The client said, “I was livid with my boyfriend and he had no idea why. He was late for lunch, and I was ravenous. I blamed him for both my hunger and my rage. I grew increasingly frustrated when he appeared oblivious to my distress. The nerve!”
Hoping someone will read your mind – or thinking you can read someone else’s – often leads to unrealistic, unstated expectations that can wreak havoc in relationships.
Mindreading – believing that others can read your mind, or vice versa –often comes from the belief that the evidence is obvious (Can’t he tell I’m upset by my tight voice and short sentences?!), or that conclusions should be obvious (I’ve told him that tardiness offends me, so he should’ve known I would be angry!). The trouble is that what seems obvious from your perspective may not be for the other person.
As a developing Artistic Optimist, your next challenge is to repair rather than despair hurt feelings! We aren’t mindreaders, and if you or the other person expects mindreading, there is a decent chance that someone is going to feel wronged and have hurt feelings. Is it your fault? No. Is it their fault? No. Are feelings hurt? Yes, and that’s the pressing problem that needs addressing.
How can you repair feelings hurt through a mindreading misunderstanding?
- Abstain from blame. Being an optimist means expecting what’s good, within reason. Most of the time, people are trying to help rather than hurt. Assume both you and the other person had good intentions. My boyfriend loves me and wouldn’t try to hurt my feelings.
- Voice your observations. Use an, “I” statement to tell the other person what you’ve noticed and how you feel about it. Instead of assuming you know what’s going on, ask open-ended questions to seek more information. I feel hungry and upset that you’re late. Can you tell me what’s going on?
- Show compassion. Healing inadvertently hurt feelings is like bandaging a scraped knee; expressed kindness often makes it better. I’m sorry that I got so angry at you. Or from my boyfriend’s perspective, I’m sorry I was so late. I see now that this was really upsetting for you.
- Remember for next time. Continue the conversation until you understand precisely why feelings were hurt and what can be done to avoid this situation or make it better in the future. I understand now that being on-time is a sign of respect for you, so I’ll do my very best to be punctual next time. During the conversation, use these techniques to enhance understanding.
When feelings are wounded in the crossfire of mindreading, you’ll know how to use your artful optimism to recast an unfortunate incident as an opportunity to deepen understanding. Free yourself from blame, show hurt feelings some love, and watch how your relationships and positive emotions grow!