Mind Reading

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 (NASB)

I do quite a bit of marriage counseling and addressing of relationship issues. One thing that is fairly consistent in troubled relationships is the problem of  mind reading. Mind reading is how I refer to the practice of assuming you know what the other person is thinking, or what they mean by what they say, how they say it, a look they give, or any other interpretation of an action.

This usually leads to one person being offended or angry at "what you meant by _______."  This begins the cycle of accusation, angry denial, attempts at explanation, refusal to accept the explanation and ultimately leads to secession of communication and a fractured relationship.

Women are fairly adept at coming to the wrong conclusions without all of the facts, a practice known as beguilement. Beguilement is a problem that plagues many women and is the culprit in more counseling problems than this one.

It is impossible to "know" what another person is thinking. To think or believe you "know" this information means you have the ability to read the mind of another person which is an aspect of divination or witchcraft; something the Bible expressly forbids!

I do understand that after living with someone for a number of years you grow to know their habitual responses and behavior patterns. It is reasonable to want to think you will always know what they mean by "that look" or a certain inference they give you. But those who are in a biblical counseling relationship are supposed to be engaged in the process of biblical change! This means that their thoughts, beliefs, and desires are being transformed and you cannot assume that you are correct in your conclusions about them any longer.

What I teach my counselee's who struggle with mind reading is to learn to ask questions of the other person. Rather than assuming you know what is on their mind, ask a question such as, "Can you tell me what you meant by what you just said? I am not sure I understand you."

This gives the other person the opportunity to explain what they meant, giving you information that will fill in the blanks in your thinking. It removes the need to assume.

Another way to go about it would be to say something like, "I thought I heard you say (repeat what you think they said), is that correct?"  This gives the person an opportunity to clarify or restate their sentence in a way you will understand.

When the other person tells you what they meant by what they said you are obligated to accept their answer as the truth. To do otherwise is to call them a liar, something Scripture also forbids.

These are such simple things to do yet so many of my counselee's struggle with it. We have forgotten or in most cases never learned how to ask questions of each other. Questions prick the conscience and cause us to look inward and examine our thoughts, beliefs, desires, and motives. Questions are an integral part of good biblical communication. Developing the skill of asking good questions takes much more time and effort than making assumptions and statements.

If upon self-examination you realize you have practiced this form of mind reading I encourage you to confess your sin to the person you have sinned against in this way. Ask their forgiveness and ask them to hold you accountable for the future. Be willing to submit yourself to accountability in this area as you ask the Lord to help you to glorify Him.