions, but to Sherlock, they are not stupid at all. And if you do not know the answers to these questions, then you are seeing things instead of observing things. Take in EVERY detail that you can.

Part 3 – “Listening and Never Underestimating” – COMING SOON!