I sometimes give a talk called ‘3 ways to give yourself instant confidence’. In just a few minutes I share my thoughts on how to give yourself a quick and easy confidence boost wherever and whenever you need it. The second tip is: stop mind-reading. Whenever I say it, it causes consternation. ‘But I don’t mind-read’, someone will say, ‘I can tell what people what are thinking and I’m never wrong.’ Well unless you’re Mystic Meg, chances are you can’t tell what people are thinking and you are usually wrong.
The last time I did my talk I looked around the room. Some people seemed to be paying attention and quite enjoying themselves, others were writing things down. Some people were glancing at the person next to them, or looking out of the window. Others were staring at their phones, or at their finger nails. I didn’t know what any of them were thinking, it was impossible to tell. Yet as I scanned the room I reacted to each of those people. The emotional response wasn’t to them however, instead I responded to what I thought they were thinking: pleasure when they seemed engaged and interested, irritation or concern when they seemed bored.
Isn’t that interesting? I reacted to what I thought they were thinking. A bit like last month when I talked about comparing yourself to other people and assuming they are perfect, I had started making things up. I was definitely mind-reading.
As always, we believe the negative, unhelpful stuff and think that it’s true and correct. Looking out for threats keeps us safe, that way we’re well prepared to defend and protect ourselves from danger. But this can easily turn into getting bogged down in negativity, which can really damage our confidence.
As I scanned the room I did a quick count. In reality, just a few of the people I was talking to seemed distracted and uninterested. Most were very engaged, taking lots of notes and sharing their own insights and experiences. I decided that I should concentrate on those who seemed to be getting something from what I was saying and not worry about those who didn’t look too interested. After all, I couldn’t do anything about their responses. As soon as I made that choice, my energy and confidence increased, and the talk went really well.
After the meeting, someone who had looked very distracted came up and thanked me. She told me that what I had been saying really resonated with her and she had become lost in her thoughts as she realised why something kept happening to her. I had assumed she was bored, or thought I was talking rubbish. Neither was true, I had definitely made the wrong call.
So why not stop mind-reading? If you concentrate on dealing with what you know, rather than what you’re assuming you’ll be a lot happier and feel much more confident.