Mindreading Is Overrated

Rod Pickett
2 min readMar 11, 2024

Instead of mind-reading everyone and thinking we understand the world, it’s often best to put in the extra effort to ask them questions and clarify what they are really thinking or feeling in a certain situation, otherwise we set ourselves up for tremendous misunderstanding.
Dr. Sydney Ceruto

Much of empathy is a skill, and skills can be improved.

People with empathy become so good at reading people that they begin to believe they can also read their minds.

It’s not unusual for an empath to sense how others are feeling.

With that information, it is not difficult to make an educated guess why they feel that way and what thoughts are going through their minds.

But no matter how educated it is, it is still a guess.

The most reliable way to refine the accuracy of that guess is to ask the other person.

Sometimes people are reluctant to say what they are thinking.

They might be embarrassed.

They might be afraid they will be judged.

They might believe it would be impolite to say what they are thinking.

But asking is still the most reliable way to know what others are thinking.

If the question sounds like an accusation, it doesn’t build goodwill and better friendships.

And it is not likely to get the truth.

The ultimate mistake is to argue about what they are thinking.

Body language is useful for understanding others, but it is imprecise.

Crossed arms can be an outward expression of an inner “Oh yeah?”

But they can also be an attempt to keep the arms warm.

A distracted clerk could be a sign of indifference to customers, or it could be because their elderly parents need to be in an assisted living facility and they are trying to figure out how to make that happen.

A frown could be a sign of disapproval or just a result of concentration.

Even if we become experts at guessing what others are feeling, we do not have access to their inner thoughts.

Not only do we overrate our ability to read minds, but we also assume that others can read our minds.

We tell ourselves that we shouldn’t have to ask for what we want, that if others cared about us, they would know us well enough that we shouldn’t need to ask.

If you’ve ever played charades, you know how difficult it is for others to know what we are thinking even when we are giving them the perfect clue.

It is hard enough to communicate our thoughts with carefully chosen words.

Mindreading is a fantasy.

We can’t do it. Neither can anyone else.

— Rod Pickett

Now available at Amazon: The Courageous Heart: Wisdom for Difficult Times in paperback and eBook.



Rod Pickett

Rod Pickett is a writer, pastor, teacher, photographer, real estate broker, personal trainer, consultant, trained hypnotist, woodworker and life-long learner.