Resilience Tip - Mind Reading

Resilience is the ability to cope well with difficulties and to bounce back from setbacks. While some people are naturally more resilient than others, resiliency can also be intentionally developed.

  Thinking Traps - Mind Reading   Thinking Traps are predictable mistakes humans make in processing the vast amount of information around them. We cannot process all the data that our senses bring in, so we devise shortcuts to simplify the input and make it more manageable. This is helpful, and puts us at greater risk for error, which in turn leads to less resilient responses. The more we are aware of these Thinking Traps, the more we can adjust and respond resiliently. One of these common ways in which we err is Mind Reading.   Mind Reading is when we believe that we know what those around us are thinking and we act accordingly, and when we expect others to know what we are thinking and expect them to act accordingly. Of course, you might be saying, I know other people do that. Some Mind Reading is more noticeable. Some would hear a friend say: "My spouse should have known I would feel like pizza tonight, we haven't had pizza in ages." And we would give a knowing nod when this person gets angry at their spouse, again, this time for not bringing pizza home that night - thinking we would not do something like that.   And, some Mind Reading is less obvious. One single woman had a wandering eye. She frequently complained about how the men others introduced her to were very shallow. "The evening starts out pleasant, and then they start looking at my eye and I just know what they're thinking. Why have a relationship with a woman like that! And the evening goes downhill from there, I just clam up and wait for the date to be over." There may truly be some people who are turned off by a wandering eye. And, there are other possible things that were going through the date's mind: "Wow, I like the depth I see in her eyes." "Which eye should I be focusing on?" "Why is she clamming up, perhaps I turn her off." Mind Reading often creates these self-fulfilling prophecies. We are sure we know what the other is thinking (he does not like me because of my wandering eye), we respond accordingly (he must be a jerk, so why even talk to him), and create the exact ending we did not want (by not talking the evening was almost guaranteed to end badly).   Or imagine the team leader who has just heard that the deadline for a project has been moved up, and so gives new timelines for each team member; and then is shocked and upset when the team members go home at the usual time that day. Except that the team leader was assuming that they understood the project had a new deadline, why else would he put additional pressure on them. And yet the team members had no idea there was a new project deadline and so saw no reason to stay late that day.   Some Mind Reading is culture and/or gender related. Suppose a couple get into a fight. They both realize it was really nothing, and would like to end it and move on. The man thinks: Even though it was silly, she's always saying how as a guy I try to fix things too quickly, so I'll let her apologize first. The woman thinks: This is really silly, but a woman never apologizes first, it would take away from his sense of being the man, so I'll let him apologize first. Each of them is initially pleased with how understanding they are of their partner, and then increasingly angry when their partner does not apologize first! There are many different variations on this interaction, with the underlying issue of unvoiced assumptions leading to undesired results.   In addition to being frustrating, these examples lead to non-resilient responses because the source of the problem is incorrectly identified and so effective problem solving is hindered.  What to do? When you have a sense that you might be Mind Reading (or someone close to you gently suggests that you are), check that there has not been a miscommunication or lack of communication. The friend could tell the spouse that they would really like a pizza that night for dinner. The woman could check out directly or indirectly what the date is looking at, and/or give the evening more of a chance. The team manager could check with the team members if they actually knew that the project deadline had been moved up. The couple can explain to each other the reasoning behind their actions. These communications do not necessarily nor immediately solve the problem. They do clarify the situation, and increase the data involved, so that the issue can be addressed more effectively and more resiliently.     Carolyn S. Tal, PhD Psychologist and Consultant Working with individuals and partners in   developing resilience and related issues. 052-825-8585