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What is mind reading?

When NLP talks about mind reading it is not talking about psychic powers. The ‘Mind reading’ that NLP refers to comes in two forms. First, a person is considered to be ‘mind reading’ when they claim to know, without direct evidence, what another is thinking or feeling. For example, if you go out to lunch with a friend and afterwards they say ‘I know you didn’t like your food’. While this may be true, it could also be true that you weren’t hungry, had a stomach ache, or were worrying about a project that you have to complete.

Another form of mind reading is when you believe that another person should understand you without having to explain yourself. For example, if you complain to someone ‘you should know that I don’t like that kind of restaurant’ you are assuming they can read your mind to know what you like or don’t like.

Consequences of mind reading

The problem with mind reading is that the person who is doing the mind reading can use this information as fact and make decisions based on it. This can be dangerous because the information can be incorrect and their decision will not be properly informed so the decision could be bad. Also, when a person makes such assumptions in a relationship then miscommunication and misunderstanding can follow.

How to spot a mind reader

There are no keywords to look for to recognize a mind reading statement. Instead, you have to use your judgment and critical thinking abilities. If you say something, or someone else says something, that is based on an assumption then they are likely ‘mind reading’.

Clarifying information

When you recognize a mind reading statement you can ask for clarification about how they arrived at the information and how they know it is correct. Quite often you will find a belief or generalization underlying their response.

Consider the following dialog: a friend complains ‘my boss has no faith in my abilities’ and you can ask ‘how do you know your boss has no faith in your abilities?’. Your friend responds ‘because he never gives me important projects’. In this dialog your friend is reading the boss’s mind — specifically thinking that he has no faith in their abilities. On closer examination we can see there is a universal quantifier (my boss never gives me important projects), and a complex equivalence, ‘receiving important projects’ means ‘my boss has faith in my abilities’ which is based on the belief that only people the boss has faith in receive important projects.


A person is considered to be ‘mind reading’ when they claim to know, without direct evidence, what another is thinking or feeling.

Mind reading can lead to poor decision making and poor communication.

You can recognize mind reading when someone claims to know something without obvious evidence, claims to understand another person’s internal state, or believes another person should understand their own internal state without explanation.

You can clarify mind reading by asking “How do you know…”. This question often leads to a belief or a universal quantifier.

Related Pages

Unspecified Nouns
Unspecified Verbs
Modal Operators of Possibility
Modal Operators of Necessity
Universal Quantifiers
Complex Equivalence
Cause and Effect
Mind Reading