Have you ever heard people say: “I don’t need to ask them, I know what they’re thinking”
Are you sure?
The problem is we think we understand the minds of others even
better than we actually do.
Mind Reading can be defined as when you assume you know what another person thinks or feels in a given situation.
And I know what you are thinking right now! 😉
Because you never completely or fully do, even if what you think they think or feel is a close representation of what another person actually thinks or feels.
Part of the problem is that we observe what someone does and think, if I did that, I would be thinking or feeling this.
Have you ever read into brief messages or emails what the sender’s mood was…?
Sure, our lives are guided by our inferences about what others think, believe, feel, and want. And understanding the minds of others is one of the keys to social (& leadership) success.
In Nicholas Epley’s book – “Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want” it simply states: while we can understand what others think, believe & feel, sometimes we’re wrong.
Mind reading gets us all into trouble from time to time.
Most of us at some time attribute intention to other people’s behavior or absence of behavior. We think we know that someone is interested in us, doesn’t like us or that person tries to hurt us.
We are masterful at taking a small cue such as a raised eyebrow, a lack of eye contact or a failure to do something we expected and believing we know what it means.
I remember when one of my bosses said to me: “I didn’t like your attitude in that meeting” I asked her what made her think that… she said because I had my arms crossed. Honestly – it was freezing in that room – I was cold!! In any case, the feedback enabled me to reflect on how I was potentially being perceived and increased self-awareness.
The trick to avoiding mind-reading is to stick as closely as possible to sensory-verifiable experience. That includes what we perceive via our 5 senses, plus our 6th sense.
We can deliberately listen deeply, with all our senses.
e.g., What I understood you’ve said is…
My impression from your message is…
A final note: We also often expect other people to be able to read our minds. We assume someone “should know” we are pleased or annoyed with him or her. Thus we expect others to realize we’re busy, overwhelmed, open to suggestion or distracted.
If it’s important – be clear. Say it like it is.