What happens when you cultivate a deep sense of curiosity about the people you interact with?
Well, let me ask you, have you ever talked to a psychic? I don’t mean a real psychic, or even a money-grubby fake. I mean a regular person who is constantly convinced they know what you’re thinking and feeling before you’ve told them.
I’ve had a few friends like that. Talking to one of them about something important is an exercise in frustration. As soon as I’m done describing a dilemma or challenge, they start telling me what they think I’m “actually feeling.” Then, under the false impression they’re helping, they push me to explore “the real issue.”
Most of the time they don’t even have a firm understanding of what’s going on, and they are almost never right about my feelings. How could they be? They haven’t taken the time to listen.
But when you’re close to someone, it’s easy to fall into that trap.
All of us develop the ability to “read” the people we interact with daily, like our partners, close friends, and family. The more time you spend with someone, the more natural it feels to “predict” their feelings based on what you know about them.
So when your best friend has had another bad date or your partner’s boss has irritated him again, the temptation is to assume it’s the same song, new verse.
We’ve heard it before, we tell ourselves. So we assume we already know what’s going on. But there are two major flaws with that assumption.
The first is this. There’s no guarantee you’re right.
The only way to know where another person is coming from is to hear them out. Handing out advice or opinions without all the information is a surefire way to derail communication.
It’s much better to listen first.
But what about the times you are right? Is it okay to play the mind-reader then?