Minding My Business (and My Marriage)

My wife accuses me of not listening to her, and she's often right although not always.  Here are all of the possibilities:

1. She told me something to my face and I just wasn't listening.  Guilty.

2. She told me something in passing and I didn't register it.  Still guilty but not as blatantly so.

3. She told me something from like two rooms over and I didn't hear it.  This happens a lot.

4. She thought it, and didn't realize she wasn't saying it out loud.  Now wait a minute...

The common joke is true: women expect men to read their minds.  Which is, of course, impossible.

But the expectation isn't actually as unreasonable as you might think.  There's something called "emotional intelligence," which is often thought of as keeping one's own feelings in check but also has to do with perceiving others' feelings.  We shouldn't be expected to read someone else's mind, but if we know that person then we should be able to discern them at a deep enough level to anticipate what they're thinking.

This should work in a marital situation, when two people ought to know each other quite well. And, in fact, Amy, who has high emotional intelligence, can read me pretty easily, to the point where it is as if she is reading my mind.  She's not reading my mind per se, more so she's reading my cues, both past and present, and processing that into an assessment of what's going on for me. 

This should also work in a work situation, with co-workers you see all the time, as well as with clients if you are in the professional services business.  Indeed, one of my revelations as I grow older in my job is how much success for me has to do with reading people and assessing where they are coming from, rather than what one might think to be the work itself, of crunching numbers and crafting policy and writing narrative and forging solutions.

I'll never learn how to read minds.  But, for the sake of both my marriage and my profession, I better get better each day at reading people well enough to make it look like I can read their minds.  This kind of listening takes effort, to sublimate your own voice and perspective and to prioritize taking in all of the verbal and non-verbal information others are giving off. 
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