Whenever we interact with another person, we draw on our past experiences of them. As we factor in the current situation, we then deduce what a person might be thinking or feeling at this present moment. This valuable social skill is critical in helping us make sense of peoples’ behaviour, and is essential in negotiating, selling, cooperating, working with, or becoming emotionally close to them. We use it and read clues all the time.
Since people are not transparent, we retrieve our mental file about the person each time we relate to them and compare the present interaction with previous situations and experiences we have of them, analyse their body language, tone of voice, etc, and after reasoning and filtering those inputs through our own bias and the inner representation of our world, we come to a conclusion, which allows us to adapt our behaviour to theirs and make the exchange a successful one.
Mind reading is 20% accurate in general rules, 35% accurate in couples, and does not exceed 60% in the most exceptional cases of mental empathy: after all, we have more than 3000 different facial expressions we can express in one day, and it is impossible for even our closest loved ones to catch all nuances of such a broad palette.
Skilful mindreading is a means for us to decide what to do next with them, and is essential in protecting ourselves from, or opening ourselves up to a person.
Conflict often stems out of misunderstandings, or mind-blindness, either by failing to make an accurate reading, or by attributing negative meaning to the behaviour, or as often happens, expecting that the other person ‘should’ be reading us and correctly interpreting us so to know exactly how we feel.
People, who do not accurately read the signs, interpret another person’s thoughts critically, or most frequently those who expect their thoughts to be read, have an enduring pattern of abusive relationships.
This blog summarizes an article published in psychology today. The whole article is highly recommended: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200708/mind-reading?page=2