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How is Mind-Reading affecting your marriage?
Many couples use mind-reading to guess what their spouse is thinking and what their motives might be.
Did he bring me flowers because he wants to express his love or because he feels guilty?
Did she buy me this gift because she wants to help me or remind me I am often sloppy?
Mind-reading can be helpful when it is on target and assumes the best about our spouse. But it usually leads us into unnecessary conflict, instead.
Let’s look at why that’s the case.
Mind-reading isn’t a Superpower.
Our mind-reading is rarely perfect. It can be helpful if we want to clarify something with our spouse, but lousy in predicting their motives.
And when we rely on mind-reading to navigate the relationship we are taking risks we don’t need to take.
Much of the time our interpretation of our spouses motive’s or feelings is off-base.
But by then we are irritated and starting to react. And soon we are escalating a non-issue into a real issue
How about you?
How many times have you misinterpreted your spouse and then realized it wasn’t about you at all?
Mind-reading is popular with Negative Interpreters
In Lesson #8 of RE|ENGAGE couples discuss the topic of Communication. It’s a great lesson because it highlights four ways couples mishandle their communication.
The four ways form the acronym, WENI (“weeny”) . They are:
Withdrawal – pulling away physically, emotionally or verbally
Escalation – raising the stakes to avoid or pressure our spouse
Negative Interpretation – translating our spouse’s actions/words negatively
Invalidation – denying or downplaying our spouses needs/thoughts/desires
So how do these relate to mind-reading?
One spouse makes a comment about the house being messy. And the other negatively interprets it and assumes they are being criticizing for not being more helpful.
That’s why Negative Interpretation is both part of mind-reading and a first step toward conflict.
Then it is followed by the other three… Withdrawal, Escalation and Invalidation.
Negative Interpretation often looks for the “secret message” in our spouse’s words. But is it really there?
How many times have you had conflict because you assumed your spouse was ignoring, disrespecting or criticizing you by something they innocently said or did?
Mind-reading is related to Poor Communication
When we are too busy to communicate well, we often use mind-reading to fill in the blanks.
Couples who are struggling with trust issues are particularly vulnerable.
They are already struggling with expectations. And the pain they have experienced makes them prone to mind-reading.
So be aware that you are not letting mind-reading be a substitute for calm conversation.
In our world today we are always looking for faster ways to do things. But relationships don’t work that way.
Human beings are designed to communicate face-to-face. We know because studies show 50-90% of our information, in a conversation, comes from non-verbal cues.
Here’s the crazy thing. You and I are much more likely to read the non-verbal cues and believe them than we are to believe the words being spoken.
That’s why when we are texting, reading an email or listening to a voicemail we often misinterpret the speaker. Because we don’t have the non-verbal cues to understand their motives and thoughts.
So when you are angered by someone’s communication, the best approach is to meet with the person face-to-face so you can see their expressions.
Mind-reading and Cycles of Conflict
There is a cycle we can get into. It goes like this. We mind-read and it leads to misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
And that makes us question each other which damages our trust. So we withdraw and communicate less. Which leaves us with mind-reading as a primary form of communication.
This is a cycle that we want to avoid in our marriage!
Maybe that’s why God chooses to communicate with us in multiple ways. He doesn’t want us guessing about His motives. He gives us the Spirit, His Son, His Word, and His people to confirm that His motives toward us are kind, loving and pure.
The intentions of a man’s heart are deep waters,
but a man of understanding draws them out.
Proverbs 20:5 BSB
So now that we know something about mind-reading and the problems it causes, what can we do?
1. Discuss your use of Mind-Reading.
- Where is mind-reading occurring in our relationship?
- When do we tend to use it?
- Why does it occur there?
- What are the negative effects we’ve noticed?
2. Use Mind-reading as a Call to Action!
- Recognize the negative reaction you are having to the conversation.
- Kindly ask for clarification by assuming the best.
- Listen carefully and react slowly.
Help me understand.
I’m feeling criticized because of your comment about the house being messy.
Are you frustrated with me? I”m just wondering.
Something you said yesterday is bugging me but I may have misunderstood.
Can you help me understand what you were thinking when you said it?
I’m feeling frustrated by your last statement.
Can we talk about what you you meant to communicate?
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.
3. Assume the Best about each Other!
When we feel negative about something our spouse has done or said, we should default to the assumption that:
1) They love us and want the best for us
2) They may not communicate clearly what they intended
Each of us wants to be understood. Giving each other “grace” is the solution!