≡ Menu

What Everybody Ought to Know About the Effect Mind Reading Has on Your Relationship


Mind reading is simply assuming that you know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what the other person in your relationship is thinking. We are all guilty of doing it, some more than others. The problem is that mind reading is the #1 cause of divorce.

John Lennon wrote in his song “Mind Games”:

“We’re playing those mind games together. Pushing barriers, playing seeds. Playing the mind guerilla. Chanting the Mantra peace on earth.  We all been playing mind games forever.”

He was right.  We have all been playing mind games forever.  

Do You Mind Read?

Yes. One of the mind games that we play with each other is mind reading.   It is one of the ways that we filter the world.  We learned the behavior as children.

When we were naughty and we saw “that look” on our mother’s face…well, you know the one I mean. You learned very quickly to mind read “that look” and get out of the way, quickly! It is normal human patterning to assign a meaning to the messages we receive.  That applies to language, pictures we see, and body language.  

That ability to mind read ensured the survival of our ancestors. It would have come in very handy.  The use of mind reading allows us to filter our world quickly.

If we had to stop and think about the meaning of every single thing, it would slow us down a lot. So, our brains have evolved to use this pattern of logic. It has stood us well through out time.

Mind Reading Destroys Relationships

Think of it like this…when you mind read, it is like you are throwing dice to determine what the person you are in relationship with is thinking.  Except…the dice are win/lose dice.  You might be right, you might be wrong. 

When you are right, it feels great.  When you are wrong, you damage the relationship, whether that is with a partner, parent, child, colleague…

Have you ever been in deep rapport with another person…such deep rapport…that you could finish each others sentences?  I have…it is a great feeling…and it leads to a false assumption.

The assumption is that you ALWAYS know what the other person is thinking.  And you don’t, you know. Mind reading is a symptom of rapport, of feeling connected to the other person.  Mind reading is picking up clues on a deeper level and translating them quickly so that they have meaning.

I had a job in retail for two years and I learned to like it, a lot.  My co-workers were used to me being cheerful and having a smile on my face, especially when I was serving customers.

One day, my fellow worker, Gary, came up to me and said “Are you mad?”  I looked at him, thinking that he had temporarily lost control of his mind. 

“No”, I said back to him, wondering what was up. “What makes you think that?” He replied to me “You’re not smiling, so you must be mad”. That is a classic mind read, an assumption about how the other person is feeling or thinking.

He was wrong.  I wasn’t mad. I was focused, thinking about the next step in my plan to remerchandise the retail aisle that I was in charge of.  Even when I explained to him that I wasn’t mad, he refused to listen.

He said, “I can see that you are mad.” He thought that I was mad because I wasn’t smiling…lol. I actually began to feel angry when he continued to insist that he knew exactly how I was feeling.

Mind Reading Examples

“I can tell that you don’t like me”

“You must really think that I am stupid”

“If you loved me, you wouldn’t be late”

“You are just doing that so that you can irritate me”

Can you see how making those assumptions can be damaging to relationships? What happens if you continually are assuming that your partner is thinking negatively about you?

They react badly when you assume that they are thinking that way about you.  They reassure you of their love and you don't listen…because you are playing the mind game.

Or you could be the person who is put in that position of having your every mood interpreted wrongly.  How does that feel?  There comes a point in time when one of you gives up trying because neither of you feel understood.  

Do This Instead of Mind Reading

  • Start with removing the belief that you are an excellent mind reader. It is an illusion. You are actually a good guesser and if you are guessing, you will be wrong, sometimes.
  • Catch yourself before you say anything…think twice before you speak, if you are in the habit of using mind reads with your partner.
  • Use questions to clarify how the other person is thinking, such as “How do you feel about that?”  “What, specifically, do you mean?” “How do you know that is true?” etc. 
  • Be sure that when you are using questions, that you do so with an inquiring mind, not a confrontational one.

