Mind Reading, Expectations, & Listening
Adapted from Pete & Geri Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Relationships
Begin with prayer (5 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.). Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Debrief last week’s Practice in triads (10–15 minutes)
If you are in a Community of seven or more, divide into small groups of 3–4 people each (ideally same gender).
Spend a few minutes catching up on life…
Then talk through the following debrief questions:
Which option did you pick to practice examining your emotions during this last week? (i.e. journaling, going on a prayer walk, praying through Psalm 139, reflecting with a friend, or something else?) And how did that go?
Did you find yourself more conscious of your emotions this last week? Did any of your emotions surprise you? (e.g. angry, sad, anxious, glad, etc.)
Read this overview
Have you ever made an assumption about someone without verifying the facts?
Imagine that your friend, who usually returns your texts, doesn’t return your text one day. 1 hour, 2 hours, and eventually a whole day goes by, and you’ve started to wonder if they’re angry with you. Maybe they’re ignoring you. They probably saw your text and chose not to reply. You assume the worst.
Or have you ever had an expectation that wasn’t met?
Imagine it’s your birthday. And one of your friends, who got you a present last year, didn’t get you a present this year. No card, no gift. You expected a present or at least some acknowledgement from them, so you’re pretty disappointed. You begin to wonder if they are selfish, if they don’t care about you, or if they aren’t as close of a friend as you thought. You had an expectation (whether you realized it or not), and it wasn’t met.
All of us, if we’re not careful, play the role of mind-reader and make assumptions about the motivations behind people’s behavior. And most of the time, if we’re not careful, those assumptions tend to be negative. We spiral downward by negatively interpreting the behavior of another and making assumptions about what they’re thinking. These interpretations and assumptions turn into landmines in relationships that, if not addressed, will hurt you and the other person. Further, all of us are prone to have expectations that might not have been communicated, agreed upon, or reasonable. We may not even realize we have these expectations.
If we’re going to learn to love God and others, we have to fight against our tendency to mind read, make assumptions, and have unreasonable expectations. Three antidotes for these tendencies are to stop mind reading, clarify expectations, and listen. In this week’s practice, we will explore practical ways to stop mind reading, clarify expectations, and listen, so we are better equipped to love people in our lives and Community.
Work through these discussion questions (25 minutes)
Do you ever find yourself trying to read someone’s mind? Are the conclusions you draw generally positive or negative?
If we want to stop mind reading, we must never assume we know what a person is thinking or feeling. Consider using a phrase such as, “When you _______, it made me think that you _______. Is that correct?” or “Can I check an assumption I have?” Which phrase feels most natural to you? Or do you have another phrase you might try?
Pete Scazzero describes four problems with many of our expectations: they are often Unconscious, Unrealistic, Unspoken, or Un-agreed upon. Of the four problems, which are you most prone to?
To clarify expectations, we must slow down and make sure we’re on the same page as the other party. Consider using a phrase such as, “I’d like to clarify an expectation I have of you… is this fair?” or “I expect ______ because _______. Is this reasonable?” Which phrase feels most natural to you? Or do you have another phrase you might try?
Open the Bible together (5 minutes)
Throughout the Scriptures, the people of God are invited to be people who listen. While this may not be a natural tendency for all of us, James calls God’s people to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1v19). The author of Proverbs shares some explicit wisdom with us in how and why we listen. Read Proverbs 18v2, 18v13, and 18v15 aloud as a Community. Read these verses slowly, perhaps even leaving a 15 or 20 second moment of silent reflection between each verse.
Do this Practice as a Community right now (20 minutes)
As we read earlier, followers of Jesus are to be “quick to listen” and “slow to speak.” With this in mind, tonight’s Practice is an exercise in listening well. Split into groups of two (or three if you have an odd number) and take turns asking one another the following question: What is one thing that has been impacting you lately?
Read the following guidelines before you get started.
As the sharer:
Be as open and honest as you feel comfortable.
Do not feel like you need to over-explain or qualify what is affecting you right now.
Try to keep your statements brief enough to give the listener time to paraphrase.
As well as you can, practice using emotions words in your sharing. (e.g. happy, disappointed, frustrated, distant, excited, resentful, defeated, honored, etc.)
As the listener:
Give the sharer your full attention and listen without interrupting.
Avoid judging or interrupting and do not offer advice.
As the sharer finishes, thank them for sharing and then practice active listening by attempting to paraphrase what they’ve said. You can start this by saying, “What I hear you saying is…” Remember to speak with empathy and respect. And once you finish paraphrasing, ask the person, “Is that correct?” and let them respond.
As the Community Leader:
Consider setting a 5-7 minute timer. Once the timer goes off, encourage each group to switch sharers, so as to make sure all participants have time to share.
Discuss the coming week’s Practice (5 minutes)
As we talk about often in Practicing The Way, noticing is one of the most helpful ways by which we change. So this week we want to continue growing in our ability to listen by taking time to pause and reflect on how we’ve listened over the last week.
The Practice this week draws inspiration from the Examen. At three different points this week, reflect with the Holy Spirit on your day (using the questions below). We recommend using a journal to write down your reflections.
What was the most significant conversation I had today?
Did I try to read the person’s mind in any way? Did I have any expectations of them that I need to clarify with them?
What is one step the Holy Spirit is inviting me to take in light of these insights?
Work through these discussion questions before you call it a night (5 minutes)
How was the listening exercise for you? Did you notice anything about how you tend to listen?
Tonight we discussed how to stop mind reading, clarify expectations, and listen. Which of these three things are you most hoping to grow in?