By Rob Furlong
I have a bad habit that I need to confess to. It has got me into trouble more times than I can remember and sometimes it has caused great pain to people I love dearly.
I read minds. There, I said it!
What I mean is that when I am in a conversation with someone, instead of listening to what they might be really saying, I tell myself, "I know what you're thinking" and I base my response to them on my faulty assumption.
It's a nasty habit.
I end up believing things about the person that are not true and my wrong assumptions have also caused unnecessary hurt in my relationships.
I have hurt my wife Karen at times when I have "read her mind" instead of allowing our conversation to flow in a natural and open way.
And I have also been hurt by others who have attempted a little mind reading with me.
It's a nasty habit.
I have found that it has been a difficult one to break and my progress has been slow over the years. But I have also discovered some incredibly simple tools that I have endeavoured to put into practice and they have made an amazing difference in my conversations with others.
If I find myself beginning to "mind read" someone I will now ask them a question along the lines of, "Can I check out an assumption I have?" or even just "Can I check something with you please?"
In effect, I am asking their permission to read their mind! But if the person is willing to answer my question honestly then I am more likely to hear what they really think and respond to them accordingly, rather than basing all of my responses on what I think I know.
Asking a simple question like this clears up a lot of confusion, prevents misunderstanding and promotes healthy, honest conversation.
It also saves me from a lot of foolish anger because I am no longer basing my attitude on negative thoughts that are designed to bring the other person down in my mind.
An old proverb warns us of the danger of mind reading when it says, "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions..."
The second tool is also in the form of a question and is asked as a follow up to the first one.
"I think that you think...Is that correct?" or "I'm wondering...is that correct?"
If the answer is no, then things have been cleared up.
If the answer is yes, then it will lead to further positive conversation!
If all of this sounds simplistic or childish to you, then I would caution you to think again with the following true story.
At a marriage seminar we led, Karen gave the couples present an exercise based on these questions around mind reading in relationships.
As she moved around the tables to see how they were each doing, one lady admitted to Karen that she had just worked up the courage to ask her husband about an assumption she believed about him for twenty years.
She discovered that she had been wrong and that she had been hanging on to much unnecessary hurt for all of that time!
A whole new world of communication for this couple was opened up that afternoon through two simple, but powerful questions.
Relationships in our world are dogged by wrong assumptions and the faulty things that we have come to believe about each other.
We see it every day in TV programs, social media, friends, families and husbands and wives.
But there is a better way and it starts with the courage to ask two simple questions that begin with:
"Can I check...?" and "I think that...Is it true?"?
If you are interested in exploring this topic more then check out Emotionally Healthy Skills at http://www.emotionallyhealthy.org/