Minnesotan Mind Reading


I'm sure this happens all over the globe and in every relationship, but I think we have a particularly bad case of it here in Minnesota. Mind reading. Mind reading is the process of looking past what is actually verbally spoken by an individual and instead attempting to discern what they really meant by paying attention to what they didn't say or what their tone of voice, body language, or subtext implied. 

For example, perhaps there was a family event that you could not attend. You spoke to a relative and explained that you could not go, and she stated "Oh that's fine." However, you somehow knew that her saying, "Oh that's fine." actually meant, "That's not fine. You need to come to this event if you don't want me to be mad."

Or perhaps in a reverse situation, your spouse, partner or friend does something that upsets or annoys you. You don't tell your spouse what they did that made you upset because you think they should "just know." Instead of talking about it, you walk around in an upset or crabby mood until they either "figure it out" or finally ask you what's wrong. Sometimes even when someone asks us what's wrong, we say "Nothing." and expect that they would understand that we really meant "Something."

Mind reading is a passive aggressive communication pattern that places us in a different relational dimension in which everything that is said or unsaid is actually code for something else.

This is peak Minnesota. Mind reading is a passive aggressive communication pattern that places us in a different relational dimension in which everything that is said or unsaid is actually code for something else. When we ask others to read our mind or try to read someone else's, we ultimately walk into a space of confusion, best guesses, and almost certain disappointment. I'm sure you've felt how exhausting it is to play unspoken mental chess.

There's another way. In healthy relationships words carry meaning and weight. This is a space where what is said is actually what is meant. Where you take people at their word and trust that they are being truthful with you. If you're upset with a friend, you tell them that you are upset. If your relative said it was okay to miss an event, it is actually okay to miss the event. 

This often feels very foreign for people. Sometimes there's a sense of disappointment. I think we all long for having people in our lives that know us well enough to know what we need when we need it or know what we're thinking without having to say anything. While this seems ideal, we're unfortunately asking for an impossible thing. I'm sure you've seen that sometimes even you don't know what you need at all times. Additionally I'm confident you've had times where someone asked you what was wrong and it really was "nothing" but because "nothing" sometimes means "something" they pester you to "tell me how you really feel." This is maddening for you and your partner! Can I challenge you to be a person whose words are trustworthy?

Alternatively, we may desire to exist in relationships where everyone just says what they mean, but this may not be the desire of the other party. In that space, we must be the first ones to set boundaries and expectations. We have to tell people that we're going to take them at their word, even if what they say is not what they actually meant. We have to inform the other party that should they be upset or want something from us they have to tell us. In that place we also choose to not take on guilt, and choose to interact with others as if they held the same healthy, adult conceptualizations of relationships.

Often you will find that people will meet you in this healthier space- the space is actually quite relieving, peaceful, and clear. However, there will be individuals who refuse to engage emotionally mature relationships. And in that case, you may need to take a few steps back from that relationship. But please remember this stepping back is not an abandoning of that relationship, but instead is a setting of a boundary that says "I so desire to have a close relationship with you, but it needs to be a healthy. Meet me here and we can continue to grow and strengthen our relationship."