I’m going to start today’s tip with an example. Let’s say a couple walks into my office. We’ll call them John and Judy. Right away John and Judy begin talking about a small disagreement they had last week. According to Judy, when she asked her husband if he had a good time at her mothers house, John said “yes.” But he said it in a short, matter of fact, way. Judy then became angry with John telling him that he doesn’t have to be so mean about it and that “I know you don’t like my mother.” John replied, “no really I had a good time, I was just upset because I was looking for my keys.”
What do you think is going on here? If you answered mind reading, you are correct. Judy clearly “read” Johns mind and it caused a fight.
So what is mind reading and why do we do it? Well mind reading is actually a form a empathy. It’s been proven that humans have developed the ability to empathize as a survival skill. Humans read each other’s mind every day, whether you know it or not. Judging if someone likes you, predicting if house guests are hungry, and telling the kids they cannot stay up, are all examples of mind reading. Throughout our lives, we are constantly collecting information through past experiences and outcomes so that we can make the best educated guesses that will provide us meaning to others behaviors. Having the ability to mind read, helps us survive, both socially and through evolution.
Mind reading and making assumptions actually can help us. But, in the example I gave at the beginning of this tip, it actually hurt John and Judy’s relationship because Judy misjudged Johns demeanor. The take away from that example is, assuming you know what someone else is thinking, or what their intentions are, kills intimacy and trust. The more you interrupt your partner because you think you know what they are going to say next, the more you misinterpret your partners intentions when they say or do something that triggers you, the more likely your relationship will sink.
Next time you find yourself in a mind-reading situation, ask yourself, is this worth it? Or should I just ask my partner about it. By asking, you will get a clear and accurate answer by which you can then respond accordingly. Way too many fights begin over assuming the wrong thing. If you ask first you are way more likely to come to a positive conclusion but quicker.