Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mind-reading and Stress

Most people think that they know what other people are thinking. This week we’ll explore this phenomenon, known as mind-reading, and how it contributes to stress.

You may not be psychic, but, you are a mind-reader. It happens when you interpret that look your partner gives you. Perhaps when you “know” how someone is feeling based not their past behaviour. You believe that you can perceive , and understand, what’s going on inside other people. 

Mind-reading is a natural part of human communication. It allows us to anticipate actions. It helps us interpret non-verbal queues. Mind-reading is helpful,but,  it can create misunderstandings. It can become a significant source of stress.

Mind-reading is particularly common in business settings  where we are encouraged to avoid communicating our emotions. We are forced to guess what people are feeling. This often leads to defensiveness, and miscommunication.

For instance, you are having a conversation with your boss about a challenging employee. She seems agitated, annoyed, like she just wishes you were out of her office. You decide, based on experience, that she likes your employee and is upset that you have an issue. All very reasonable.

What if your boss is just in a bad mood? She’s having car trouble again. She is fed up. She would have seemed upset even if you had brought her coffee, and her favourite jelly doughnut.

Your mind-read has gotten you nowhere. It would have been far better to ask her if there was anything wrong. You may not have gotten the whole story, but, at least you’d understand where she was coming from.

If it had been about your employee, then you would know where you stand. It would have created an opportunity for dialogue.

Mind reading is part of how we operate with one another. It is normal, but, not optimal communication. Can you see how guessing about other people’s feelings can get you into trouble and cause unnecessary stress? I’d love to hear why, or why not.

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