How to deal with people who can’t read your mind

This is a short story about Roberta. She was out with her sweetheart, Jason, and saw an ice cream stand. Wanting a cool treat, she hinted, “Would you like an ice cream?”

Jason didn’t particularly feel the need and replied, “No.”

Roberta waited, but Jason didn’t respond by asking her if she would like one. They continued walking, Jason checking out the goods at the next shop, and Roberta getting more and more upset that she didn’t get the ice cream she wanted, and also feeling that Jason didn’t care about her enough to ask if she wanted the ice cream.

I call this situation “An Ice Cream Thing” — when we don’t feel we can be direct enough to state what we really want. This is actually a form of emotional manipulation. And unless both people are playing the game, there is bound to be an upset in the relationship. There’s more intimacy when people can feel open enough to share their true desires.

But since nobody can read our minds, we need to let them know what we want and what we expect. That doesn’t mean demanding or forcing, simply letting someone know what we want, what we would like them to do or what we expect from them. Take a cue from young children, who are not shy at all about what they do and do not want! But we still need to be prepared for and accept their answer. Only ask “Do you wanna ….” if you actually want to know.

This can be a tough habit to change. I still find myself stopping just as I’m opening my mouth (sometimes even mid-sentence) to rephrase what I’m about to say into exactly what I really do want to communicate. The new way may feel impolite and awkward at first. But it is so refreshing to have our desires stated openly and easily. We can save all the time and effort of game-playing and have a real conversation.

Here are some examples.

  1. To a mind reader: Do you want an ice cream?
    To a real person: I could go for an ice cream about now, how about you?
  2. To the mind reader: What do you think about helping me wash dishes?
    To the real person: Please can you help me with the dishes.
  3. To a mind reader: Do you have to go to practice tonight?
    To the real person: I’m having a really tough time right now and I would love you to stay with me for support.
  4. If you can’t think of any way to phrase it, think of what you really want and say: What I’d really like is…

What examples can you add?

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