Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why Can't You Read My Mind?

Why can’t people read my mind or hear what I’m thinking? My thoughts are loud enough for me to hear very clearly. They should know when I’m upset, or needy without me having to go through the trouble of telling them. Actually the worst part is how the drivers in New Jersey ignore what I’m thinking. They should know enough to get out of my way and stop dawdling in the left lane. What’s this world coming to when everyone is ignoring what I’m thinking? 
Ever have those thoughts? No? Well, maybe you haven’t phrased them in this way, but many of us forget that people can’t read our minds and it leads to frustration, disempowerment and sometimes anger. We all need to learn the art of speaking; knowing when to speak our mind and when to keep our thoughts to ourselves. 
I initially became aware of this trend (to believe that people could read my mind) when I found myself frustrated with a good friend. He knew I had a bad day and he listened to my complaints… but not enough. I wanted to complain a bit more and he moved on to other things. I was hurt, insulted and I started getting angry. “He should know what I want” I thought to myself. And then it hit me. He is a great friend, but he’s no mind reader. And I can’t expect him to be one.
To often we expect our friends, lovers, family and even co-workers to know what we are thinking and to act accordingly. We somehow believe there is no need to express what we want because the other person should know it. Besides, it’s humbling to express what we need to someone else. So we create ways of asking without words. We cuddle up to lovers in a “certain” way. We offer friends something knowing it will be reciprocated. We suggest broadly at work “why don’t we all do…” when it’s what we really want. 
I’m no psychologist, but asking for what we want sounds grown up. It also seems pushy for some of us. Yet, I know it’s easy for me to ask for free room upgrades at hotels, or a larger rental car without the premium, but it’s much more difficult to ask for time from a friend. Perhaps I don’t want to admit my need, so it’s easier to blame it on their lack of awareness. Who am I kidding? 
People who have created balance in their lives willingly ask for help when they need it. They are able to find the place of vulnerability that comes from asking and not let it bother them. They also seem to know the balance between asking for real help and just being a pain. And when they are asked for their opinion, they give it. Have you ever stood in a circle with friends paralyzed by the question “what do you want to do?” No one can read your mind. If you want something you’ve got to say it. 
Conversely there are others who overplay this strength. They ask for everything, are never hesitant about giving their  opinion of what they want to do and rarely ask others what they think or want. I find them overbearing, arrogant and selfish. And at times I’m jealous of them. Well, not jealous of them, but their ability to ask for what they want. But they do take it too far. 
The successful individuals I’ve met have a balance of individualism and collectivism. They are willing to ask for what they need and give their opinion when asked. However they are also generous to discover what others think and need. There is no pretense of mind reading here. This is the best balance of communication. There are no assumptions here of what someone wants, or that they know what I want. These individuals role model the best communication: actively soliciting what others think and actively contributing their thoughts. 
Now I just have to figure out how to actively communicate what I’m thinking to the slow poke driving in the left lane so he doesn’t have to read my mind. 

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