Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Communication Rule Number 5

Don’t Mind-Read.
 People mostly don’t like your telling them what they are feeling, thinking, or trying to do, especially if you’re implying that they shouldn’t be doing it: “You’re trying to punish me;” “You’re trying to make me feel guilty;” “You must want to be depressed;” and “You always have to be in control.”
Mind-reading can trigger an argument as in the following famous example:

You’re angry at me.
No I’m not.
Yes, you are.
I know when I’m angry and I’m not.
Well, then you’re angry unconsciously.
(Voice rising): I already told you, I’m not angry.
(Voice rising) Listen to your voice. You sound angry to me.
Well, I’m angry now—because you keep insisting I’m angry.

When you mind-read, you jump to conclusions. But you might also just be drawing conclusions. And even if you are jumping to conclusions, sometimes you’re right. Therapists draw or jump to conclusions all the time, as in: “You seem angry” or “You seem depressed.” (Some partners enjoy a certain type of mind-reading—finishing each other’s sentences—because their guesses, which are usually correct, show how well they know each other.)
Mind-reading is often an expression of feelings put in the form of assertions about the other person’s feelings. It’s a fear or worry stated as a fact. “You’re bored to death” might mean “I’m worried I’m boring you.” “Why are you so angry at me?” might mean: “I’m worried that you’re angry at me. I know I’ve been withdrawn lately, and I’d be angry if you had disappeared on me that way.” Accordingly, you can use your mind-reading statement—this assertion about your partner’s feelings (“You’re bored to death”)—to track back to your feelings (“I’m worried I’m being boring”).

Dan Wile

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