Admit it. Come on, tell the truth.
You think your spouse, significant other, sister, brother, cousin, best friend—at least one of them—should be able to read your mind. Some often unacknowledged part of our brains thinks another person should be able to sense our emotions and respond accordingly. We assume they will say the right words or perform the right actions to fix a situation. At the very least we want them to provide the proper empathy to match our mood. We feel they—our special people—should behave in Hollywood-script fashion and recite perfect lines to solve everything.
We’re all guilty of having great expectations from time to time. How often do our assumptions that others will be omniscient disappoint us? Bunches, if you are anything like me. We finish a visit or exchange an email with a friend and think, why didn’t they…
- Comment on what I told them when I said ____?
- Pick up on how sad I am feeling?
- Know how to solve my problem?
- Realize that sending me a card would go a long way to soothing hurt feelings?
- Reassure me my new haircut is okay?
Have you read the 1992 relationship book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex? I always knew the sexes were different and this book helped clear up some of those puzzles. But my husband will tell you that I cannot read his mind. His engineer’s brain and my writer’s brain function in drastically opposite ways. Yet we live compatibly together, traveling, and sharing a forward life-path.
Thinking mind reading works is like an American traveling to Italy not speaking a word of the language. Would you, my fellow countrywomen, then be amazed that the Italians aren’t the same as you? Would there be some shock that you don’t understand them and they don’t understand you? Culture isn’t the only barrier to properly interpreting each other. People are unique and complicated. All of us. Each of us.
Add in the impact of social media
The more we talk in like buttons and emojis, the greater concern we should have in thinking people understand what’s in our minds. How about the first time a colleague wrote an entire paragraph in CAPITAL letters and you read it feeling yelled at? Until you decided to speak to them directly, you were upset…. Then they told you their intent was to make you know the email was important, not a rant.
It was a misunderstanding because you couldn’t read their mind.
When did sending emails become the norm for communicating with co-workers instead of walking twenty steps to have a face-to-face? We judge and misjudge based on Tweets or headlines, never delving beneath the top layer of soundbites and snippets. To do that—slide across the surface of a person—is a missed opportunity to their learn backstory. The use of the word “social” gets lost in the media and we forget, forget that we are humans sharing with humans—just not in person—and it affects our behavior.
There are only 27 months between me and my sister Jackie. We’ve been best friends for three decades. Two thousand miles apart for the last twenty years has only deepened our relationship. We talk almost daily, instant message, and share multiple emails. We’ve taken many trips together and are often of a like-mind. Still, we miscommunicate and can, unintentionally, tick each other off. Longevity and the investment in our combined future has one of us saying to the other, “Get on my wave length!” We laugh and talk until we’ve found clarity through the conversation.
While we have harmony with a sister, sensing her joking or when she needs a good laugh, we cannot share a Vulcan mind-meld. I pride myself on keying into people fairly well, but there are times I’ve left an encounter and later thought: Ut oh, I think I misunderstood _____. Sure enough, if I return to check, the person will say, Um, yes, you didn’t quite get me that time.
When we want others to read our thoughts instead of doing the work to clearly express ourselves, we stack a lot of responsibility on them. This also builds a lot of angst in us as we hope they will figure us out. What a recipe for disaster!
God gave us words and emotions so we can communicate with each other. But the builders of the Tower of Babel wrecked that for humanity. Life requires honest, undistracted conversation. We have to share critical dialogues to build relationships that endure. Delve beneath the surface of your friendships and work to ensure you are hearing the truth of each other.
Let me know what mind-reading mishaps have crossed your path in the last week.Honest, undistracted talking is critical to building relationships that last. Click To Tweet