They don’t know you. You don’t know them.

I was in a strategy meeting with about six of my colleagues.  We were discussing the plans for the new year.  We kept talking about the same issues from 12 months ago.  The meeting felt laboursome.  Getting agreement or making decisions was like dragging nails on a chalkboard. I was breathing, a lot. I was becoming frustrated and it showed. One of my colleagues, who I respect and value said to me (in frustration); “Georgia, I know you want things to move faster but it’s just not possible”.

For those of you who know or have met me, that would not be a surprise to hear. However, this was not the case.  My colleague had assumed that because I am a fast processor that I needed the project to move as quickly.  I gotta tell you, I felt annoyed and their assumption irritated me.  It annoyed me that they thought they knew what I was thinking.  How did they know I wanted “things to move faster”?  How did they decide what I was thinking?

Someone telling me what I was thinking triggered something in me.  And I’m not alone.  When people assume they know what you are thinking or feeling, it can cause a reaction.  Some may get defensive, be upset with them for getting it wrong or even shut down.

Later that day when I was processing my internal reaction to their comment, it reminded me of how easily it is to assume we know what the other person is thinking and feeling.  As much as my colleague thought they knew why I was frustrated… they didn’t.  I equally didn’t know where they were coming from.

We constantly need to remind ourselves not to become ‘amateur psychologists’ and think we are experts about those around us. 

In Psychology Today, Dr Jeremy Sherman reminds us that we don’t like being psychoanalyzed.   What a surprise hey?!  Being psychoanalysed can sound like:

“The thing about you is…”

“I know you.  You’re thinking…”

“You’re just being defensive”

“It must be because you’re jealous”

You getting it?  It’s so easy to do.  With our friends, family and work colleagues.

They don’t know your thinking and you don’t know theirs.

So how can we know what the other is thinking?  It can be as simple as asking; “Can you let me know what you are thinking right now so I am aware?” or something along those lines.

If you do want to test out where the other person is at you can always use this line that Brene Brown inspired me with at her keynote in Las Vegas last year; “Hey, can I just share with you the story I am telling myself about what you are thinking”?  At least this way, you are owning the fact that you might not be right.

I hope this helps.  It sure has for me. It dramatically reduces the reactions that others have since I am owning my ‘amateur psychologist’ thinking.

Let me know if this is this something you can fall into the trap of? How can you get better at it?

If you want to learn more about how to be a better communicator, read my book Fixing Feedback and subscribe to my blogs by filling out the ‘Stay Connected’ form on my home page.