When We Stop “Mind Reading” and Just Listen

Positive Communication in Marriage for Happier Relationships That LAST

Most of us who have been in a relationship might be guilty of a common mistake: we assumed we know what our partner’s thinking. We might even go further and tell ourselves that we even know what they will say. This is surprisingly common when two people know each other well.

How Assumptions Disconnect Us From Our Partners

Being stuck in a standoff with a partner, like the couple pictured, can make bouncing back to the happiness of our relationship harder.

Thinking we know our partner’s thoughts becomes a problem when it prevents communication. If we tell ourselves what they think and might say, we limit the potential for dialog. Worse still, we might react to an imagined scenario and get frustrated or angry. All of this happening without a conversation, just entirely in our heads!

What’s missing is a chance to find out what our partner really thinks. Sometimes during a counseling session one person will say, “I know what she will say, it will be… (Fill in the blank).” I stop them right there and ask, “How do you know they will say that? Have you asked her?” Usually they tell me it’s because that’s what they have said in the past. And I reply, “Ask her right now.”

Almost every time the person being asked responds different than what was thought. This is usually eye-opening. We tend to think we know our partners as well as they know themselves, but we actually don’t. We have no idea how the other person perceives, processes, and thinks at that very moment. We can assume, based on past behavior, but we have an imperfect grasp of their current thoughts.

Practice Asking and Listening

Listening and providing a safe space for your partner is important.

But we’re all able to ask. And guess what happens if we do? When we set aside preconceived notions and ask, we may get a surprising response! Dropping assumptions about our partners can be a key to developing honest communication.

Of course there might be some repair work for the couple to help bridge old hurt feelings left over from earlier times. This is possible too. But starting with not assuming is the first step. It might even begin with a confession that could sound like this, “I used to think if I bring up (name a subject) you will say (whatever you think they will say). But I realize that I am assuming I know. I don’t want to do that. I want to listen to what you think. I promise not to interrupt and just hear your thoughts.”

I assure you—and this is no assumption—your partner will love the way this feels and so will you.

Develop Better Communication Patterns to Escape the Relationship Rut

Read a Book About Making Relationships Work

'Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship.' A book by Linda Nusbaum.

Learn more about how to communicate with your spouse by reading Linda’s book, Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship. It has conflict resolution strategies, tips for feeling heard, and suggestions on how to express your love and celebrate your relationship. Give it a read.

Get Couples Counseling

Come in for couples counseling. Couples counseling can help you and your loved one get the most out of your relationship. It'll equip you with coping strategies and tools for communication that can help you argue less and love more.

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