How Mind Reading Damages Your Personal Relationship

1 Apr 2008

How Mind Reading Damages Your Personal Relationship

You use positive mind reading with complete strangers

It is true that every day, people all over the world trust complete strangers in fast cars to abide by the road rules and stay on their side of the road.

image: mind reading

Yet, when it comes to listening to what their partner says, and playing by the rules of good relationships, the same people throw trust out the window and begin mind reading bad intentions.

What’s mind reading?

Mind reading is exactly what you think it is (see that’s mind reading in action!) It’s assuming that you know what someone else is thinking and then acting or responding as if it were true.

Most ‘mind readers’ read the minds of those closest to them (especially those with whom they are most intimate). They don’t presume to know what strangers are thinking. (If they do it’s usually called paranoia – but don’t tell anyone in case they get you ?)

Mind Reading Can be Useful

When you’re close to someone you get ideas about how their mind works. This is useful; you know your nearest and dearest loves to unwind with a cuppa when they get in from work, so if you’re home first you get one prepared.

That’s fairly positive mind reading and unlikely to bring you to grief.

… And not so useful

Negative mind reading creeps in when the relationship between you and partner has hit a few speed bumps. One starts to question the others’ intentions – or worse still – assume bad intentions. So instead of giving him or her the benefit of the doubt, as you do with complete strangers on the motorway, you begin ascribing ulterior motives.

Negative thinking precipitates negative mind reading.

Here’s an example:
Sue is involved in an exciting work project which means she has to work late for several weeks on end. Bruce starts to feel left out and neglected, especially as Sue is constantly talking about the project when they get together.

After a few weeks, when he’s found nothing else to occupy his time in the evenings, Bruce begins to wonder if maybe something more than just the project is keeping Sue at work. He allows his imagination to run wild without doing a reality check with Sue. He starts believing that something other than work is going on when Sue is late every night.

And with that belief, he begins to look for and comment on things that support it. He asks Sue pointed questions and makes sarcastic comments – the kind of comments that stop any conversation dead in its tracks.

Sue feels that whatever she says it will be misheard and/or misunderstood.

She stops talking about work altogether.

Bruce is then convinced something’s going on at Sue’s work! Conversation is strained and this increases suspicion, which makes conversation more strained which increases suspicion which … you get the idea.

With the level of trust at an all time low, it will be difficult to get the old relationship back when Sue’s project is finished.

But it’s still possible to turn things around

So if you’re an avid mind reader – how do you turn things around? Well, it’s very simple.

You just STOP!

That’s right, you stop mind reading. You don’t interpret what’s said, you don’t put your own spin on things and you don’t stay inside your own head and have your own little mini-conference.

Now put in two checks
Check one – Your own Beliefs

First of all you check your own beliefs. What do you believe about your partner’s behaviour? You’ve made the decision to live with this person, so do you believe they have your best intentions at heart and that you can trust them? If so, then you will keep this in mind when you next talk to them. Notice how it affects your perception of what they say.

Check Two – Your Understanding

You can also check your understanding of what they are saying. Reflect back to your partner your understanding of what they said – without sarcasm – so you can ensure that you’re both still on the same wavelength. (You’ll find more about reflective listening in, ‘How to prevent a potential conflict from turning to custard.’)

Trust Good Intentions

When you trust your partners good intentions for you and follow the rules outlined above you’ll keep your relationship on the right road and prevent it from the messy results of veering into ongoing traffic.

  • Trust that your partner has your best intentions at heart.
  • If you find yourself mind reading something bad – STOP!
  • Do the two checks – check your own beliefs and check it out with your partner – reflect it back and avoid sarcasm.
  • Take action – the longer you mind read the worse things will get.
Want to learn more?