Want to Read Your Partner's Mind?

Admit.  Wouldn't you like to get into the head of your partner?  Maybe not.

But now a new study is saying that the desire to understand other people's thinking and perspectives can foster teamwork and be good for relationships.

Hmm.  Not so sure.

But actually that might help me.  I have a habit of suspecting people of the deepest, darkest, disappointing thoughts about me.  Take my recent birthday.  My husband (whose is a day after mine), is not big on them.  So every year I prepare to be disappointed.  But this year he sent me flowers (on the day BEFORE my birthday), making me think that was all I was going to get.  Then he and our son surprised me with earrings on the actual day. 

That was a really nice surprise.  But would I want to know if he were down to our last dollar (yes, I suppose so) or if he found our young neighbor more attractive than, well, his old wife?  Probably not.

MRM, a newly coined term for the practice of observing and interpreting bits of social information, like whether the person next to you is rhythmically drumming his fingers because he’s anxious or if someone is preoccupied because she’s gazing off into the distance, is setting workplaces (and homes) abuzz.

MRM is the tendency to engage with the mental states and perspectives of others. But it’s much more than just a means of passing idle time, according to newswise.com. Being high in MRM leads to many social benefits, including better teamwork, says Melanie Green, an associate professor in the University at Buffalo Department of Communication and corresponding author of the new study published in the journal Motivation and Emotion.

MRM is about the motivation to engage with other minds, and is distinct from the ability to accurately interpret others’ cues.

"We’re not talking about the psychic phenomenon or anything like that, but simply using cues from other people’s behavior, their non-verbal signals, to try to figure out what they’re thinking,” says Green.

Individuals high in MRM enjoy speculating on others’ thoughts based on the potentially hundreds of social cues they might receive. Those low in MRM dislike or have no interest in doing so. "Those high in MRM seem to develop richer psychological portraits of those around them,” says Green. “It’s the difference between saying ‘this person strives for success, but is afraid of achieving it’ as opposed to ‘this person is a great cook.’”

 She adds that high MRM people are more drawn to and pay more attention to messages with an identifiable source – a spokesperson or an ad focusing on company values – that is, someone whose perspective they can try to understand. “On the other hand, low MRM people seem to pay more attention to ads that are more impersonal, like those that just discuss the product – a message that does not appear to come from a particular person or group," she maintains.

Her advice?  “Think about seeing some kind of trouble and trying to figure out what’s wrong,” she says. “Or noticing your partner is upset and you try to figure out what they’re thinking.”



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