Don’t try to be a mind reader

By Rob Furlong
We have been talking this year about ways in which we can improve the quality of our relationships by learning and practicing some new skills.
This month, I want to talk about how we can avoid the damage done to our relationships when we make assumptions.
Carole Mayhall, co-author with her husband, Jack, of Marriage Takes more than Love, recounts a humorous story from their own experience, which highlights the danger of making assumptions about people.
“One evening Jack and I were looking at a full, lovely moon. It was an incredibly beautiful evening, and I said, “Isn’t that a beautiful moon?”
What was I really saying? Jack could see the moon. I certainly wasn’t pointing it out to him. What I was really saying was this, “This beautiful evening with that full moon makes me feel very romantic!”
When Jack answered, “Yes, it is bright enough to shoot a golf ball by,” he grinned very quickly so I knew he was kidding, or I would have dissolved into tears. We had been married long enough by that time for him to pick up on my feeling and to respond to it.”
Not every situation like this ends so well. Too often people in relationships hear, observe or experience something they do not fully understand, but instead of checking out the facts, they assume they think they know what is going on, only to cause much harm to themselves and the other person.
In his course on growing emotionally healthy relationships, Peter Scazzero warns about how damaging unchecked assumptions are to relationships:
“The ninth commandment reads: ‘You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour’ (Exodus 20:16).
“Every time we make an assumption about someone who has hurt or disappointed us, without confirming it, we believe a lie about this person in our head. Because we have not checked it out with him or her, it is very possible that we are believing something untrue.
“It is also likely that we will pass that false assumption around to others. When we leave reality for a mental creation of our own doing (hidden assumptions), we create a counterfeit world.
“When we do this, it can properly be said that we exclude God from our lives because God does not exist outside of reality and truth. In doing so we wreck relationships by creating endless confusion and conflict.
“The Bible has much to say about not taking on the role of judge to others (Matthew 7:1–5). The application of a simple skill—Stop Mind Reading —holds within it the key to preventing large-scale misunderstandings in your friendships, family, workplace, and church. This skill provides practical help for loving others well by eliminating untold numbers of conflicts in our relationships.”
Thankfully, there are some very simple steps we can take to break the habit of making false assumptions as well as protecting us from them in the future.
Scazzero suggests the following:
• Never assume you know what the other person is thinking or feeling. I think this is the most difficult step of all because we are all so prone to assuming we know what the other person is thinking. Time and time again I have fallen into this trap myself, only to discover later how wrong I was!
• Instead of assuming, simply ask the person this first question: “Can I check out an assumption I have?”
• If the person agrees then ask, “I think that you think…is that correct?” or “I am wondering…is that correct?”
It is that simple!
Why not try this out over the next month? You could do so by applying it to a situation that may arise in any of your relationships or to a recent conversation you have had with someone which could have gone better.
Relationships flourish when both people accept that they cannot read each other’s mind!

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