friendship: mind-reading, assumptions & saying-our-crazy-stuff-out-loud

blog friendship mind reading* thanks for bearing with me while i archived a bunch of guest posts last week.  i’m still waiting to hear back about my laptop and whether they could retrieve my data so here’s to hope.  this week i’m going to be sharing 5 simple posts from the refuge’s sacred friendship summer camp that we hosted on wednesday nights all summer. we had an awesome group of men & women participate and it was so fun!   i won’t be able to recapture the conversations but will just toss out a few of the highlights we processed through together.  the bulleted items are questions we talked about.  this experience was about skills-not-theory.  everyone there was already convinced that friendship is good for us, that God made us to be in relationship with one another and that we continually need to keep learning how to do that better.  friendship takes risk, vulnerability, practice. friendship heals.  and it’s where we learn all kinds of things we didn’t learn in Bible study and sitting in church!

* * * * *

one thing most of us have in common is we think all kinds of crazy thoughts in our heads that we often don’t talk about. we assume we’re the only ones struggling and are sometimes embarrassed to say these things out loud.  i remember years ago when i first started getting honest about the nutty-stuff-in-my-head, how sure i was that i was the only person whose head was spinning with certain thoughts and feelings.  but every time i would share honestly with some safe friends, i always discovered they were thinking the same things.

part of learning to be a better friend is becoming more honest about thoughts rattling around in our head about friendship. 

mind-reading is one area that gets a lot of us into trouble in friendship.

we think we are good at mind-reading.  in fact, some of us are sure that we know what other people must be thinking about us.  and instead of checking that out, we base how we interact with others on these usually false assumptions.

i am a pro at mind-reading!  i can fill in every possible blank and be completely sure that i know what others are thinking or feeling about me. i do it around this blog sometimes, too, and when i get going that direction it can drive me crazy.  they’re thinking i’m too much, i’m not enough, i’m this or i’m that. very rarely are they positive things.

regardless of how good we think we are at it, most everyone i know stinks at mind-reading.  we assume the worst instead of the best.  we fill in blanks with feelings and words that come from our past history instead of giving new people a chance.  we use our mind-reading as an unhealthy way to protect ourselves. we torture ourselves unnecessarily.  

some of examples of mind-reading for others are thoughts like this:

“if they really knew me they wouldn’t like me”

“they will think I’m too needy or too jacked up or too __(fill in the blank)___”

“they don’t have time for me”

“they already have enough friends, they don’t need another one”

“i’m not good enough, cool enough, ______ enough for them”

hand-in-hand with mind-reading are assumptions about people.  sometimes the softest people i know have a really hard exterior.  we assume people are way more confident than they really are.  we assume married couples won’t want a single friend along for the ride.  we assume single friends won’t want to be bothered by our kids.  we assume all kinds of things that separate us from relationship.  i personally can’t stand it when people make assumptions about me without checking them out, but the truth is that i do it to other people all of the time.

mind-reading & assumptions will always separate us from healthy, free friendships and connection with others.

in all kinds of ways, mind-reading and assumptions are ways to control.  to not have to trust.  to not have to risk.  to not have to communicate clearly.  to not have to let go and engage in more meaningful relationship.

part of learning to become a healthier friend is to stop mind-reading and assuming.

  • what are some things that you sometimes mind-read/think for others about engaging in friendship with you?  what are some of the statements that rattle around in your head?  

sometimes these are truly irrational thoughts that don’t stem from anywhere specific except from our histories.  but sometimes, too, we have had people tell us some of these things in the past so it makes us hard to trust or open ourselves up again.

  • can you think of some real things that former friends have said before that hurt and make it hard to open yourself up again?   

we cannot underestimate how scary it can feel for some of us to try to make ourselves vulnerable in friendship.  it is always a risk.  one thing that is 100% certain about friendship is that we will get hurt and we will hurt others, too.  guaranteed.

but the more honest we are about what’s going on in our heads, the less likely we are to stay stuck & disconnected. every time i say the nutty stuff out loud, i discover i’m not as crazy as i feel.

the most practical thing we can do is begin to practice honesty as best we can, to quit being so sure we know what people are thinking and feeling and own our own thoughts instead:  “here’s what’s rattling around in my head.”  “here’s what i’m scared of.”  “here’s what i sometimes think.”  

it won’t take care of everything but it’s a start.  and it’s a lot better than mind-reading.

God, help us stop reading minds and start being more honest so we can break down walls to friendship.



Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Kathy, I so get this. Drive myself crazy given half a chance. I have had people tell me I they think I am confident, it always surprises me and I get afraid to be honest. I get really anxious and scared often of what people think, i just push through. I have shocked people if they saw a hint of how scared I was. Thank you for such a honest post. And just so you don’t have to read a mind i like you just as you are. 🙂

    • thanks my friend and fellow head case from afar. i am grateful for your honesty and heart and the reminder that this is how it works but there is hope that comes through courage.

  • Thanks for this; it’s so important. I ask my kids, “how do you spell assume? Yes, it makes an ASS of U and ME.

  • Oh, this has been a HUGE part of my journey this past year. HUGE. and what’s so encouraging, I find the more I focus on my own stuff and let go of what ‘I think’ other people are thinking about me, the more freedom I feel to be myself and love openly, and just be present for people, without a lot of mental baggage. It’s wonderful!

    Whenever the negative mind reader monster pops ups, I start in hard on the positive self talk to quiet the monster down. “You don’t know that’s what they meant by that. . . If they are upset, let them come to you about it. . in the mean time, let it go. . . don’t read too much into that. . etc.” I’m a much calmer person internally than I was a year ago. 🙂

    • thanks for sharing, tamara, it is so cool to hear what continues to unfold. this process of becoming healthier people & “growing up” is not an easy one but oh freedom is so lovely! glad to be on this crazy journey together somehow from across the miles…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *