Mind Reading


In a personal relationship years ago, I was asked where I wanted to go out to eat.  I mentioned a place that had a number of healthy options and it was really where I wanted to go eat.  The response was, “So you think I’m getting fat?!”

Despite my answer that, “No, I was just answering your question and, honestly, that is where I am interested in eating,”  it was to no avail.  What I thought and felt really didn’t matter because there was a firm conviction that I “must” have meant something else (and not what I said).

The “nerds” out there often say what they literally mean, not something implied. Having the meaning replaced by someone else’s imagination (or assumption of  an implication) can be very frustrating.

This is an example of how Mind Reading, and it’s close sibling, Fortune Telling, can cause us great struggles in communicating with others… and ourselves!

By “mind reading,” I am referring to arbitrarily assuming that people must be reacting to you (and probably in a negative way).

Similarly, “fortune telling” is where someone arbitrarily predicts things will turn out badly.  Similar to pessimism, but much harsher and much more personal.

Both are cognitive distortions that can cause us great problems in how we communicate with others and how we even feel about ourselves.

Like most cognitive distortions, these are much easier to see in other people than in ourselves.  However, you can begin the learning process within yourself by first learning to spot these behaviours in others.  Let me be clear – I’m not suggesting you point this out to others, just learn to recognize.   Then, in time, you can see how you recognized this in other people and start to “watch” yourself for the same behavior.

This process takes time but as you refine the process, it is likely you will find that is is easier to understand what others truly are saying to you.   You can also learn to see when you are making these communication mistakes.  As you recognize it within yourself, you can learn to listen better and more accurately!

Clarity does wonders for better communication and understanding!


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.