Not many of us actually have the power to read what other people think about us or things we do however, all too quickly in situations we are convinced we know what people think and this is normally a negative judgement on us. Rarely do we bother to check out if this assumption is right and rarely do we challenge ourselves to check our view of reality.
I am working away from home at the moment (hence some of the slow blogs updates) and in the course of my work I am giving some presentations. Here is a scenario form today. Its 2.30pm, I am in the middle of a presentation and I look out and see two members of the group are clearly asleep, eyes shut, mouth open, a semi snore is emerging from them. They are in the land of nod. I take a second to look at them, I wonder is my presentation so poor it is sending them to sleep – well if it was that bad the other people would also be asleep, but they are not. So, there may be another explanation which has nothing to do with me ! I manage to come up with some different options:
· It is the afternoon slot, also known as the graveyard slot for anyone who lectures, perhaps they are sleeping off a full tummy
· Its Monday, it is possible they had a full weekend and are now tired
· My presentation, for them, may not be something they are interested in however, it appears to be for all the others.
Mind reading, as so many of the other unhelpful thinking styles is about looking at the reality of the world, not our impression of it. To rely on the ‘impression’ can often leave us emotionally battered, located within a self-defeating cycle which sets itself up to be repeated time after time.
If I allowed only the one thought to exist, namely my presentation is poor and boring, then next time I have to present I am likely to be actively looking for people who look disinterested, ½ asleep which will by default fulfil my own prophecy and reinforce a possible negative belief about myself.
As with the other techniques there are some great CBT techniques which can help you un-distort your thinking and challenge mind reading.
Rate the belief and identify your emotions
Let’s use me as an example… I may think my presentation is boring, but I don’t really believe this. I have given this presentation many times and, yes some have been asleep, but not the majority of people. And when I think about it in truth more people fall asleep after lunch than they do when I give it in the morning. When I think about things in this way, I certainly do not feel I am too blame, it’s just a reality of training. I feel better, I gently point out the sleepers and they raise from their slumber
If I allowed my mindreading to take the form of reality then what is my prediction? They have fallen asleep because my topic is boring, therefore I am boring and what I am trying to teach irrelevant to these people. It is important we get to the base of the prediction which lies below the unhelpful thinking style, because it is saying something about us which we hold dearly. In my case it may be a fear about my confidence in putting together presentations and their impact. I am a failure, which would appear not to be true.
I need to think about how beneficial this type of thinking is to me, does mind reading really give me any valuable information? I suspect not as I am guessing I know the answer. Is mind reading going to help prepare me for the future? Will using mind reading prevent anything bad from happening? No on both counts.
If I did less mind reading would it help me as a human grow and develop, if I challenged myself more would it result in less emotional distress for me. I suspect so, I really do.
I like to go and look for evidence which supports my view – as I have done before. When I seek out this evidence, I can see there is really nothing to support my mind reading aside of my own internal worries and concerns.
Finally, I have to consider that the mindreading may actually be true two people in a group of 22 may be bored. If this is the case the question, I would ask myself is ‘so what’? If these 2 people find the presentation boring the others don’t. If I am honest with myself I have found some presentations captivating yet others so boring I could fall asleep on the table in front of me. Others on the other hand have found then interesting, we are all different, that’s what makes the world tick over. I am also a bit ashamed to say , and I am more likely to find things boring after my lunch than before my lunch. Nothing to do with the subject. More to do with my digestive system. All in all my initial mind reading assumptions do not stack up.
So, a good though to end on would be to act against the thought and do something positive to dislodge it in your emotions. I have said it before and I think it is worth repeating.