Dr. Helen Johnson
20 Dec 2022
If you don't know what mindreading is it is where we tell ourselves stories about what another person is thinking...
If you don't know what mindreading is it is where we tell ourselves stories about what another person is thinking or feeling - we think we can read their mind! Of course, when I do it myself I believe that I have loads of evidence for REALLY TRULY knowing what is in someone’s head. But oh dear lord, if someone does it to me it drives me round the bend…
In fact, imagine this… Me, driving home, having just met my friend’s fiancee, convinced I offended him by brushing past something he said in my enthusiasm to talk about ALL THE THINGS… Leaving a voice note for my friend ‘mate, when I said this I meant this, and also I ignored this and I really didn’t mean to ignore it I was just engrossed in the other things we were talking about and… and…’.
My friend’s response: Relax!!! No-one was thinking anything of the sort you maniac!
(By the way - apparently this need to explain everything is an ADHD thing, who knew!).
Honestly, the way we torture ourselves with thoughts of what other people are thinking or feeling…
I did it earlier today again. Convinced someone was annoyed at me, turns out… I was annoyed at them!
Now before I give too much away about the innermost workings of my mind, let’s address the core question here:
How do you coach someone not to mindread??
It’s easy to spot when someone is doing this because they will put words into people’s mouths. They won’t be reporting what someone said or did, they will be guessing at what they are thinking or feeling (and it might be a very good guess.. but it is still mindreading and you still don’t know what is in people’s minds!).
Three techniques come to mind:
1. Challenge them on the evidence they have - and whether there is a better way of getting REAL evidence of what is going on in someone’s mind. Do this gently though, no-one likes to have their reasoning torn to pieces!
2. Get them to think about the best possible interpretation and how they can decide to believe that instead.
3. Get them to really put themselves in the other person's shoes - usually this means that they change the narrative OR they see that the narrative is about the person's own issues and not them…
Disclaimer: I mindread all the time, apparently I just love that sweet sweet torture!