Sunday, April 22, 2012

Communication Is Key: Do you Expect Others to Read Your Mind

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Written By:  Sophia Reed

From my experience when working with people. One of reoccurring themes that I find myself reiterating or speaking to clients about is the importance of communication.  In my opinion, communication is essential. It is the only way that we are able to let others know how we are feeling, what we think, and more importantly what we think or feel about others and their actions.  Often times, I feel that people who are engaged in relationships (weather it be a friendship, romantic relationships, or family relationship) think if a person is close to them....then they should be able to read their minds, or anticipate their feelings.  The problem with this line of thinking is that when the person on the other end, does not not respond as expected, this leads to many hurt feelings.  If this does not make sense to you, I would like to explore this theory further.   Let's take this example:

There is a husband and wife.  The wife has expressed wanting to see a movie for the past three weeks.  When the day of the opening movie comes out, she sees that her husband is lounging around the home with no intentions to go anywhere.  To make matters worse, the tickets are sold out and even if she could talk him into going out of the house, she would not be able to see the movie anyway.  So what does she do?  Like many of us would do in this situation.  The wife ignores her husband or when he does speak to her she responds in an angry tone.  This goes on for days, affecting the quality in their relationship, and making a minor problem bigger than it ever needed to be. 

Now, I know what some of you are thinking:

If she had been talking about the movie, then he should have known to take her.

He just did not care or was not listening to his wife when she talked about the movie.

However, this thought process only brings me back to the point that you should never expect anyone to read your mind, wants, or needs. In this case the husband probably had no idea, why his wife was upset. Now in this above situation, would it have been hard for the wife to say

"You know honey, the movie that I really want to see is opening next weekend, do you want to see it with me on opening night?"

I feel that this simple question could have avoided a days worth of silent treatments, arguments, and whatever else over the fact that a husband missed a cue on taking his wife to the movies.

Let me give another example regarding friendships, and I know many people may be able to relate to.

Here we have two friends and we will call them Jen and Jane.  Jane has two children and is a single mother.  Jen, is married with a child of her own.  Jane reveals to Jen how frustrated she is, and that she feels that she needs a break. Jane also hints that Jen is lucky to have a husband to help her and that she wishes she had someone to help her with her two children so that she can relax.  After this conversation, Jen empathizes with Jane and that is the extent of it.  Jane becomes angry, that Jen did not offer to watch her children for her.  Jane then proceeds to not talk to Jen for two days.  When she sees that Jen is unaffected,  she becomes explosive at Jen, tells her she is selfish for not offering to watch her children for her and exchanged some other not so nice words.

Many friendships, end or go into a bad place over something so simple as a miscommunication.  First, Jen may have thought that Jane was just venting about her situation, and may not know that Jane even wanted to her to watch her children.  Jen, may have also had importance plans of her own that prevented her from offering to watch her children.  Whatever, the case may be, as with the first case, this situation may have been avoided. If Jane would have simply asked Jen to watch her children for the weekend so that she could get some rest.  Now of course if Jen refused, then Jane may has still gotten angry yes, however this goes beyond communication but rather having realistic expectations of another person, and respecting their personal life.

I know the above seem like very simple examples, but this is so that you can get an understanding of my point.  I challenge each of you to examine your relationships with people that you may not be in a good place in right now.  I challenge you to ask yourself is the negative impact of your relationship because of something that you expected that other person to know, or do for you, because you dropped settle hints.    Instead of dwelling on it, address the issues head on. 

Lets take the two examples above on how the situation could be corrected once the damage is done.

Scenario one:

The wife could simply say " You know husband, it really hurt my feelings that I did not go to opening night at the movies, after I had been talking about it for three weeks.  I really expected you to take me, and when that did not happen I got upset."

Notice the construction of the way this statement was made.  She did not accuse or say

" I  am mad because you didn't take me to the movies."

Instead she put some  responsibility on herself, that way it doesn't seem like she is attacking him, which could start an argument or make things worse.

In the second scenario, Jane did express herself, but in the wrong way.  Instead of lashing out, the conversation could have went like this.

" Jen, when I mentioned about being stressed and wanting someone to watch my kids for me this weekend. Even though I did not say it directly, I was really hoping that you would have offered, and I would like to apologize to you for becoming angry with you for that."

In this one an apology is in order.  It is unreasonable for Jen to expect her friend to watch her children, Jen after all is married and has her own responsibilities.  Yes it would be a polite gesture for Jen to watch Jane's children, but in no way is she obligated to do so, and therefore Jane has no right to really be upset.  With that being said, it would only be logical to both communicate your feelings and when needed apologize for your wrong doings.

As you go about your day, really try to reflect on how you interact with others, reflect on the expectations that you have on others. If you feel your are a person that expects someone to telepathically receive communication from you, without you verbalizing it.  Try being open, honest, and most importantly respectful about your communication, and see how much further it gets you.