Unless you’re a psychic, clairvoyant, or telepathic, you cannot read another person’s mind. You can observe body language, facial expressions, and voice tone, but you cannot jump into his/her brain and examine his/her thoughts.
Do you think you’re a mind-reading? Well, you’re not.
Stop guessing what’s on the mind of the other person and learn to listen—really listen. Instead of pondering on what you are going to say back—really listen. Quiet your own thoughts, open your two ears, and close your one mouth—really listen.
Stop jabbering and blabbering. Give direct eye contact. Stop moving and grooving. Talkers need to become better listeners. And listeners need to become better talkers.
And society needs to jumpstart face-to-face communication. Please step away from the cell phone, texting, email. Put social media on hold. Set directly across or beside a human body. Take turns conversing and listening. No interrupting. And don’t assume you know what they’re thinking.
When we assume we know what others think about us, we may feel worried, anxious, embarrassed, angry, rejected, sad and all sorts of mixed emotions. Our thoughts ruminate like a milkshake in a blender. Why don’t they like me? What did I do to them? Why do they think that about me? Our tornado beliefs spin around and around. We may imagine the person is gossiping about us, spreading rumors about us, and stabbing us in the back. We may come to the false conclusions that we are not interesting enough, not smart enough, or not good enough.
And men are not mind-readers, either. So women, please say what you what. “Well, my husband should know what I want or need without me having to ask him?” Wrong-o. That’s not accommodating communication. Unless your spouse is an extraterrestrial, he cannot read your mind. “Well, my boyfriend should know when I’m in a bad mood and comfort me without my words.” Wrong-o. That’s not cooperative communication.
When your partner is quiet do you assume he’s upset with you? When your boss is irritable do you assume she’s annoyed at you? When your best friend doesn’t return your text immediately do you assume she’s ignoring you?
Assumptions are obstacles to effective communication. Assumptions send mixed messages. And mind-readers are full of assumptions.
Apply Socratic questioning to your assumptions. Challenge your assumptions before you respond to social media devices. “Is that so?” is a simple question to use. “Am I overreacting?” is a question to explore your feelings. “Is there any evidence to support my assumption?” is a question that’s uses logic and reasoning.
Sometimes an assumption can be correct if there’s a pattern or theme to it. For example, when your partner is chronically late to most events, you can assume he has the issue and it’s not you. He’s not being malicious or revengeful or purposely disrespectful. So talk about solutions. Communicate. Cooperate. Compromise.
When your girlfriend is experiencing a mood swing don’t make a comment that it’s probably her time of the month. Argh! Mind-reading can plop you into boiling water or a visit to the doghouse. Instead, invite her to talk about what’s bothering her.
Yes, humans can learn to be more cognizant of non-verbal body language, but there’s a reason for verbal communication. Language, words, and conversation matters. Clarifying what the person said and meant is part of the communication process.
Well, I assume that you will store this information in your brain and use it to improve communication. Oh! I’m not a mind-reader, either.
Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She lives in Scioto County. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.