Column: The truth about mind-reading

By Gus Bode

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, many of us may have fantasies about the perfect way we want this holiday to unfold. We may have a gift we’d like to receive, words we want to hear or a romantic surprise we have been waiting for.

Or perhaps it is something deeper and less tangible we’re hoping to receive, such as the knowledge that we can trust and depend upon our partners. And how do we expect to make our Valentine’s dreams a reality?

Often, we expect our partners to read our minds. The myth is that if someone really knows you or truly cares for you, he or she will be able to read your mind and know what you secretly want.


And wouldn’t that be great if it were true? We wouldn’t have to place our order at the coffee shop, but more importantly, our partners would also instantly know our wants and needs. It sure would be nice, but mind-reading doesn’t exist. The reality is that many a Valentine’s Day is ruined because we expect our partners to read our minds and then are disappointed when we didn’t get what we wanted.

We are so disappointed that we are unable to see and appreciate the loving things our partner sdid do. Most of us, but especially women, are not taught to ask for what we really want and need.

One framework used to effectively communicate needs is Marshall B. Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication, which focuses on compassion when we communicate. Rather than hoping for your partner to read your mind, making angry demands or using coercion, you can communicate in a clear and compassionate way. Nonviolent communication asks us to honestly express to one another our observations, feelings, needs and requests. Begin by observing your situation.

Perhaps whenever you tell your partner about how busy and tiring your day was, he or she will cut you off in mid-sentence and tell you about the stresses in his or her day. This might be an isolated incident in your relationship or you might observe that this is a common pattern. Next, try to identify your feelings in this situation. Perhaps you feel silenced, hurt or annoyed that you were cut off. Use your observations and feelings to identify what deeper need you are experiencing.

In this case, perhaps you need your partner to listen to all you have to say and validate how tiring your day must have been. Use these three components to inform the request you make of your partner to help you get your need met. In this instance, ‘I notice that when I start telling you about my long day, you join in and tell me about your day. When that happens I feel hurt and annoyed because what I really need at this moment is for you to listen to me and acknowledge what a tough day it’s been.’ These principles can also be applied to how we listen.

Even if the important people in your life aren’t versed in nonviolent communication, you can mindfully observe the feelings, needs and requests being asked of you.

If you are interested in learning more about nonviolent communication, go to


Skaistis is a professional psychology intern for the SIUC Counseling Center.