How to Embrace Clarity and Communication to Heal Your Relationships

Issue 72. April 26, 2024 ✨ Higher Power Coaching & Consulting

Photo Credit: Uday Mittal

One of the insights I gained early in my recovery journey was that I’d been expecting people to read my mind my whole life—well, at least subconsciously. If you had asked me, “Are you expecting people to read your mind?” I probably would have said no.

As I talked with others on my recovery journey with me, we realized that was true for all of us. And the reason we wanted people to read our minds was because we thought that’s how it works! Again, this was all subconscious.

We realized we’d all been trying to read others’ minds our entire lives, so why weren’t they reading our minds??? Let’s forget the fact that we were wrong about being able to read other people’s minds!!! That didn’t seem to matter.

In trying to understand all this, it helps to think about the four primary rules under which dysfunctional families operate:

  • Don’t talk
  • Don’t trust
  • Don’t feel
  • Don’t remember 

In the case of believing we could and should read other people’s minds, the rule we were sticking by is the don’t talk rule. That means a few things:

  • Don’t ask questions when you don’t understand something. I internalized that as meaning that I had to have an answer for everything and saying, “I don’t know”, was not an option.
  • Don’t talk about certain kinds of things, typically important things like spirituality, feelings, finances, or how to take care of yourself.
  • Pretend certain things didn’t happen and don’t ask questions when the adults say one thing and do another. 
  • Don’t ask questions when you’re confused, don’t know what’s going on around you, or don’t understand what people are talking about. Just accept confusion as part of life.

I had a lack of clarity about a lot of things in my life but didn’t realize that until I got into recovery, when and I got clarity about a lot of things. 

  • I got clarity about my own identity and what was okay with me and not okay with me. 
  • I got clarity about the fact that I’d been confused much of my life and that these dysfunctional family rules had been operating in and running my entire life. 
  • I got clarity about the fact that I’d been trying to read people’s minds and that I was expecting others to read my mind.

This influenced all my relationships, especially romantic relationships. It meant I’d do things to try to get people to read my mind. Like pouting, giving one-word answers, or being rude. Then I’d want my partner, and sometimes friends, to know what was going on with me,

When they’d ask me if I was ok I’d say, “I’m fine”, when I was clearly not fine, they’d say, “Are you sure?” I’d say, “Yeah, I’m fine” but I didn’t mean it. I believe I did that because I was exceedingly uncomfortable with them asking me directly about what was wrong. I wanted them to somehow intuit what was wrong with me. 

Don’t get me wrong – there were times when they got to the root of things with me. It’s not like I never resolved anything in a relationship. But this was a pattern of mine where I wanted people to read my mind because I thought, “This is how it works.”

I wasn’t used to open and direct communication with others. In fact, I was aghast when I saw and heard others coming out and stating clearly what they wanted and needed and what their preferences were. It seemed like they were being rude.

My relationship with my sweetheart is the only healthy romantic relationship I’ve ever had. When we first started dating he said something about “You seem interested in me” and I replied, “Yes I am, you have me curious!” I was 55 and I had never come out and said to a man, “I’m interested in you.” It just wasn’t an option. 

And I’d never had a man to come out and say, “I’m interested in you.” That was not my experience. We just didn’t talk about such things, and that includes men I met on dating sites where it was really clear we were there to date. I’ve learned from others in recovery that I was not alone in all this.

If you recognize yourself in what I’m saying here and realize you’ve been trying to read other people’s minds (and holding them accountable for being able to read your mind) that is not how it works!

If you’re ever going to have a high-quality relationship with people, you’ll have to learn how to communicate directly and clearly with people. You’ll need to come right out and tell them what you want, need, like, prefer, think, and feel. And you’ll need to come right out and ask them what they want need think, and feel. This is one of the most important skills I teach my boundary-coaching clients. People with poor boundaries are notorious for murky communication, like beating around the bush, implying things, expecting that people “should” know things, and expecting mind-reading.

The ability to communicate directly takes lots of practice. Occasionally, it’s still hard for me, but most of the time it’s pretty easy now because I know the cost of not communicating directly. I want healthy relationships where we’re real with each other, and that can only come from clear and direct communication.

If you need help learning how to clearly and directly communicate with others, you’re a great candidate for my private coaching program. I have an entire module on developing empowered communication, and that skill is something we work on during the entire program.

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