Relationships, Part 6: The Mind Map

It’s difficult to know what goes on in another person’s mind, often we don’t even know our own mind; but that doesn’t mean we won’t try. Being able to predict the behavior of others is vital in so many things, it’s impossible to resist attempting to do so, even though we are often wrong.

More often we are right. The human mind is exquisitely sensitive to detecting changes in emotion, attention, attitude, and mood. We constantly scan the faces of people we are with for this information. We are often accurate, even though we may not be able to verbalize why or what led us to that conclusion. However, what we get from all this ceaseless scanning is broad strokes and few details. Often we are dead wrong about the reasons people have.

Undifferentiated, dependent people will scrutinize your reactions to determine how they think and feel. They will want to go for Chinese, as opposed to Italian food, because they see you have more interest in General Tso and want to please you. Maybe you had another reason to perk up when the General’s chicken was mentioned. Regardless of the actual reason and their own desires, soon you will be eating with chopsticks.

Undifferentiated, dependent people use this ability to make you responsible for the choices made, but we all need to be able to enter the mind of others. When I am teaching, I am always watching faces to see if I lose anyone. I won’t know why I lose them, maybe they’re worried about something at home, maybe they don’t feel well, maybe they have ADD, or maybe I’m not explaining well. I’d better be watching, because if I start to lose someone, I can make corrections, repeat myself, or explain differently.

We call this ability mind mapping. A map does not contain all there is to know about a territory, but a good map gives you enough information to get around. We need accurate maps of the inside of another’s mind. This is especially true in the case of someone we are intimate with. Married people need an accurate map of the inside of their partner’s mind. In order to get one, it is not enough to scan faces; you have to talk.

You need to know what matters to your partner, why it does, and what barriers they face. You need to know what their work is like, what it’s like to stay home with the kids, who their friends are, and whether they are planning on playing golf all day Saturday. If you don’t know: if you don’t care, or if you aren’t paying attention, or if they don’t tell you, problems will ensue.

When we all lived down on the farm and rarely left home, it was not too hard to know your partner’s mind. However, most of us don’t live this way. Couples go to separate places during the day, and often at night, too, they often have different circles of friends, or may be absorbed by their own family of origin. It is very easy for couples living a modern life to get disconnected and lose each other.

Downloading a new mind map needs to be something you do daily. It has to be a priority, or you will lose each other. In my next posts, I’ll show you a couple of exercises that will help you.

Click here to go to the entire Relationships series.

Published by Keith R Wilson

I'm a licensed mental health counselor and certified alcohol and substance abuse counselor in private practice with more than 30 years experience. My newest book is The Road to Reconciliation: A Comprehensive Guide to Peace When Relationships Go Bad. I recently published a workbook connected to it titled, How to Make an Apology You’ll Never Have to Make Again. I also have another self help book, Constructive Conflict: Building Something Good Out of All Those Arguments. I’ve also published two novels, a satire of the mental health field: Fate’s Janitors: Mopping Up Madness at a Mental Health Clinic, and Intersections , which takes readers on a road trip with a suicidal therapist. If you prefer your reading in easily digestible bits, with or without with pictures, I have created a Twitter account @theshrinkslinks. MyFacebook page is called Keith R Wilson – Author.

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