Mind Reading can be Harmful


"I know what you're thinking!"

How many times have you heard - or said - those words in the midst of a conflict with your partner?

That's "mind reading" - one of the central "cognitive distortions" that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps people unmask and defang. The idea that you know what your partner is thinking before you give them a chance to express it is a powerful one and runs through many of the ways we undermine ourselves in our interpersonal relationships.

For one thing, you may simply not be right, in which case you have launched into a diatribe based on completely incorrect underlying information. This can undermine your own credibility when you have a point to make.

Cognitive Therapy

The essence of Cognitive Therapy is a constant tacking toward the rational and evidenced-based. Forming conclusions based on incomplete or incorrect evidence is a recipe for disaster. Unless you have evidence to support it, don't assume you can read your partner's mind and jump to conclusions. We are always surprised by how much we don't know.

But more importantly in the context of a relationship, mind reading can trigger emotions and potentially cause tension. To send the implicit message to your partner of: "I know you better than you know yourself" can upset your partner and may cause unnecessary conflict.

Even if you are right, there is value in letting your partners express themselves, in their own words and in their own way. That's empowering. To be cut off and told what you think by somebody else is the opposite of empowering.

But mind reading works in another, more subtle way as well, less discussed in cognitive therapy manuals but equally or perhaps more important because of how often it happens.

Don't Assume Your Partner Can Read Your Mind

When you are trying to make a point to your partner, you have a certain intent in your mind. There is a particular sentiment, with a particular emotion attached, that you are attempting to convey. You have utter clarity in your mind as to what the overall message you are intending to deliver is.

But your partner doesn't. In fact, your partner doesn't have the slightest idea what you are feeling in that moment, or what you are trying to communicate. So, don't assume that they do.

In other words - Don't assume that your partner can read your mind.

Relationship Advice

Your partner might be reading your signals wrong. Your partner might be reading into what you said incorrectly. Your partners bring their own biases to the table as well. We all do.

When you make your point in a discussion, make sure to check to see if it landed the way you intended it to. Don't assume your partner knows what you meant because it was so clear in your own mind. They have their own minds. And your partners are no better at reading your minds than you are at reading theirs.

Here is important relationship advice on how to control mind reading in your relationship; take the time to listen to your partner instead of assuming you already know better, and everyone can feel heard and validated.

For further inquiries:

Check out Rachel Moheban-Wachtel, LCSW, at www.relationshipsuite.com

Phone: (917) 273-8836