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Reading Minds


It isn't as hard to read minds as most people think. Mind reading is just one aspect of a spiritual gift that the Bible calls discernment.

There are many techniques for discerning the motive or spirit behind a person's actions. It could be said that all discernment attempts to read a person's mind; but this article deals specifically with that aspect of discernment which focuses on a more literal understanding of the word "read".

Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34) In other words, if you want to know the secrets in a person's heart (i.e. to read their minds), then listen closely to what they are saying, and read closely what they are writing. From this we can see that reading minds may be as easy as reading what people write.

People love to "speak their mind". So when someone says, "I've had enough. I'm leaving!" it's quite likely that their mind is saying, "I've had enough. I'm leaving!" Sounds easy, doesn't it? But it's surprising how many people fail to pay attention to what others are actually saying. They're too busy trying to "read between the lines" or to get evidence for some theory that they have, to hear what is obviously and clearly being said.

Psychologists make a fortune just by listening to people. If they comment at all, it's usually just to restate what the person has said. They might say, "I hear you saying that you have had enough. I hear you saying that you are thinking about leaving. Is that correct?" For most people it's a welcome relief to have someone actually hear what they are saying.

The word psychology means "study of the mind". Psychologists are experts at "mind reading". But to do what they do, usually all that is required is to listen to what is coming out of the person's mind through their mouths or through what they write.

"Ah, but what about lies?" we hear you ask. Don't people cover up their true feelings and say things that they don't really mean? Yes, we all do this at times. But out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, remember. If you love someone, sooner or later you are going to want to say it. And if you hate someone, the same is true.

When a person is trying to cover up a true feeling there will be confusion and contradiction in what they say. Because the true feeling is always wanting to get out, it will usually distort the cover-up in some way. Insincere flattery will either be so exaggerated that it is obviously false, or (as Shakespeare put it) it will be so faint as to "damn" the recipient (e.g. "Your new hairdo is... well... very different.") Apologies will be worded in such a way as to amount to no apology at all (e.g. "I'm sorry you feel that way.") Straight out lies will include escape clauses which can be used later to argue that the person did not technically tell a lie.

These are not immediately obvious, but with practice you can pick them up. (e.g. When a car is being sold, someone may say, "The car isn't mine, but I understand that it's in perfect mechanical condition.") And even the best and boldest liars will eventually say something that contradicts the lie. So when you are listening to, or reading what someone has said, it doesn't hurt to start by believing exactly what the person is saying, as though they cannot help but speak the truth. Don't rush into committing yourself (e.g. by handing over money on the basis of what they've said), but do give them time to prove themselves to be telling the truth. If they are not telling the truth, eventually you will come to something that confuses you. That's time enough to consider the possibility that you are being misled.

It helps to have a good understanding of grammar in order to read minds. Changes in grammar or clear grammatical errors which are out of character are signs that something which has hitherto been hidden is trying to sneak out. The mere fact that a person says something grammatically incorrect does not mean that there is a cover-up. Some people consistently misspell words, use wrong verb tenses, or get pronouns like "me" and "I" mixed up. Don't go looking for trouble. But when everything is going along smoothly, and then suddenly a sentence comes up that could be taken two different ways, or that doesn't make much sense, don't insert your own interpretation of what you think the person was trying to say. Instead, ask the person to repeat the thought that he or she was trying to express.

Listen (or read) closely as it is rephrased. See if the double entendre is cleared up or if it tries to sneak into the rephrase as well. Take particular note if they ignore your question or try in some other way not to explain what they were trying to say in the original statement. For example, if your son tells you that while out with his friends "some of the guys" broke some windows at the school, don't assume that he wasn't "one" of the guys", since the sentence hasn't actually said that he wasn't. If you then ask, "Were you one of the guys who broke windows?" and the answer is, "I was with them, but I tried to talk them out of it," you can be pretty sure that he broke some windows, because he has given another misleading answer which only implies that he didn't personally join in with the window breaking.

People who want to be seen as "nice guys" are easily frightened off from scrutinising what others are saying, and are thus easily misled. But it isn't because the mis-leader isn't giving plenty of clues about the deception. It's just that many of us are too easily intimidated to point it out.

Statements which seem out of character or inappropriate in the context are another clue as to what a person is thinking. When, for example, a person says (or writes), "You've given me a lot to think about; but I need time alone to pray about it," you have to ask yourself, "Why are they running away if I've really said something that has started the wheels turning?" If you told a person a simple way to make a thousand dollars, and they believed you, wouldn't they be asking questions to be sure they understood you correctly? If you showed a person a simple cure for a disease they have, and they believed you, wouldn't they want to know more? So why would anyone say, "I need time alone to pray about what you are saying"? They need it because (a) they think you're crazy and want to get away; or (b) they think you're right, but don't like the consequences of what you are saying. They are certainly not going to pray about it. That can be done any time anywhere. "I'll pray about it" is such a righteous and unassailable excuse, however, that people cannot resist using it whenever they are rejecting what you have to say.

It pays to question anything you do not understand when listening to a person. If you mis-heard it or if there was a genuine slip of the tongue, your question will clear that up. But if the confusion came from double-think on the part of the person speaking (or writing), a simple question or two can work wonders in helping you to accurately read their mind.

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