I am not sure that we can ever eliminate all mind reads.  We will continue to “guess” at what is in the mind of another person, at least occasionally.  When we are in relationship, though, take the time to discover what your partner is thinking.

Take the time to bring clarity to your relationship and see how it blossoms from there. When you make that effort, arguments will disappear and there will be more agreement. 

If you continue to play the mind read game, you are throwing the dice and gambling with your relationship.  With more than 50% of all marriages ending in divorce,  that is a chance you should not be willing to take.


“Drive your own life…you deserve to, don’t you?”  Sherie Venner

Image Credit: Stuart Miles

The following two tabs change content below.


I am a Relationship Coach who helps others create happy, healthy, loving relationships…including the relationship they have with themselves…by breaking through those blocks and barriers to success. I use various techniques gathered through training as a Master Practitioner of NLP, timeline, hypnosis and common sense gathered through life experience.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Edmund Lee February 23, 2012, 9:47 am

    This is totally great 🙂

    • Sherie February 23, 2012, 9:52 am

      Awww…Edmund, thank you!! : D

  • Suzanne Jones February 23, 2012, 7:01 am

    I admit I have been guilty to a large degree. For me it was Mind reading combined with taking things personally. Bad mix.
    Great topic to write on, awareness is certainly needed here.

    • Sherie February 23, 2012, 9:14 am

      Awareness is the key! Thanks so much for your comment, Suzanne. : D

  • Sharon O'Day February 23, 2012, 4:52 am

    I never thought of it this way. I guess it’s so ingrained in how we communicate that it feels normal. Thanks, Sherie, for pointing this out. I’m going to start monitoring my communications, especially with those closest to me, and see how badly I do it! I’m sure I do …

    • Sherie February 23, 2012, 9:14 am

      I am sure that we all do, Sharon! Awareness is key, isn’t it? Thanks so much for your comment!

  • Matthew Reed February 22, 2012, 7:37 pm

    Early in my relationship with my wife I told her,
    “listen, I am a knucklehead. I don’t know a lot of things, so If I am not sure on something from you, especially about us, I’m just going to ask.”
    I still asking and she’s still telling me!

    • Sherie February 22, 2012, 10:11 pm

      Matthew, I love that you did that!! You are a very smart man and your wife is a very lucky woman!!

  • denny hagel February 22, 2012, 5:27 pm

    Love this!! Replace “mind-reading” with good old fashioned healthy communication any day!! Thanks!

    • Sherie February 22, 2012, 5:57 pm

      Thanks, Denny! I so appreciate you reading it and commenting!

  • Tony Taylor February 22, 2012, 1:49 pm

    I will admit, I am a man. Mind-reading is not a strong point for me, or at least I have been told.

    • Sherie February 22, 2012, 2:05 pm

      LOL, Tony! It is not a strong point for anyone, male or female! : D : D

  • stacey shannon February 22, 2012, 12:09 pm

    Ooh my. Good post. I.am.guilty.

    • Sherie February 22, 2012, 12:49 pm

      We’ve all done it, Stacey! : D

  • Jill McCarthy February 22, 2012, 11:19 am

    Wow. I absolutely love this. People do this with texting too and think they know exactly what a person is trying to say or think. I will reread this and send to many. Thank you

    • Sherie February 22, 2012, 11:31 am

      Thank you, Jill. It does apply to texting, too!

  • Sara Nickleberry February 22, 2012, 11:04 am

    I have been guilty of this before. Totally assuming that I know what someone is thinking and FEELING. Big mistake. Sometimes I’m right, but there are times when I’ve been totally wrong and it’s not a good feeling. This is good advice Sherie!

    • Sherie February 22, 2012, 11:30 am

      Thank you, Sara!

  • Rob Hodgins February 20, 2012, 4:42 am

    Nobody can read someone else’s mind. Any kind of relationship (friend, romantic, or business) can end as soon as one party decides they CAN read the mind of their partner.
    Good old plain talk really is the only way to go.

    • Sherie February 20, 2012, 10:23 am

      Totally, Rob!